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Thursday, 27 June 1996
Page: 2334

Senator WOODLEY(10.16 a.m.) —I move:

That this`bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard .

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that all food which has been genetically modified is clearly labelled as such.

The use of genetic engineering in food production is becoming more widespread.

The Australian Democrats do not necessarily support the genetic manipulation of food, but we recognise that it is occurring and its use is likely to increase rapidly in the coming years.

Cheese, tomatoes, potatoes and pork are just some of the foods where genetic manipulation is already occurring.

A survey in a recent edition of Choice magazine indicated that of 20 brands of cheese surveyed, a quarter of these involved genetic engineering in their production.

Another example is the use of a human gene sequence in pigs to produce leaner pork. The meat from these transgenic pigs was very nearly released into the Australian market. Again, consumers would have had no way of distinguishing whether the pork they were buying came from these transgenic pigs.

The Democrats believe that consumers have access to sufficient information to make an informed choice about the food they are buying.

Consumers are currently unable to easily ascertain whether or not the food they are buying has been made using genetic engineering. This is not good enough.

The Democrats have made repeated efforts in the Senate to ensure there is more accurate labelling of products. This includes clear country of origin labelling, as well as information on what the food contains and how it is produced.

I am pleased to note that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health & Family Services, Senator Bob Woods, is holding a national forum in early August to discuss the use of gene technology and food production to identify guiding principles for adequate labelling of genetically modified foods.

The Democrats believe that the provisions contained in this bill are a minimum required for adequate labelling.

It is straightforward and easy to implement proposals which will enable people to make a more informed choice about the food they buy.

I urge the government to strongly consider agreeing to this bill as a simple way of addressing the Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Woods' stated wish for adequate labelling of genetically modified foods.

Debate (on motion by Senator O'Chee) adjourned.