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Food irradiation - silencing protesters won't fix health concerns.

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Senator John Cherry Australian Democrats Agriculture Spokesperson

February 5, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/059

Food irradiation - silencing protesters won’t fix health concerns

Action by the Queensland Government in the Supreme Court in Brisbane today to silence protestors against the Narangba food irradiation plant will not end debate about the public health effects of food irradiation, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats’ Agriculture spokesperson and Queensland Senator John Cherry said the Queensland and Federal Governments had failed in their duty to ensure that food irradiation was perfectly safe before approving it.

“Research shows that food irradiation will change the nature of the food we eat, destroying many of the vitamins and nutrients, and creating new substances such as cyclobutanones with uncertain health effects,” Senator Cherry said.

“In December, the European Parliament voted to ban any new food irradiation approvals in Europe because scientific uncertainty ‘casts doubt on assurances that eating irradiated foods is completely safe’.

“Australian Governments should follow the advice of the Europeans and commission research into the long term health effects of eating a diet of irradiated foods before any more foods are approved.

“At the same time that the Europeans decided to put a halt on food irradiation, Australian authorities expanded the list of food that can be irradiated to include mangoes, custard apples, lychees and other tropical fruits.

“While in the short time this could create some export opportunities for North Queensland fruit growers, in the longer term it could place them under greater pressure as Australia will have to accept irradiation fruit imports which will be able to compete directly against them.

“The Queensland and Australian Governments continue to mishandle the food irradiation issue by attacking those trying to raise concerns rather than addressing the food safety concerns directly,” Senator Cherry concluded.

Senator Cherry will detail his concerns about food irradiation in a speech to the Senate later tonight.

For further information (or copies of his embargoed speech): Pam Hose 0408 752 750