The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) today released a new consumer pamphlet – Genetically Modified Foods – explaining the new labelling rules for genetically modified (GM) foods which come into effect on Friday 7 December 2001 (text attached).
From that date, GM food products on sale in Australia and New Zealand – either as a whole food or as an ingredient – must have their GM status identified if modified genetic material or protein is present in the final food. Highly refined sugars and oils will not need to be labelled if there is no modified genetic material in the final food. There are minor exemptions to this requirement, such as some GM additives and processing aids.
The pamphlet will be available in Australia from Coles, Woolworths and some independent supermarkets, from the Gene Technology Information Service (GTIS) and from ANZFA offices.
ANZFA’s Managing Director Ian Lindenmayer said that over the past year, many manufacturers have indicated an intention to use ingredients made from conventional rather than genetically modified crops. Consumers may therefore not find many products labelled as GM foods on 7 December.
Mr Lindenmayer said GM foods that do not identify the GM ingredients on their labels, which were produced and packaged prior to 7 December, can remain on the shelves until used up, but for no longer than 12 months.
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However, because turnover of food products in supermarkets is normally rapid, only a small proportion of unlabelled GM foods should be on the shelves for more than a month or two.
“Under the current food standards, no genetically modified food will be permitted on the market in Australia and New Zealand unless it has passed a stringent scientific risk assessment by ANZFA and been found to be at least as safe as its conventional equivalent food,” Mr Lindenmayer said.
The new labelling regulations will be enforced by each State and Territory and by the New Zealand Government.