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Food Bill fallout feeds growing concerns

Sep 29th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

FED UP: Natasha Fordyce at a recent protest against the Food Bill in Abel Smith St.

THE right to grow, share and consume food freely is motivating protesters to mobilise against the Food Bill now before Parliament.

Kirsty McKay (below right) says she only heard about the bill a few weeks ago while planting beans from her daughter’s preschool and people were saying “this can’t happen soon”.

The bill passed select committee stage in December last year, and the committee’s report is now under consideration by Parliament.

The mother to four-year-old Emiliana shares a communal vegetable garden with a neighbour and worries the bill may forbid them from swapping or gifting produce between one another.

She has signed an online petition opposing the Food Bill.

“I just don’t understand it, it’s kind of insane.”

“It must make every grandparent shudder, you know, the way that generation used to grow all their own food.”

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry director of biosecurity and food policy, Julie Collins, says food grown at home for family and friends falls outside the scope of the new bill.

“It doesn’t in any way affect people’s right to grow food and to then exchange, sell or trade it within their community with a view to self-sufficiency.”

“The Food Bill provides a much needed modernisation of New Zealand’s food safety legislation.”

“The purpose of the Food Bill is to ensure that the food people buy is safe and suitable,” she says.

Fundraising volunteer Scatty Saywell (below left) is concerned the bill may add to the rising cost of groceries, making it more difficult for low-income families to access food.

“With more legislation comes more bureaucratic strife, which overall increases the cost of production, trading and getting food into communities,” says Mr Saywell.

“I oppose corporate control over food because it’s a right we should have no matter how much money we make.”

When asked about increased compliance costs, Mrs Collins said the bill will require every person selling or trading in food to operate in a way that minimises risks to consumer health.

“Some food producers will need to be registered and will face related costs.  However, the requirement for many food businesses to be registered is not new and applies under the current regime.”

Prominent activist Valerie Morse describes the Bill as bringing capitalist economics into peoples’ gardens.

In the first reading of the bill in Parliament last year, Green MP Sue Kedgley said the bill shifted the responsibility for food safety from the Government to the people who produce food.

She referred to a Ministry of Health paper raising concerns about the legislation which stated: “We have a concern that the options that were reviewed and the whole paper on this bill focuses very much on improving business certainty and reducing compliance costs, with no discussion on any impact of achieving food safety.”

Protester Natasha Fordyce agrees, saying the bill puts producers under pressure to prove their food is safe for consumption by buying certificates and stamps from the government.

She says the system should work opposite to this, where money should only be required if something goes wrong and compensation is sought.

Sue Bradford was quoted on saying opponents to the bill should have come forward before September last year, when public submissions were due.

Ms Morse says she was not aware of the bill’s existence then, and that there was little awareness of what has been happening with it.

“I think the assault by the government on so many fronts makes it very difficult for people to know what’s actually going on.”

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