We Have The Right To Know 1

Imported irradiated produce is here. Carrie Steele is enraged that the government’s plan is to keep us in the dark.

SUE KEDGLEY’S ARTICLE in the NZ Herald on 27/01/2015, headlined ‘Kiwis In The Dark About Irradiated Fruit And Vegetables,’ made for pretty scary reading. What’s even scarier though than the possibility that irradiated imported food may soon no longer have to carry any labelling to declare it so, is that in the days since Ms Kedgley’s piece was published, not one news or current affairs programme to my knowledge has picked up the story to investigate further, thereby generating some public opinion and debate on the matter. Instead, this week we’ve been ‘educated’ on topics such as Heidi Kluum checking out men’s underwear, and at least on the food front, potatoes being in short supply.sad squash

I am not a scientist, and I don’t profess to know a huge amount about irradiation, but what I am certain of is this: if irradiation had absolutely no effect, then it would be pointless carrying it out in the first place. Therefore, I believe it is naive to go along with the theory that this process has no impact on the food treated. Whether or not you believe that exposing food to radiation “changes the molecular structure of the food, depletes vitamins, and causes the formation of radiolytic products whose effect on human health is not known”, there are many healthier treatment options that exist and are currently in use. Putting this aside for a moment though, there is an even more critical issue at stake here: our right to know.

I have watched with interest over the past months and continue to do so, the fierce battle ensuing in the USA over the subject of labelling of GMOs. Despite the fact that the majority of Americans support labelling and would prefer to know what they are eating, big corporations and government continue to believe that they know best on the subject and that the easiest ways to get around any public resistance regarding consuming GM food is to do away with labelling altogether, adopting the “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” mentality. The agrichemical corporations that produce GMOs, in tandem with big food corporations, have spent millions of dollars in recent years to narrowly defeat citizens’ ballot initiatives for mandatory GMO food labeling in California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado. Reportedly, Kellogg’s alone has spent close to $2 million to fund anti-labelling campaigns.

Why am I banging on about GMO’s and America’s problems, when my big gripe is over whether or not ministers and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) will agree that it’s in our best interests not to tell us which fresh foods have been irradiated? Because I believe that it puts NZ on a slippery slope, that’s why. For starters we will be inundated with irradiated apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, honeydew, rockmelon, strawberries, table grapes, zucchini and squash, none of which would have to be labelled accordingly, if government ministers and FSANZ deems this acceptable on our behalf.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to choose which ways I nuke myself, and to be fully aware of the experience ‘as it happens’; the 2-yearly mammogram, the dental x-rays, and countless other machines that no doubt many of us will be subjected to in the coming years for one reason or another. I think that’s quite enough, don’t you? I’m not suggesting that irradiated food is radioactive, but rather that I think it’s wise to minimise our exposure to any possible effects of radiation, whatever shape or form it might come in. And you can’t really get closer to something than eating it; fancy a lettuce grown at Chernobyl, anyone?

The only answer would seem to be to make the wisest choices we can. Whether we’re talking about avoiding GMOs, irradiated produce, or any other novel food production and treatment methods that may be dreamt up in future which may well have our best interests on the back burner. This proposed change to the rules does away with choice, by keeping us in the dark ‘for our own good’. Apparently, this is in case we should have any concerns about eating ‘nuked’ food, which government ministers and FSANZ have decided in all their wisdom is as healthy as Mom’s apple pie. And it’s not realistic to suggest that the answer to the problem is just to eat organic. Realistically, it is not always possible to buy all organic produce.

Sadly, it may be too late to stop this insane proposal to scrap labelling of irradiated produce going ahead. The votes in Canberra may have been cast already for all I know, since it’s all been kept so quiet that only government ministers seem to have even heard about it. If it wasn’t for Ms Kedgley’s article, I would still be in the dark. Still, it’s never too late to take a stand, though admittedly in this instance, it will be hard to take a stand against what is effectively a secret invader, but I’m going to try my damndest, because I believe this issue needs to be brought out into the open, and let’s see then how many of us are entirely happy to unwittingly consume nuked produce from now on.

This blog started out as a letter to The Hon Jo Goodhew, our Minister for Food Safety, whom I’m sure knows a great deal about the subject, and to whom I intend to send an abridged version of this ‘letter’ today. Are you concerned? If so, I urge you to do the same. Write to Goodhew and ask her the question: “Are we to be kept in the dark?” Letting ministers and FSANZ know that people are outraged about their proposal to get rid of labelling might be effective enough to put the brakes on this controversial proposal, which would set a very dangerous precedent. CARRIE STEELE




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