Food safety legislation: novice Greenie MP plays to the Ooooby and Wwoofer gallery

What price should we pay to ensure it doesn't poison us?

Alf perhaps wasn’t paying attention, when the Food Bill was introduced into Parliament.

He certainly didn’t spot the shortcomings in the legislation now being highlighted by egregious greenies and Labourites.

But he is aware that our splendid Government has given assurances that the bill won’t affect good honest Kiwis who grow their own food and swap it with friends and neighbours.

Those assurances should put an end to the matter.

But he reads that

…doubt remains over whether some low-risk groups would need to be exempted from the red tape of registering with a national safety plan. Such groups include those that swap community food, or trade foods not straight out of the garden, such as jams, preserves and baking.

Concerns have also been raised by small businesses which fear that the compliance costs could push them under.

Bloody trouble-makers and headline-seekers, Alf suspects.

Stuff today reports a Green MP’s claim that “growing unease over the contents of the poorly drafted Food Bill” warrants the allowing of further public submissions.

The Green MP is Steffan Browning, who comes to Parliament after years in the organic farming and horticultural business.

He is saying he will push for further amendments to exempt small traders from having to comply with unnecessary red tape.

He is kicking up a fuss, too, about the proposed powers for food safety officers being excessive, including giving them immunity from civil and criminal liability.

If that be so, he has a point.

He seems to be kow-towing to the 27,000 or so people who in the past four months have signed a Facebook petition, claiming the bill “will seriously impede initiatives like community gardens, food co-ops, heritage seed banks, farmers markets, bake sales, and roadside fruit & vegetable stalls”.

The bill updates the Food Act 1981 with the worthy purpose of ensuring the food people buy is safe to eat.

Anyone want to quarrel with that?

And the bloody thing was introduced into Parliament in May 2010, which is almost two years ago.

So the noisy objectors have had plenty of time to object.

The bill has been considered by a select committee, too, which means the objectors have had plenty of opportunities to make submissions.

And it was reported back from a select committee – when exactly?

Oh, yes. More than a year ago, and with broad party support.

But it is yet to proceed to its second reading.

The objectors therefore have plenty of time to have things changed before the bill becomes law.

But it looks like Alf’s splendid ministerial colleagues are on the case.

Stuff goes on –

Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson has said the bill had inadvertently captured activities it should not have and she had sought advice on amendments to ensure seed banks and an employment system used by organic food producers – Willing Workers on Organic Farms (Wwoofers) – were not disrupted.

The issue has struck a nerve with this Browning bloke, who (a) is a new MP but (b) has already won more headlines than Alf which (c) makes Alf highly resentful.

Browning happens to be a member of the seven-strong primary production select committee, a platform he is using to say he will raise the possibility of having the select committee submission period reopened.

He said members of the select committee considering the original bill had been so busy responding to the submissions they received that they did not consider some of the implications contained in the bill.

“There will definitely be changes to the bill from its first reading as some shortcomings were not picked up in the select committee process or at the first reading.”

Yet the tosser concedes that some concerns are unwarranted, because

“…we have an assurance we can be confident about. With seed saving, for example, we can be confident seeds intended for gardening and agriculture won’t be caught up in the Food Bill,” he said.

“Some people signing the petition have been told that so I’m unsure why they persist suggesting that,” he said.

But hey.

Labour’s primary industries spokesman, Damien O’Connor, is climbing on the bandwagon too, saying his party will not support the bill unless some matters are clarified.

“I have asked the select committee for a full update on the bill, including any changes the Government is planning for [it],” Mr O’Connor said.

“We do not want to see New Zealand end up with some unwieldy piece of legislation that confuses the retailers and those working in this area, particularly those working in volunteer or community settings.”

Alf is putting his faith in Kate.

She has said -

“The bill will in no way stop the proud Kiwi tradition of growing and swapping veggies with friends and neighbours. It’s focused on those selling food for profit.

“At most, the vast majority of small suppliers who do fall under the bill will simply be required to ensure that their food is safe to consume.”

Nobody can quarrel with that, surely.

One thing that strikes Alf about all this is the silly names of the organisations that want to do battle with the Government.

There’s a food network called Ooooby, for example (Out of Our Own Back Yards).

And what sort of a tosser do you have to be to join the aforementioned Wwoofers?

Let the record show that a report from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research found 88 per cent of food-borne diseases came from restaurants, cafes and takeaways in 2010; 31 per cent came from poultry or shellfish.

The Green Party’s clamour for small operators to be exempt from a national safety plan suggests to Alf that they are happy for people to be poisoned so long as it is done on a small scale by operators who could be pushed out of business by compliance costs.

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5 Responses to Food safety legislation: novice Greenie MP plays to the Ooooby and Wwoofer gallery

  1. robertguyton says:

    Alf. I’m curious as to why you find the title ‘Out of our own backyards’ to be puerile? Surely you’d be a supporter of local action and home-grown vegetables?
    I’m equally puzzled by your objection to the organization that facilitates the hosting of travelers through NZ, connecting them with families who need a hand with their gardens or whatever else needs done around the property, in return for which they provide a bed and meals. My family have hosted these travelers for over 15 years now and we’ve made friends with people from almost every country you could name. Most recently we’ve had two Israeli girls, a Chilean and a German staying with us. They’ve picked red currants (we have a LOT), added a box to the beehive, dug a pond and so on. I haven’t found any of them to be ‘tossers’, though the name is poorly chosen, I have to agree – willing workers on organic farms is cumbersome and the acronym a red flag to curmudgeons like yourself :-)

    • Alf Grumble says:

      Whoa there, Robert. It was the names of the organisations that Alf mocked, not their activities. And fair to say, it was the acronoyms that amused Alf, rather than the full names necessarily. Ooooby and Wwoofer? Come on, you’ve got to admit they sound silly.

  2. robertguyton says:

    I do. They do. Just thought I’d use your borax-poking as a platform for some promotion of those two good organizations.

  3. robertguyton says:

    I’ve planted several shrubs as mitigation.
    And cycled madly round the village, leading by example.

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