23 April 2014
Fresh reports that nearly 20 per cent of China’s agricultural land is contaminated with toxic heavy metals have further highlighted the need for strengthened Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL), says vegetable Peak Industry Body, AUSVEG.
Data recently released by the Communist Party of China indicates that 19.4 per cent, or approximately 1.05 million square kilometres of China’s agricultural land, is contaminated by toxic metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic, which can be carcinogenic and cause kidney damage.
“Considering China is the number two source of vegetable imports to Australia, these findings are mortifying” said AUSVEG spokesperson, Hugh Gurney.
AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
Two decades of explosive industrial growth, the misuse of agricultural chemicals and minimal environmental protection have been cited as the major contributing factors to China’s declining soil safety.
“In 2012-13, it was estimated that approximately $110 million worth of vegetables were imported to Australia from China, however, it’s highly likely that the amount of potentially harmful Chinese produce reaching Australian dinner plates is much higher than official figures suggest.”
“Under current trade agreements with China, New Zealand may import processed vegetables from China, repackage them as ‘Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients’, and ship the product to Australia for consumption.”
“With these startling findings in mind, Australian consumers now need to be as aware as possible of the origin of the product that they are feeding to their families.”
“The risk associated with the consumption of Chinese produce is nowindisputable.We should not allow inadequate Country of Origin Labelling requirements continue to put the health of Australian consumers at risk,” said Mr Gurney.
A Parliamentary Inquiry recently announced by the Federal Government will investigate CoOL and examine whether the current system is satisfactory, where improvements can be made, the current levels of compliance, and whether laws are being sidestepped by importers through third party countries, as seen in the case of New Zealand.
“AUSVEG welcomes the inquiry and calls for a thorough investigation of current Country of Origin Labelling laws, to allow Australian consumers to easily identify foreign produce.”
“Australian growers follow the strictest environmental and on-farm protocols to produce some of the world’s safest vegetables. It would be shameful to continue to let ineffective Country of Origin Labelling legislation impede Australian consumers from making well-informed choices at the supermarket,” said Mr Gurney.