The regulatory system requires citizen participation to function democratically. As it stands, a paying applicant (the Queensland government) has asked for regulatory changes that it sees will benefit certain industries. It has then paid to alter the timeframe for processing and receiving feedback for the proposal. The public was not explicitly informed of these changes. The applicant and irradiation proponents are aware of the application and able to respond within a new timeframe – but their information channels do not reach out to the broader public or those without a special or vested interest in the matter. Nor do channels of FSANZ. FSANZ relies on consumer advocacy and grassroots organisation to publicise these issues with their constituents and take the issues to the broader public. To hinder our participation by altering the timeframe means that YOUR voice, the voice of the general consumer, and the input of diverse industries will not be represented in the so-called public consultation.
Friends of the Earth/Food Irradiation Watch have monitored and responded to every irradiation application made in Australia and NZ since the moratorium on food irradiation was lifted in 1999. With our colleagues in Gene Ethics, we have been monitoring A1193 as well and expecting to work on it from Dec 2020 on. There was no indication that we needed to otherwise. As volunteer-run networks, timeframes and public information matters AND….
Consumer voices count!
While food irradiation applications have been approved, without community scrutiny, FSANZ and irradiation proponents would have been able to fast-track more applications and use less discretion. They could have been less rigorous in their science and they would have most likely removed all labelling requirements for irradiated food too. Labelling was under threat after the federal government’s 2011 Labelling Logic recommended its “review,” with proponents suggesting that it was not necessary and was an impediment to the uptake of the technology. It took 6 years of lobbying and community engagement for food ministers in 2017 to support the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Australians and New Zealanders and leave mandatory labelling in place. Citizen action, not the government or industry, has defended our right to know!