The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) announced potential changes to the Food Standards Code involving a new wine production standard and the approval of oil and linters from a genetically modified, insect-protected cotton variety as a food.
FSANZ's managing director, Ian Lindenmayer, said: "The approval of the oil and linters from a genetically modified cotton as a food represents approval for sale of the twentieth GM food in Australia and New Zealand."
Before GM foods can be approved for sale in Australia and New Zealand, they must first undergo a safety assessment by FSANZ.
Approval will only be given if the GM food is found to be at least as safe and as wholesome for human consumption as its conventionally produced counterpart. Commercially known as Bollgard II, FSANZ has approved the sale of oil and linters from this GM cotton variety that contains genes that confer insect protection to the cotton plant. The agency stressed that food products containing oil and linters derived from this GM cotton will be exempt from GM labelling requirements, unless novel DNA and/or protein is found in the final food.
The wine production standard is the first primary production and processing standard to be developed by FSANZ for Chapter 4 of the Code.
"A new protocol for the development of primary production and processing standards has now been issued by the Food Regulation Ministerial Council and so future standards for this section of the Code will involve the establishment of a Standards Development Committee, with members drawn from affected stakeholders," Lindenmayer said.
Australia's 1994 agreement with the European Union on trade in wine relies on Australian wine being recognised as wine of designated quality and origin. The wine standard in the current Australian food regulations addresses this issue. However, the agency claims that it was not appropriate to give effect to these provisions in the joint Australia - New Zealand wine standard in the new Food Standards Code, which will become law in the two countries on 20 December 2002.
Current wine production provisions have therefore been transferred to the new Code, without substantive amendment, as an Australia-only standard. Wine made in Australia must comply with the new production standard as well as the joint wine standard. Other wines need only comply with the joint wine standard.
This measure, FSANZ hopes, will help to protect the future of Australia's successful wine export trade with the European Union.