MPI – Ludicrous decision to ignore popular petition

MPI – Ludicrous decision to ignore popular petition in face of global market demand for safer food.

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By Jodie Bruning

Jodie B
A petition was quietly shelved by MPI. Mainstream media ignored it, so farmers don’t know. Yet the petition for zero pesticides in baby food raises international food safety issues that must be addressed in order to securely embed New Zealand dairy in one of the fastest growing and lucrative sectors of the food and beverage market.

Where is market demand in dairy? Sandler Research recently reported that Global Baby Food and Infant Formula was forecast to grow at a CAGR of 7.69 percent over the period 2014-2019. Standard stuff.

They also quietly noted a key trend: ‘Growing Demand for Organic Baby Food.’
This makes sense when you consider PWC’s recent analysis of the top ten food supply and integrity issues, no.3 of which is ‘Scandals and increasing scrutiny… more food scares are turning into damaging scandals – pushing governments and food companies to improve standards.’

We’ve had our share of suffering when it comes to scandals. And the ramifications for our farmers continue. Chinese industry journal Chemlinked noted in December last year in ‘European Dairy Gaining Traction amongst Chinese Consumers’ – ‘the emotional preference of customers to infant formula products is shifting from NZ to those in Europe; European country of origin labelling means assurance of high quality and safety.” It hasn’t helped that Europe scrapped a 30 year old milk production quota in April of this year.

Chemlink continued ‘The ability of the NZ government to control pesticide in foods has been the subject of sharp criticism on both domestic and international fronts…. Chinese parents are already extremely cautious about choosing infant formula brand after going through a series of horrible food safety issues. The quality and safety of imported foods must be absolutely guaranteed to gain their trust which is also key to staying competitive in the Chinese market.’

Mums want safer food for their babies – and they’re prepared to spend for it.
Business Wire reported July 17 that the ‘BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) organic baby food market was valued at USD1,239.1 million in 2014 and expected to reach USD3,528.7 million by 2020, reflecting a CAGR of 19.5% during forecast period.’ This sub segment includes ‘milk formula, dried baby food, ready to feed baby food, prepared baby food.’

Dairy farmers, hold onto your hats, milk formula holds the largest share in this. ‘Milk formula organic baby food in BRIC was valued at USD372.0 million in 2014 and is expected to register a CAGR of 20.3% by 2020.‘
(There’s not much motivation in standard agriculture newspapers to tell you this – consider the proportion of advertisers who are chemical input suppliers.)

Ecology and Farming reported that only greater growth in the organic sector is the supplement sector with a growth of 22.3% from 2015-2015 – a sector that New Zealand could also exploit to its advantage. The outstanding growth in the BRICS nations, and in particular our Asian regions is well beyond the international global organic food and beverages market which has a CAGR of of 12.8% – possibly due to the organic sector already well enmeshed in several mature markets (France, Germany, USA).

Farmers may not be aware that organic milk powder is worth $10,000 NZ /t or 3 times the value of non-organic powder. Currently there is a premium of $1.75 on organic milk powder and this is tipped to only move in a positive direction.
Increased demand for organics is all about safe food. Following an outdated ‘commodity only’ point of view naturally exposes farmers up for deeper suffering when markets move. It’s an ‘80s policy that makes no sense for our grass fed export market.

New Zealand produced infant formula/milk powder is safe, isn’t it?
Simply put, Europe is more tightly regulated. Translate that to ‘trustworthy.’ Europe has a zero tolerance pesticide policy towards baby food. Europe is aware that the health benefits to its own citizens amplify out to a ‘safe food’ attitude that protects mothers in export markets also.

But Chinese consumers haven’t just shifted emotional preference, the Yen has followed. European made formula is taking our place. Chinese industry groupChemlinked reported in June ‘In the first four months of 2015, the amount of imported NZ infant formula has declined by 16.2%, now accounting for just a 9% share of the whole Chinese market, while the market shares of Dutch and Irish products have increased drastically.’

Consumers tried to get New Zealand more tightly regulated – MPI ignored this call.

Farmers may be aware that in May last year a petition (2011/112) was presented to the Primary Production Committee asking that New Zealand adopts a zero pesticides in baby food policy – the same regulation followed by Europe.

In June this year, the Primary Production Select Committee produced a report that indicated it will not adopt the zero residue policy.

Safe Food New Zealand sent a press release to all media outlets. Only Scoop picked it up. There was no discussion of this in mainstream media. Some farmers may be relieved the pressure’s off, but right now we are losing market share to Europe because our milk might not be perceived as safe.

Europe and USA are testing for glyphosate in breast milk and finding it. Critical eyes will increasingly turn to testing infant formula and milk products as testing is now affordable. Industry connected laboratories maintain glyphosate can’t be found in mammalian milk. You be the judge.

Glyphosate, for years considered so safe you could drink it, has now been labelled a probable carcinogen and genotoxic (damages the DNA) by the IARC, a contributor to kidney related diseases, an endocrine disruptor and damaging to the gut – gut permeability is frequently the first step to many illnesses which include arthritis, Crohn’s, celiac disease, depression, fibromyalgia and so on. In fact, a wide range of pesticides may act in similar ways, there just isn’t the science funding to conduct research.

Right now, use of glyphosate on soil and weeds aren’t questioned – it’s direct application onto the food consumers eat that is causing concern with consumers. Use by farmers as a pasture, silage and fodder desiccant to increase metabolisable energy will increasingly be targeted as the chemical is now being detected in milk and meat products.

Many farmers are starting to believe use of glyphosate on stockfeed is a false economy, when fertility and long term animal health are taken into account.
New Zealand has avoided testing of glyphosate in the National Survey on groundwater and in the Total Dietary Survey – this avoidance of using the most pervasive pesticide in our country is now being challenged.

Noting Chlorsulfuron, the chemical the controversial HT swedes are tolerant to, is banned in China. China has recently destroyed foreign baby formula that contained unpermitted chemicals.

New Zealand is already impacted by the New Zealand government’s lax attitude to chemical safety – increasingly referred to as ‘chemical hygiene’.
Very simply, New Zealand farmers and producers are being sold short by government and industry representatives who are neglecting to inform them of where the true growth for future proofing dairy is located. In the organic sector.
Simply put – it’s not sexy anymore to have a heap of pesticides in your baby food.

Jodie Bruning (B.Bus.Agribusiness) is a writer and researcher based in the Bay of Plenty and founder of www.rite-demands.org

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