New Zealand Alliance Party | Thursday, 25 September 2008
Toxic food crisis outcome of free trade policies
Alliance Party trade spokesperson Victor Billot says the panic over contaminated food from China is a case of chickens coming home to roost for "free trade" policies and lack of regulation.
Mr Billot says the Fonterra scandal in China has evolved into a major food crisis with New Zealand food safety officials trying to determine the extent to which New Zealand-made foods have been contaminated with the toxic chemical melamine which has poisoned thousands of Chinese babies.
"We are seeing the reality of free trade in action, the negatives that have been concealed by the greed and arrogance of Government and private business interests."
He says working people will bear the brunt of low quality food because well off corporate executives and politicians could afford to buy expensive but safe organic produce.
"How many other toxic ingredients are out there in supermarkets?"
Mr Billot says it appears that corporate management at Fonterra and the Government have been taken by surprise by the toxic food scandal, and it had been revealed that the problem now seemed to be throughout the food supply chain.
"What did they expect? They have pushed us into a close economic relationship with regimes where health and safety standards are compromised, workers rights are demolished and freedom of speech is trampled on, all in the name of short-term profit."
Mr Billot says the media has been filled with glowing public relations reports from the Labour Government and National Opposition on how free trade was the way forward.
"Now it appears what we signed up for is poisoned food produced in substandard conditions by poverty stricken workers."
He says that the media need to start digging past the public relations spin into what free trade actually means.
"Free trade means that New Zealand will be directly linked in with the economies of countries like China and Burma."
He says free trade deals also mean New Zealand will have less powers to regulate what comes across our borders, will open up our assets to takeover by global corporations, and could mean the use of short-term, casual workers being imported across borders to attack wages and conditions.
Mr Billot says the lack of critical analysis of what free trade deals actually mean is disturbing.
"This process has been pushed through behind closed doors and the New Zealand public have never been given the chance to debate the issues."
The Alliance Party supports fair trade between independent nations and rejects free trade and free market policies.
"Free trade is a social and environmental dead end."