The NZ Food Bill is a serious attack on everyones rights and it is a direct attack on Māori. The opposition to the Bill is wide and varied and Māori are leading because, as Dr Jessica Hutchings says, "This Bill is another example of the Crown eroding Māori rights and extending its reach of ownership into the fundamentals of life, that being food and seed”. Te Waka Kai Ora (the National Māori Organics Authority) state that
the law change will increase costs, bureaucracy and government control over our food taonga (treasures) and will ultimately undermine our tino rangatiratanga (self-determination).
Furthermore, the move is irresponsible in light of the obesity and diabetes epidemic facing Māori. The Food Bill will add further costs to food production system and may have flow on effects to the availability and price of healthy kai, and therefore health outcomes for Māori. There are also concerns around the inclusion of rongoa (medicines) within the definition of food, and this is of significant concern to the many Māori practitioners and communities that use natural remedies.
“Seed is sacred and it is to be nurtured, cared for, and then passed to future generations to ensure the survival of communities, we must be responsible for saving and caring for our seeds and as indigenous peoples this is our role”, concludes Dr Hutchings.
It cannot be denyed that this Bill is a specific threat to Māori. Of course everyone else who lives here is under threat too. This is another fundamental issue like the environment and drilling for oil and it cuts across all people in our society. And just like those issues, the lead must be, and is being, taken by tangata whenua as kaitiaki of the taonga. You cannot get a sharper point to the spear in our country and with everyone leaning in and doing our bit - we will penetrate and cause them to wonder if it is really worth it. This comment below sums up the concerns well
this Bill would put an end to a basic right: that of freely sharing our food, seeds, and natural remedies… anyone selling their own produce would be required to gain legal authorisation to do so, at a cost of course, and heres the clincher : small growers and sellers at say, farmers markets, will be hit with increased costs of compliance, that would of course push up food prices hurting the growers, sellers, and buyers of produce.
Not being legally allowed to share seeds without authorisation will discourage diversity of seeds, pushing heirloom varietys already rare into the too expensive basket, thus encouraging homogenisation of seed stock. This of course will provide massive market advantage? to multinational seed corporations such as Monsanto who not only can afford the costs of compliance but whose aims include narrowing and controlling the plants grown for consumption through Genetic Engineering, and controlling available seed stock by supplying seed for plants that will not self seed, thus enforcing our dependence on them.
NZ Food Security has a great breakdown of the Bill and its ramifications.
Petition opposing the bill here
One of the features of this world is that much is topsy turvy - organic food should be half as cheap as non organic not twice as expensive. Heirloom seeds and diversity should be cherished not blown away by monoculture and profit. It doesn’t get more fundamental than this and the Bill is almost ready to become law – all so that we can comply with agreements signed with the WTO. We must oppose this any way we can and the first place to start is to talk about it with others.
I hope the rights guaranteed under the Treaty to Māori will provide the solution but we will continue to face these threats until the crown accepts the partnership and stops opposing tino rangatiratanga.