GRAIN growers say government regulators must vigilantly monitor the labeling of plant-based protein products, to prevent the spread of misinformation and false advertising that fosters community mistrust of agriculture and undermines investments.
However, Grain Producers Australia chairman and WA grain producer Barry Large said the real test would ultimately be consumers, who digest these products and commercially decide on spending choices.
“Consumers will no longer choose to buy plant-based protein products if they are fooled by misleading labels with false claims that disparage our farmers and leave a sour taste in their mouths,” he said.
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His comments follow the publication by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee of its inquiry report this week.
One of the recommendations was that the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, in partnership with CSIRO, examine measures to strengthen the capacity of the plant protein sector to source from produce grown in Australia.
He also recommended this approach to support investment opportunities in product sector manufacturing infrastructure, to foster competitiveness and market opportunities in the international market.
“GPA supports this investment approach with the Grains Research and Development Corporation which supports projects focused on improving cash crop breeding with real value-added opportunities for Australian grain growers,” said Mr Large. .
“This includes ongoing work to develop new soybean varieties for the Australian market with potential benefits such as increased grain yield and adaptation to different target production areas; and improved disease resistance and better grain quality.
“If our farmers are growing and selling Australian soybeans to produce the protein concentrate needed to make these plant-based protein products, to feed domestic or global consumers, that means local manufacturers are not importing that protein concentrate. overseas, which was made with grains grown by our global competitors.
“Growing grain locally to feed a growing manufacturing sector is an appetizing way to build economic strength and sustainability in Australia’s grain communities.”
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GPA Grower Director Mark Schilling said that while the domestic market is expected to grow to $6.6 billion by 2030 with 6,000 jobs, as plant protein makers claim, policy and regulatory frameworks must ensure that they encourage and optimize these potential outcomes and co-benefits.
He said that many grain producers are also livestock farmers and recognize the value addition opportunities that come with increasing global and local demand for natural animal protein and therefore the subsequent demand for Australian feed grains from quality.
“That’s why GPA supports a cohesive and strategic approach to driving innovation and product development for plant-based proteins, to ensure that we seize and optimize mutual growth opportunities, while encouraging investment in the supply chain. ‘supply,’ he said.
“However, attempts to undermine meat consumption, with false labeling or alarmist misleading claims about the purported benefits of certain food choices, particularly with regard to human health or the environment, create unnecessary conflict and a bittersweet confusion for everyone.”
The Senate Committee also recommended that the Australian Government develop a mandatory regulatory framework for the labeling of plant-based protein products, in consultation with representatives of the traditional and plant-based protein sectors, the food service industry and retailers.
GPA policy supports the development of a voluntary code, to clearly define permitted terms and images when companies mark and market their herbal products, with a review of the code’s effectiveness, to be completed within determined.
If the plant industry continues to misrepresent itself as equivalent to animal products, GPA policy supports the removal of food standard exemptions that allow plant-based protein products to infer, either in words or images, whether they are meat or dairy.
The Committee recommended that, as part of its review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1999, Food Standards Australia New Zealand consult with stakeholders on amending the FSANZ Code to include: a definition of products to be vegetable protein base; and minimum compositional requirements for vegetable protein products.
“Those spreading misinformation, to the detriment of farmers, are clearly warned of the level of transparency and trust needed to maintain social license with consumers and have been put on notice by the findings of the investigation,” Mr. Large said. .
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