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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

04 April 2003

Cheap Food Ultimately Costs the Earth


A community that pays less than the total cost of production, in particular, for food and beverages, will ultimately pay the price through degraded natural resources and human capital according to Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone.

Launching the next stage of the Enviro 04 Convention and Exhibition, to be held in Sydney next year, Dr Stone said economic, environmental and social sustainability is under threat when retailers use their market power to force prices to suppliers close to or below their full cost of production.

"Without adequate returns primary production suppliers and manufacturers cannot afford to invest in the environmental sustainability of their region," Dr Stone said.

"Poor environmental performance is likely to have a negative impact on share prices when ethical investors demand better."

"We cannot have it all ways and cannot afford to have big business create a generation of begging farmers," she said.

"Primary producers cannot afford to remediate their land even when the drought has broken, when duopolies such as Coles-Myer and Woolworths transfer millions of dollars from primary producers to customers (in the form of cheap food prices) and shareholders. In the longer term, this strategy is unsustainable for locally produced or imported food, and it comes at a huge cost to our land, water and air quality, our communities and the welfare of our people," Dr Stone said.

The Enviro series is the major Australian biennial environment industry convention and exhibition. Enviro 04 will be held in Sydney from March 28 until April 1, 2004.

The launch marked the announcement of detailed arrangements for Enviro 04, including opportunities for sponsorship and exhibitors and a call for conference papers.

Next year's conference will include an additional focus on agribusiness and sustainable agriculture.

Further information:
Anna Hughes (Dr Stone's office) 0408 697 055
Paul Howlett (Chairman, Enviro 04) 0412 500 702

Commonwealth of Australia