By Madura McCormack
Experts warn Australian bush food is potentially under threat because of the recently agreed-upon Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP is a free trade agreement that involves 12 countries and makes up approximately 40 percent of the global economy.
At a recent talk in Fremantle, Aboriginal art gallery manager and bush food expert Dale Tilbrook voiced her concern that the intellectual property of Australian native foods could soon be shipped overseas and exploited for profit.
She noted the example of the macadamia nut, a native Australian food that has since been commercialised and is grown in countries as far away as Israel and Malawi.
Australia is no longer the largest producer of macadamias.
“I really wish we didn’t sign all these free trade agreements,” says Dale Tilbrook.
Deputy chair of the Australian Native Food Industry Limited (ANFIL) Jude Mayall agrees, saying the popularity of bush tucker has grown immensely in recent years.
“We have so much interest from a lot of international companies, the intellectual property side of things is very important … so that people who own product growing on specific land are honoured,” says Mayall, who also owns the bush food company Outback Chef.
In 2010, a cosmetics company from the United States attempted to patent extracts from the Kakadu Plum for use in their products.
A study by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation found that the Kakadu Plum, also known as Gubinge, has a vitamin C content four times higher than the blueberry.
“We basically have a party of super foods in our backyard that isn’t utilised,” says Paul Iskov, head chef at Fervor.
More attention needs to be paid to native foods by Australians to grow the local industry, says Iskov, whose Bunbury-based roaming restaurant has a focus on wild harvested bush food.
“Seems like we’re almost getting left behind a little bit. There are other countries who are taking the macadamia nut, the finger lime, or the Kakadu plum and running away with it,” says Mr Iskov.
“I think we need to look at containing it a bit more in Australia before we send it off.”