GMWatch publishes its latest comments to UK FSA on the GMO deregulation bill and draft proposals for application and authorisation
GMWatch and other concerned groups have had a series of meetings with the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) on the GMO deregulation bill, which has now passed into law. We and our scientific advisor Dr Michael Antoniou have now published our latest comments on the bill and the draft proposals for the application and authorisation procedure that GMO developers will go through to get products on the market. These comments have been sent to the FSA for consideration.
Commenting, GMWatch's Claire Robinson said, "We're extremely concerned that both the bill and the accompanying draft guidelines on the application and authorisation procedure fail to make positive provision for complete traceability that includes the consumer – meaning an on-package label alerting people to the fact that this is a GMO. Without a label, the consumer won't know what they are buying and eating.
"We advise the FSA, DEFRA and the ACNFP (Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes) that they cannot assume that GMOs that the developer self-declares to be 'precision bred' are safe, without proof of safety.
"The draft guidelines for risk assessment don't yet specify which analyses the GMO developer has to do in order to prove that their novel GMO doesn't contain toxins or allergens and is nutritionally equivalent to its non-GM parent. A good start would be requiring long-read and ultra-deep whole genome sequencing to spot the unintended changes as well as the intended ones, and 'omics' molecular profiling analyses to identify toxins and allergens.
"Unless these analyses are mandatory in law, GMO developers won't bother to do them. This is shown by many GMOs that are planned to be marketed and already on the market, which have been revealed in independent testing to differ from their non-GM parent organisms, in unintended and sometimes potentially dangerous ways.
"Interestingly, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a letter to GMO developers reminding them that they must consider the food safety risks posed by introducing allergens into their GMO products and telling them to plan early in the GMO's development to manage the risks.
"The FSA, ACNFP, and DEFRA have a chance to fix these knowledge gaps and protect the public from unexpected and potentially fatal allergic reactions, as well as unexpected toxicity in plants. Regarding allergens, it's not enough to just focus on the common ones, such as soy and lactose – people can be allergic to almost anything. We call upon the FSA to demand that robust analyses are required of GMO developers, and that all known and potential allergens are listed on the package, so that the agency can reassure the public that it is looking after their interests.
"It's all too easy for those in power to assume that the public won't bother to read labels or won't understand them if they are provided. I can assure the agencies concerned that many people with food allergies do carefully read labels, especially when their lives depend on it."