Scientists want assurances new GMO is safe
Straight Furrow, April 4 2013
International scientists, including Professor Jack Heineman, the director of Canterbury University’s Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, have previously raised concerns about GM food approvals, but Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has identified no safety risks with any of the foods it has assessed.
The scientists’ latest concerns relate to GM plants which are being designed to make a new ribonucleic acid molecule which has the ability to silence or activate certain genes in the plant and the impacts this could have on humans, perhaps even turning off human genes.
In an article in The Press newspaper (March 25), Prof Heineman warned that these potentially unsafe genetically modified foods were slipping into our diet because of “systematic neglect” by FSANZ which, he said, was assuming a new type of GM molecule, was safe to eat without requiring proof.
Prof Heineman has peer-reviewed research on the topic with Judy Carmen, of Adelaide’s Flinders University, and Sarah Agapito-Tenfin, of the Federal University of Santa Catarina Brazil, which was published in “Environment International” recently. FSANZ has yet to comment on the research document.
Prof Heineman would like some certainty around FSANZ’s research and some science in the risk assessments. He said that just as there was no evidence such products were unsafe for humans to eat neither was there proof they were safe.
Lobbyists against allowing GMOs/foods into New Zealand say they are here in our foodchain already although we don’t grow them. They argue that having GM foods in our diet is a step towards accepting the growing of GM plants.
Food products which contain a GM component have to be labelled. GM foods that do not contain any novel DNA or protein or altered characteristics do not require a label. A decision not to label these foods was made because the composition and characteristics of these foods is exactly the same as non GM-food.
Labelling is also not required when there is no more than 1 per cent (per ingredient) of an approved GM food unintentionally present as an ingredient or processing aid in a non-GM food.
GM-free and non-GM claims are made voluntarily by food manufacturers and are subject to relevant laws of Australia and New Zealand which prohibit representations about food that are or likely to be false and misleading.
When FSANZ assesses a GM food it is compared with a similar, commonly eaten conventional food from a molecular, toxicological, nutritional and compositional point of view to discern the differences.
Steffan Browing, Green Party spokesman on agriculture and biosecurity matters, finds it disturbing FSANZ has never turned down approvals for GM-modified food into New Zealand and Australia. Forty-five applications covering 75 food lines were approved.
“It’s disturbing particularly when there is strong information from passionate professionals like Prof Jack Heineman who have done intensive research on these things and FSANZ ignores them. It’s almost like FSANZ is an agent of the big US agrochemical companies and accepts the company data, defends the criticism of the decision and looks for every reason why the concerns are invalid without taking a precautionary approach.”
His other concern is that people have almost stopped submitting against FASNZ applications because they are simply not listened to.
“If they (FSANZ) were really being precautionary, they won’t be taking these things through, but New Zealand always says yes.”
FSANZ does not require routine animal feeding studies although New Zealand pigs, poultry and dairy cows are fed GM supplements. However, it acknowledged there may be future GM foods for which the results of animal-feeding studies may be useful. Then, it may require such studies.