26, Oct, 2009

Food Safety Minister needs to question GE food safety and labelling

Category: Soil & Health Association of NZ

Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson needs to ensure a comprehensive review of the labelling of genetically engineered (GE) food ingredients and GE food safety in New Zealand, now that 40 different GE food applications have been approved for use in New Zealand, including foods derived from 61 GE plant lines (1), according to the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand. Soil & Health says the latest approvals (2) have gone through despite an increase in evidence of the health risks from GE food.

GE plant lines approved include canola, corn, potato, cotton, soy bean, lucerne (alfalfa), sugarbeet, and rice. Further GE corn, cotton and soybean applications are being processed. Fourteen approved microbial-based food processing aids have also been approved with another being considered.

The Food Safety Minister’s meeting in Adelaide last Friday with the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) (3) ended with a joint communiqué (4) that included, “agreeing in principle to commission an independent, comprehensive review of food labelling law and policy.” However Soil & Health is concerned that the “independence” is unlikely to be more than a sham, and points to repeated GE food safety concerns by expert independent scientific researchers being consistently overridden.”

“Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), which takes direction from the Ministerial Council, has never yet turned down an application for the introduction of a genetically engineered food line, and its past so-called independent advice has invariably used research supplied by the mega food industry applicants,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“The ‘independent panel’ to undertake the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy will be appointed by the Ministerial Council, and if it is anything like last year’s New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s (NZFSA) so-called independent review of some of its decisions, it will be a rubber stamp for whatever convenient business focused direction the Ministerial Council wants.”

“The NZFSA review including A1-A2 milk, artificial sweetener aspartame and Campylobacter, lacked the independence required. In a fox-in-charge-of-the-henhouse scenario, the NZFSA, which was being criticised for its decisions, decided on a review, drafted the terms of reference, and then chose its own reviewer. There were no surprises in the review’s findings.”

“This exercise, as in the NZFSA review, is unlikely to be anything more than a whitewash of FSANZ practices and a Trojan horse for even more harmonisation with international food standards regulator Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex). New Zealanders will lose even more sovereignty and control of their food supply and its safety.”

“However Soil & Health and New Zealand consumers will be blissed out if Kate Wilkinson gets in now and reviews just how many of the numerous GE food ingredients are not identified on the supermarket shelves. While she is putting that right, she should also get Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (MCoOL) underway,” said Mr Browning. “The Minister doesn’t need the Aussies for either of those, the Aussies have MCoOL already, and any of the Minister’s staff can show what a joke GE food labelling (5) is in NZ. When did NZFSA last check on compliance of the weak rules?”

“NZFSA’s own broad based Consumer Forum voted unanimously for MCoOL, yet NZFSA continues to advise government against it, and like FSANZ advises that GE foods are safe.”

“The Indian government has just overridden its GE crop regulator and put on hold the permission for GE aubergine there, because of protest and scientific criticism. One such scientist who assessed the GE food’s applicant Monsanto-Mahyco's molecular transformation methods, New Zealand’s Professor Jack Heinemann from the University of Canterbury, was quoted saying, “I have never seen less professionalism in the presentation and quality assurance of molecular data than in this study,"

Heinemann, who is genuinely independent, has also questioned FSANZ decisions affecting New Zealanders exposure to GE foods but again the applicant’s own substandard science was preferred by FSANZ. (6)

“Independent animal GE food feeding studies including foods approved for New Zealand are increasingly showing food safety risks, yet FSANZ has yet to turn down an application. Studies include showing multi generational infant mortalities and disorders of the reproductive, immune and blood clotting systems. This can include increased cases of pre-cancerous growths. (7,8,9)

“While buying organic food avoids exposure to GE food components, Soil & Health points out the broad consumer preference to not be eating GE foods, yet current GE labelling requirements are both weak and under-enforced,” said Mr Browning.

“Soil & Health maxim, Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People, is a lead to a sustainable environment, safe and nutritious food, and a healthy nation. Consumers should at least have the choice and the Minister can ensure they do.”

The Soil & Health Association of NZ
Steffan Browning
021 725 655


  1. http://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/standardsdevelopment/standardsworkplan.cfm
  2. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/standardsdevelopment/notificationcirculars/index.cfm
    • Application A614 – Food derived from Glyphosate-tolerant Cotton Line GHB614
    • Application A615 – Food derived from Insect-protected Cotton Line COT67B
  3. Membership of the Ministerial Council comprises Health Ministers from New Zealand most Australian States and Territories, the Australian Government, as well as other Ministers from related portfolios (Primary Industries, Consumer Affairs etc) where these have been nominated by their jurisdictions. All jurisdictions, except New Zealand, have nominated a Lead Minister for voting purposes. New Zealand has nominated their Minister for Food Safety as Lead Minister for voting purposes. It appears to be a one New Zealand Minister to twelve Australian rati
  4. http://www.alga.asn.au/newsroom/communiques/03.anzfrmc/20081024.php Comprehensive Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy. The meeting agreed in principle to commission an independent, comprehensive review of food labelling law and policy. The review will be undertaken by an independent expert panel. The expert panel will comprise prominent individuals appointed by the Ministerial Council who collectively possess knowledge and expertise in the fields of public health, regulatory, economics/public policy, law and consumer behaviour and business. The review is to be chaired by an independent public policy expert.
  5. http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/consumers/gm-ge/gmfoods.htm
    Extracts from New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s Frequently Asked Questions further below.
  6. http://sites.google.com/site/therightbiotechnology/free-chapter-downloads
    http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/Response to INBI submission on A549 DAR FINAL
  7. Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food, by Jeffrey M. Smith
    Full text with references copied further below.
  8. GM food can cause cancer Down to Earth, October 31 2009
    French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini unmasked the dangers of genetically modified brinjal (aubergine), intended for commercial production in India. He shared with Savvy Soumya Misra his findings on Bt brinjal and Roundup Ready soybean
  9. GE Soy Rat Feeding Study
    In the group GM-soy there was a high level of pup mortality in the firstgeneration, underdevelopment of some pups, and a total absence of a second generation. These effects were not observed in the other groups. It is concluded that a diet incorporating the GM soy line 40.3.2 (approved for use in NZ) can have a negative influence on the fertility, health and posterity of rats. The full Russian version of the paper is at: http://www.science-education.ru/download/2009/05/2009_05_02.pdf