Leading Aussie scientists call for better regulation of GE food

Sydney, Australia - In an open letter to the Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, fifteen leading scientists today called for an urgent and independent review of the safety assessment procedure for genetically engineered (GE) food, and for all GE food to be labelled (1). The letter arrives as the State and Federal Health Ministers prepare to discuss food labelling at a Food Regulation Ministerial Council meeting in Adelaide this Friday (24th October).

The scientists support the Greenpeace report “Eating in the Dark”, released yesterday (2) which found that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is failing in its duty to protect the health of Australian consumers. For the first time, the report brings together comprehensive evidence that, far from keeping abreast of recent insights into the impact of GE food, FSANZ remains mired in outmoded science.

Professor Jack A. Heinemann, molecular biologist and director of the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI) in New Zealand, says “I believe that it is wrong for a food safety agency to have an obligation to promote trade while aiming to protect  public health -it is an inherent conflict of interest.. I sincerely hope that the Food Regulation Ministerial Council will take this opportunity to reflect seriously on the report and look to find solutions to the problems it discusses.”

The open letter observes that, while regulatory agencies worldwide are displaying growing caution in response to the ever-increasing uncertainty about the safety of GE crops, FSANZ is one of only a few regulators in the world to have approved every single application it has received for GE food products. These approvals include:

- A strain of corn (MON863) by Monsanto found to cause liver and kidney toxicity when fed to rats in a peer-reviewed French scientific study released last year.
- A GE corn variety (alpha-amylase corn) specifically designed to be used in fuel, not intended for human consumption, and not approved anywhere outside the USA.
- A GE corn variety(Bt10) approved by the authority despite being banned by the EU and Japan.
- Monsanto’s Roundup Ready (GT73) canola, banned in Austria, which resulted in increases in liver sizes in rats of up to 16 per cent in Monsanto’s own studies. Hybrids of this canola variety are currently being grown in New South Wales and Victoria and will enter the food supply this year.

Louise Sales, Greenpeace  genetic engineering campaigner says “Instead of reaching for the rubber stamp every time, FSANZ must exercise caution while assessing the safety of GE food. We also need tighter labelling laws for GE food to protect consumer choice and health”

Last year the Federal ALP promised not to approve the release of GE crops unless they could be proven safe “beyond reasonable doubt”(3). The ALP’s conference last year also supported the “comprehensive labelling of genetically modified food”(4).


(1) The letter and full list of signatories is attached, and can be viewed at: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/resources/reports/GE/open-ltr-211008
(2) The report can be viewed at: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/resources/reports/GE/rep-eatindark-211008
(3)Kerry O’Brien (2007) Labor’s Plan for Primary Industries, p.20. http://www.alp.org.au/download/now/071119___labors_plan_for_primary_industries22.pdf,
(4) ALP (2007) ALP National Platform and Constitution, Chapter Twelve - Ensuring Community Security and Access to Justice, para. 99, http://www.alp.org.au/platform/chapter_12.php

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