Consumers may be getting more than they bargained for when buying corn chips this Christmas season.
A member of GE Free NZ found in the Woolworth’s Organic section, surrounded by certified organic produce, a line of Simba genetically modified “Frito’s” corn chips barbeque flavour from South Africa and imported by Zebra Zoo.
It is not known if the corn comes from an insecticide producing (Bt) and/or pesticide resistant (Busta, glufosinate or Round up Ready, glyphosate resistant) varieties of corn. GE Free was advised by the Woolworth’s product manager that South Africa has had no laws around segregation and so all their corn and soy products are GM-contaminated.
GE Free (NZ) wrote to the Simba Company who exported the product to New Zealand and they assured us that their product did not use genetically modified corn. (3)
So what GE constructs are in the Frito's corn chips? Do Zebra Zoo Ltd repackage them with new ingredients? Woolworth's do not appear to know, and even the manufacturer may not be sure if segregation of ingredients has failed.
Depending on the gene constructs used, medical professionals advise the product could present particular risks to pregnant women, children or people with suppressed immunity, but there is no way of telling. New Zealand food authorities have authorised imports of over twenty GE ingredients but virtually no testing is done to ensure imported foods actually comply with the law.
“To add genetically modified ingredients to chips which already contain high levels of colour, and flavours like msg, adds to the potential health risk,” says Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment.
“There are no diagnostic tests or studies on transgenes that might cause disease such as stomach upsets, headaches or flu-like symptoms on entering the digestive system. We ask that if anyone buys this corn merchandise to watch for any illness or allergy that might arise to stop eating and immediately report them to your health practitioner or the NZFSA.”
Woolworth’s on being told of the incident immediately removed all stocks of the chips in the aisle. GE Free NZ understands that Woolworth’s still maintain a GM-Free policy for their home brand product range.
But this incident highlights the need for consumers to check labels and make sure they buy from brands they can trust, and which use locally grown and identity-preserved ingredients.
Organic standards for certification in New Zealand expressly prohibit GMO use throughout all growing and processing stages. New Zealand has no commercial plantings of GMO plants and Australia has four states that have refused to lift a GM moratorium, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania.
Recently the Australian Government received submissions from 250 companies, of which Goodman Fielder was one, asking that all their states stay GMO Free.
“It is pleasing to see big companies like Goodman Fielder supporting consumers by petitioning for the moratorium to be kept in place, so they can ensure ingredients are GMO- Free” says Claire Bleakley.
“The Australian-owned Progressive Enterprises appears not to give consumers the same support. Retailers could be liable for harm caused by products they sell. They must be more aware of the lack of safety research and the inherent dangers posed from GMO foods and keep them off the shelves,” says Mrs Bleakley.
Claire Bleakley - (06) 3089842, 027348 6731
(1) Simba, Frito’s Barbeque flavour Corn Chips made from Refined corn (genetically modified)120g, Imported from RSA and packaged by Zebra Zoo, Mt Wellington, Auckland (09) 5746704
(2) Jannsens Continental – http://janssens.co.nz
(3) Thank you for your query on our products. We are indeed delighted to know that our Fritos products do make it to New Zealand. The Corn line used for making our Fritos products is the 33P66 variety which is GM-free and therefore, does not contain any Bt Genes or herbicide resistance glyphosate.
Hopefully we have been of some service to you, and do not hesitate to talk to Simba if you require any other information on our products.
Dr Fru Nche
(4)MOLECULAR PLANT PATHOLOGY (2007) 8 ( 6 ) , 000–000 DOI: 10.1111/J.1364-3703.2007.00441.X Review: Transcomplementation an dsynergism in plants: implications for viral transgenes? JONATHAN R. LATHAM AND ALLISON K. WILSON
Bioscience Resource Project, PO Box 6869, Ithaca, NY 14851, USA
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