The launch in Australia of the GM-free True Food guide is another signal to New Zealand growers and food manufacturers to maintain a GM-free policy and protect the integrity of the food chain.
The launch of the True Food guide in Sydney reflects the massive worldwide demand for food that has not been genetically modified, contaminated with chemical residues, or produced unethically.
New Zealand's primary production system remains GM-free with the worrying exception of chicken and some dairy products that are fed imported GM feed.
"The launch of the GM-free food guide in Australia is just one example of the worldwide consumer demand for the right to buy GE-free food. It is vital that New Zealand preserve the integrity of our food supply in order to meet this demand for decades to come," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.
Many small and large manufacturers currently benefit from pursuing a GE-free policy for their ingredients, gaining exports to premium markets in Japan and across Asia, The Middle East, Europe and America. In New Zealand the house-brands of major retailers and companies like Heinz Watties, Goodman Fielder and even Fonterra brands benefit from excluding GM ingredients in full knowledge that their customers do not want GE ingredients.
"These companies are listening to their consumers and choosing to stay GM-Free, and our members are very supportive of their decision" says Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ. "Certified Organic raw and processed food made and grown in New Zealand are also GM-Free."
But consumers are also being betrayed by some companies and left in the dark about hidden GE ingredients that have been allowed to sneak into their products. Companies have hidden behind the inadequate rules of the food authority FSANZ, which does no independent testing and has failed to monitor the use of GE ingredients or their impacts on public health despite approving many GE foods for importation.
There are few food plants that are genetically engineered, the main ones approved by FSANZ are Soy, Corn, canola, cotton seed as well as many additives. However, these foods are very common as fillers and bulkers in processed foods. Soy, canola, corn and 'vegetable' oils are sourced from GM plant lines unless labelled differently. Also high-fructose corn syrup is sourced from GE corn and has been linked with bee colony collapse. Imported GE crops have been directly used for animal feed by companies like Ingham's who also tried to benefit from the demand for GE-free food by claims in its advertising until stopped by the Commerce Commission.
"The benefits of our clean green reputation will go up in smoke if we allowed GE contamination. Fonterra and Ingham's must ensure the use of imported GE feed stops and that they don't become a weak link in the chain for our export success based on safe, clean and ethical food production," says Jon Carapiet.
"This is a ticking time bomb for the food industry. The fact that scientist have found genetically modified DNA is taken up by the animals eating GE feed, and can cause reductions in fertility as well as abnormalities in organs, is a warning signal as to its impact on human health. Our children, elderly, and the ill need to be most protected from the unknown effects of GM foods."
The launch of the guide in Australia is one way consumers can make a choice to avoid GE food and support brands that have kept faith with their customers and adopted a GM-free policy. This is vitally important to many of Australia's diverse ethnic communities and their export markets as much as is it is for New Zealanders.
There has been expert medical advice that pregnant women, infants, the elderly and immune-suppressed should in particular avoid GE foods because of the increased risk profile for these people from the negative effects identified from GM foods, including those 'officially approved' as safe for use in Australia and New Zealand.
Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility, Infant Mortality http://responsibletechnology.org/article-gmo-soy-linked-to-sterility
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), May 8, 2009, http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html
Carli Ratcliff, The Ingredients that dare not speak their name. 26th February, Sydney Morning Herald.
Jon Carapiet 021 0507681
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842