Consumer concern about safety of GE foods is the hands of supermarket owners.
That is the message behind this week’s supermarket actions in locations across New Zealand, marking World Food Day this Sunday, and coinciding with the consumer Right2Know march in the United States.
The actions are a wake-up call highlighting the latest scientific research on adverse effects of GM foods shown in animal testing.
There is now prima facie evidence in published journals that more testing is needed to check GM food safety for the human food chain. Based on current evidence it is wrong to assume safety, yet officials continue to allow unidentified GM products on sale.
"Many of the GE corn, soy and canola traits were approved by FSANZ before the animal safety testing was conducted. In fact it was one of Monsanto's own studies that triggered concerns that the company had white-washed the adverse findings, and kept food safety regulators in the dark,” says Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
In particular there is concern that the retailers are relying on official safety approval of imported GE Maize meal when they do not even know which genetic transformation ‘event’ it contains, whether or not it is legal, and are not managing the risks of the product potentially triggering immune reaction in some people.
“The situation looks remarkably similar to the conduct of cigarette companies which suppressed their safety-testing results in the same way, and only decades later were discovered to have done so,” says Claire Bleakley.
“Supermarkets actually support the consumer and aim to be GE-free in their house brands. The scientific evidence has confirmed concerns that were voiced in consumer protests in the early-2000s when there were arrests and the supermarkets became a battle ground. Supermarkets listened to their customers, and along with brand manufacturers like Sanitarium, Goodman Fielder, and Heinz-Watties have adopted a GM-free policy.”
However the sale of other brands of GE products assumed to be safe is unjustified, and means that customers and staff are being put unnecessarily at risk.
Concerns raised previously with the food authorities and grocery retailers have been rejected or ignored. This week, in a letter asking for their help and support, supermarket managers are once again in the role of having to speak up for their customers.
Supermarket managers are being asked to protect their customers by removing GM products from shelves and to back calls for long term comprehensive safety testing to be conducted.
Claire Bleakley 027 3486731
Note to Editors: For scientific comment on GE food safety testing, you may contact Dr Elvira Dommisse 03 9422 748 or 021 0575 123
CONTENTS OF LETTER –
To The SUPERMARKET Manager/ Owner
From: Your concerned customers
New Zealand. World Food Day/R2K, 15-16 October 2011
Dear Manager/ Owner
Consumer Health Risk from Exposure to GMOs.
Evidence of Failure in Regulation and the Implications for Supermarkets
Supermarkets are part of our community, and we are asking you for your help.
As a manager or owner you have a duty of care that goes beyond minimal legislated standards.
This is especially true when there is prima facie evidence that food safety regulatory standards are inadequate to protect public health.
There is now sufficient scientific evidence to show a need for greater precaution than that afforded by FSANZ's current regulation of GM foods in order to prevent significant endangerment of public health.
It appears that imported brand of South African Springbok Maize Meal is 100% GMO.
This and similar products are implicated as causing harm in animal safety studies and are not fit for sale.
Unlike other processed GE ingredients the unidentified and potentially illegal maize meal is 100% GMO-derived and this is significant as the volume of exposure to novel genetic elements is greater. There is potential for its aerated particles to trigger a reaction in some people, and this should be prevented.
By law food sold by retailers has to be safe. The scientific evidence and uncertainty of scientific opinion brings a moral and legal responsibility to invoke the precautionary principle and withdraw all GE products that are directly implicated as harmful in peer-reviewed and published animal feeding studies.
Supermarkets can no longer rely on current regulatory approvals of GE foods as being safe. There is potential liability in continuing to sell GE foods implicated as damaging in published research. There is no cover for grocery retailers under commercial insurance as the insurance industry refuses to insure long term, gradual and unknown risks of GM foods to consumer health.
There is scientific uncertainty as animal feeding studies are not perfect models for human safety testing, but there is clear evidence of risk that is not adequately managed in the approval process for GM foods. There is urgent need for further research before safety can be asserted.
The food authority FSANZ has been dismissive of the independent scientific research and concerns raised for human health. But their approach cannot provide confidence that the risk to public health from these products is being properly addressed.
It is for you as manager / owner of the supermarket to protect consumers and staff.
South African Springbok Maize Meal and ProNutro is 100% GMO.
PLEASE REMOVE THIS AND SIMILAR GMO PRODUCTS AS UNFIT FOR SALE.
Health and Safety – risks from inhalation of maize dust
There is a risk to shoppers and staff exposed or involved in handling and cleaning up spillages of Springbok GM Maize meal.
This form of Maize meal is imported from South Africa. It is Genetically Modified and enquiries with the importers have identified this GM Maize meal as being a form of GM maize that has been shown to create allergenic, immune or other negative effects in animal feeding studies (see references below).
If you sell this or similar products please withdraw them immediately. As a minimum to reduce the risk to public health:
There should be a notice on the shelf warning customers of the risks of consuming the product. This is the advice of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html
There should be a notice on the shelf warning of the risks from breathing in dust from this maize meal.
Staff should be required to wear a mask, especially if they are pregnant, elderly or have reduced immunity. Staff should have the right to not handle or be exposed to this product.
The scientific paper references are as follows:
Séralini G-E, Mesnage R, Clair E, Gress S,Vendômois J, Cellier D. Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. 2011. Environmental Sciences Europe, 23, 10-20
Maternal and foetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.
Aris A, Leblanc S.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Sherbrook Hospital Centre, Sherbrook, Quebec, Canada. email@example.com
(New Zealand) Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility - Open Letter to Government