GE Free New Zealand has just received the results from GE testing on infant foods and gluten free products undertaken in South Africa. These have confirmed that the South African foods significantly exceeded the percentage levels of GE maize and soy that the importer had informed us of. What is more concerning is that the very high levels may be from illegal unapproved GE events.
The test findings support concerns raised, but previously dismissed by Countdown supermarkets, the importer, and the NZ Food and Grocery Council, that nobody seems to know or have a system in place to identify what GM variants are being sold in New Zealand or whether they are legal.
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) who sent samples, after reading about GE Free NZ concerns, to the internationally respected and independent GMO testing facility at the University of the Free State. The University conducted several thorough qualitative PCR screenings and the results found:
Bokomo's Wheat Free Pronutro was found to contain both GE maize and GE soya: 90.36% GE maize and 71.42% GE soya.
Impala / Springbok maize meal was found to contain 66.18% GE maize. This maize is labelled as Free of Additives and Gluten Free.
"These are doubly dangerous as animals feeding studies showed that at 33% dietary level of GE maize meal there were significant adverse changes to the liver, kidney, pancreas, GI tract and immune system, as well as reproductive problems, sterility and deaths.
Last year Countdown was asked about the risk of illegal GE variants in their South African products after importer Zebra Zoo foods had been unable to identify what variety of GE maize was being sold.
"The Supermarket Manager was unable to tell us and referred us back to Zebra Zoo" says Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ in Food and Environment. "We also raised concerns about the failure to tell customers about the products that contain GE ingredients on the the South African and Countdown / Woolworth's online shopping sites".
New Zealand's labeling laws exempt point of sale foods that contain GE ingredients if they are made on premises and not packaged. Oils derived from canola, corn, soya and cotton seeds often in a mix called vegetable oils do not need to be labelled as coming from GE plants. Most point of sale supermarket freshly baked goods all contain soy flour. The Supermarkets are supposed to be able to provide information if asked on whether their ingredients are sourced from GE, however when asked the reply is they often don't know.
"GE Free NZ is asking MAF to withdraw these products and institute further trait testing and implement diagnostic test development to be used by health professionals, before the human population is used further as guinea pigs.
"The South African test results show that New Zealand's food safety system is flawed as there is no record of the GM varieties or the ability to ensure the varieties have been approved by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Authority (FSANZ)" says Claire Bleakley,
"Crops are engineered to contain multiple novel genes and pesticides, 'stacked' traits, never been used in food production before. This is concerning as individually these varieties have shown adverse effects and it is not known whether these effects will be made worse when eaten in large quantities, especially when there is more than one GE ingredients in a product."
"This cavalier attitude of the importers and retailers towards consumer health, and their apparent focus on sales without consumer information or product monitoring, must be immediately addressed".
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731.
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