22/07/2013

'Astonishing' Rejection of Science By Food Safety Minister

 

The Food Safety Minister's decision to take the advice of bureaucrats and to reject peer-reviewed science, is nothing short of astonishing and puts the public at risk from food containing new levels of chemicals for which there is no known safe maximum residue limit.

Responding to a request under the Official Information Act, Minister Nicky Kaye failed to provide any evidence of safety when approving the new GE food that contains high levels of 2,4-D. She dismissed concerns about the absence of any scientific data by officials who have been dangerously reliant on the opinions provided by the applicants themselves.

"It is astonishing that the Minister has dismissed the value of animal feeding studies to see if there is harm from the consumption of 2,4-D laden foods, and is backing approval of 2,4-D soy and corn which officials in the USDA and Europe have declined for safety reasons," says Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

"The decision to approve 2,4-D food crops as 'safe' is based on nothing other than industry promises of safety."

The advice being followed by the Minister is to ignore a series of peer reviewed scientific studies deemed by officials as “dubious science”, “flawed studies” and “unsubstantiated" assumptions, [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] in spite of a total absence of any feeding studies on the effects of the GE 2,4-D crop on consumers.

At the same time as rubber-stamping GE foods without proper evidence, food safety officials have rejected data from independent animal feeding studies, and taken part in a campaign of unwarranted criticism of peer-reviewed publications and independent scientists.

"Officials seem to be working to an agenda that involves ignoring scientific evidence of harm in the published literature, and instead relying on industry assurances,' says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-free NZ in food and environment.

"FSANZ, MPI, the Minister and the Science Media Centre seem to be engaged in a deliberate effort to undermine scientific rigour, and to belittle evidence that indicates their own assumptions are wrong. This allows them to then ignore inconvenient and concerning evidence that should force them to review their past practice."

An example of this is their response to a recent study by New Zealand scientist Professor Jack Heinemann on dsRNA. This was quickly dismissed in comments run by the Science Media Centre, who quoted FSANZ officials saying ”there is no scientific basis for suggesting that small dsRNAs present in some GM foods have different properties or pose a greater risk than those already naturally abundant in conventional foods”. [6]

Other experts and scientists outside New Zealand and Australia do not share that local official view. [7] The USDA has previously turned down the commercial planting of 2,4-D soy and corn because of the lack of any long-term evidence on human safety. The EU has also declined to approve LY038 –RNA corn due to concerns over the way the study was conducted and recently also dismissed another GE corn because of a lack of safety evidence for consumers. FSANZ and the 7 Australasian Ministers have approved all these despite the same absence of safety evidence.

"Are FSANZ agency experts so embedded in the industry that they are compromised to a point where they will never be able to admit there could be problems? They seem to have lost objectivity and should not be assessing these applications,” says Claire Bleakley.

"Even The Science Media centre, funded in part by the taxpayer, has failed to show it is objective, engaging in what has become vilification of any study showing evidence of harm, yet neglecting to mention when an overseas food safety agency supports the findings.”

A review of the 2,4-D soy approval is to be considered at the Regulatory Review committee, but it is still for the Minister to protect the public and to challenge her own staff when they ignore scientific evidence to favour the applicant.

The Minister has a responsibility to require evidence of safety of GE foods under the strict scientific protocols that the public have been promised as reassurance. It is a scandal that with new dsRNA and 2,4 D GE foods, nothing like that has happened.


References:
[1] Feeding studies and GM corn MON863 (July 2012)http://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/consumer/gmfood/mon863/Pages/default.aspx
[2] Response to Séralini paper http://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/consumer/gmfood/seralini/Pages/default.aspx
[3] Response to a feeding study in pigs by Carman et al http://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/consumer/gmfood/Pages/Response-to-Dr-Carman%27s-study.aspx
[4] FSANZ response to study linking Cry1Ab protein in blood to GM foods http://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/consumer/gmfood/cry1ab/Pages/default.aspx
[5] Response-to-Heinemann-et-al-on-the-regulation-of-GM-crops-and-foods-developed-using-gene-silencinghttp://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/consumer/gmfood/Pages/Response-to-Heinemann-et-al-on-the-regulation-of-GM-crops-and-foods-developed-using-gene-silencing.aspx

[6] Science Media Centre http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2013/05/22/fsanz-defends-stance-on-gene-silencing-experts-respond/

[7] Lundgren J G. and. Duan J.J. (2013) RNAi-based Insecticidal Crops: Potential Effects on Nontarget Species BioScience http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/130716_rna-interference_pesticides_will_need_special_safety_testing.html

Contact
Jon Carapiet 021 0507681 - National spokesman
Claire Bleakely - 027 3486731 / 06 308 9842 - President, GE-free NZ

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