GE Free NZ has presented to Parliament's Regulatory Review committee raising concerns around public health following the approval by the Food Safety Authority Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) of a GE soy bean, engineered to withstand 3 toxic herbicides 2,4-D ammonium and glyphosate (Round-Up).
The committee heard from two expert witnesses, Emeritus Professor Don Huber of Purdue University and Dr Michael Antoniou head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College London School of Medicine.
Professor Huber noted the company producing the new GE soy had provided no safety data and that foods should not be assessed separately from the chemicals they have been subjected to. He was very concerned that the application had been approved for human consumption without any Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) being set. He stated these herbicides were responsible for chronic toxicity creating major disturbance in the health of animals and humans.
Dr Michael Antoniou concurred with these concerns, also referring to the absence of any safety data. He highlighted the risks inherent to the gene insertion process which can disrupt the genome and as a result create potential harmful effects from the soy when eaten. He emphasised the need for further evaluation and 2 year feeding studies such as those now being adopted in the EU to establish toxicity of other GE foods as well those applied at the European Commission level to identify the carcinogenicity of GE foods.
“The Committee was excellent and gave our presentation the time needed which we thank them for. Our concerns over the lack of any studies that show the GE soy food is safe to eat, and the fact that these gaps have not been addressed in the approval process were given a hearing," said Claire Bleakley president of GE free NZ.
The Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved this novel food without any supporting data that it is safe to eat. The Maximum Residue Limits have not even been set and now Australia has banned 2,4-D due to toxic dioxin contaminants and the USDA is itself postponing approval to commercialise this crop, due to the lack of any safety data on “the human environment”.
The FSANZ approval attempts to give assurance that the 'available evidence' suggests this food is as safe to eat as a non-GE soy. However the Select Committee had it explained that this is just hiding behind a technicality, because there is no available evidence. There can be no credible assessment of its safety until studies are conducted.
“This makes a mockery of official assurances that the Food Safety Authority used a “rigorous scientific" process. Absence of evidence is not evidence of safety," said Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE free NZ.
GE Free NZ raised the following:
1) New Zealand law has insufficient process for review of GE food approvals by FSANZ.
2) Risks to public health given a lack of evidence that neither Dow (the applicant) or FSANZ have conducted feeding studies on the GE soy as a wholefood (A 1073)
3) There are insufficient studies to meet international best practice standards such as those are being implemented by food safety regulators in the European Union
“It is essential that the Food Safety Authority and Ministers ensure that comprehensive studies are conducted on any new technologies that introduce or allow toxic compounds to be used.”
In seeking to appeal the approval by FSANZ of this controversial foodstuff GE Free NZ has pursued all legitimate avenues available and have found that there is no jurisdiction with the Australian Tribunal that oversees approval procedures. Since there is a question of parity with our Australian counterparts we are seeking to restore New Zealanders' civil rights and legislative protections by asking government to revoke the approval of this food due to insufficient health and safety data. GE-Free NZ is also asking that since this food represents a serious risk to public health, these matters should be subject to review prior to incorporation into domestic legislation.
Claire Bleakley - president 0273486731
Jon Carapiet - spokesman 0210507681