12/12/2014

Flawed Corporate Culture Undermines Food Safety

 

The Government inquiry [1] into the Fonterra/AgResearch botulism scare is a damning indictment of corporate culture in relation to food safety. The internal culture and ill-preparedness of both organisations has led to customer mistrust and significant economic harm to farmers in New Zealand.

The report found that Fonterra did not have a strong food safety culture nor a strong customer and consumer focus. This must change, and a priority for Fonterra must be to prohibit use of herbicide-resistant GE crops as animal feed.

Fonterra has been trading on New Zealand's reputation for natural, grass-fed animal production. At the same time it has undermined this by allowing animals to be fed a diet of imported genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-tolerant grains that are highly sprayed with pesticides. New Zealand-grown herbicide-tolerant swede has resulted in devastating losses with hundreds of cows having died after eating chlorsulfuron-tolerant brassica.

This is a direct threat to New Zealand's export reputation for high-quality, safe food. Fonterra must take a lead in immediately addressing global concern about the cocktail of pesticides entering the food-chain.

Chinese citizens are so highly concerned over the health dangers of GE foods they protested outside Monsanto's China office.[2]

Fonterra cannot ignore the science showing that feeding of herbicide tolerant crops only goes to weaken the digestive system of animals, negatively impacting animal health and potentially impacting consumers eating their products.

A recent international study [3] into the impact of glyphosate on animal rumen found that the herbicide destroyed the beneficial rumen microbes and sustained the more resistant pathogenic species like Clostridium botulinum.

The study concluded that glyphosate causes a microbial imbalance in the digestive tract that leads to diarrhoea, abdominal problems, weakness and sudden death, all associated with the increase of the botulism neurotoxin in the rumen which has an effect on milk.

"New Zealand has imported over 250,000 tonnes of GE grains in the form of dried distillers grain (DDG) and GE soy meal. This is all unlabelled and going into animal feed under cover, without the knowledge of consumers in New Zealand and in our overseas markets," said Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE-free NZ in food and environment.

"If Fonterra and other companies want our export economy to thrive by meeting consumer demand for safe products, we must secure the integrity of the whole supply chain."

This process must start at the beginning of the chain, by securing the highest standards for what is fed to New Zealand animals.

"New Zealand's non-GE production is a major point of difference that can lift kiwi products above other commodities. This must not be undermined by cheap and nasty animal feed," said Mr. Carapiet.

It is time that GE feed and herbicide-tolerant crops are excluded from any part of the New Zealand production system. Animals should not be grazed on sprayed pasture and educational information should be given to farmers to warn them of the dangers of herbicide tolerant crops.

References:
[1] Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident Date of publication: November 2014
[2] http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4bb17e9d0102v73l.html
[3] Ackermann W., Coenen M., Schrodl W., Shehata A. & Kruger (2014). The Influence of Glyphosate on the Microbiota and Production of Botulinum Neurotoxin During Ruminal Fermentation. Curr Microbiolhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25407376

ENDS:
Jon Carapiet 0210507681
Claire Bleakley 0273486731/ 06 3089842

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