Fonterra must act to safeguard exports by keeping Genetically Modified organisms out of its supply chain and adopting mixed forage shown in tests by DairyNZ to reduce emissions and improve production.
Recent contamination of milk formula has harmed the reputation of Fonterra and New Zealand as a source of clean, safe, food, and is an urgent wakeup call for Fonterra to protect the integrity of its whole supply chain.
There are enormous risks to Fonterra's future if it ignores the mixed forage solutions to dirty-dairying that are available right now (1), and gambles on genetically engineering a 'magic bullet ' solution in the form of GM ryegrass being developed by AgResearch and Pastoral Genomics.(2)
The New Zealand brand is built on the appeal to consumers of our natural, grass fed- milk, and sustainable and ethical food food production generally, which must be protected into the future.
"There is no need for Fonterra to import GE-crops as animal feed, or to delay adopting proven, consumer-friendy solutions to improving its environmental footprint," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
"The DairyNZ research found improved resilience to drought, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and improved production from the use of mixed forage in dairying. Why aren't Fonterra and the Ministry of Primary Production getting behind that?"
There is a now a body of scientific research showing tumor growth and organ damage in animals fed GM-crops of similar types to those approved and being imported into New Zealand for animal feed for poultry and for use in dairying (3). Claims being made for the safety of experimental GE Rye-grass are not supported by published studies.
The proven mixed-forage solutions are being deliberately ignored by those pushing for millions of dollars in funding for Genetic Engineering. The promotors of GE ryegrass offer reassurances that the novel DNA is taken from plants, but remain silent on the harm that comes from disrupting the existing genome, and from unexpected effects over the lifetime of an organism that genetic engineering techniques involve. (4)
Fonterra and other New Zealand food producers are no longer able to rely on Food Safety Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to meet safety standards set by overseas markets, or to meet consumer expectations for safe, clean, GE-free food that are the foundation for our exports.
New Zealand authorities responsible for food safety have fallen behind the international standards for safety testing of GM foods, requiring no animal safety testing at all whereas European safety protocols now require extended animal feeding studies. (5)
An expert scientific panel appointed by the Supreme Court of India has also called for a indefinite moratorium on GM crops until life-long animal studies are conducted to assess the safety of GM foods, and until conflicts of interest amongst the biotechnology industry and regulatory authorities are overcome.(6)
"Even if it was once true that New Zealand's regulators had world-class standards, that is no longer the case," said Jon Carapiet.
"The future of Fonterra's safety reputation is directly under threat from use of GE animal feed that has never been subjected to proper safety-testing or monitoring, and from an agenda to ignore natural solutions and push experimental GE ryegrass."
It is not too late for Fonterra to learn from past mistakes and commit to keeping it's food chain as natural and safe as possible. It's future business will be assured by respecting and listening to its customers around the world, and keeping GE and other contamination out.
The Ministry for Primary Industries must also direct R&D away from Genetic Engineering and wake up to the fact that none of New Zealand's food exporters - from Zespri to Heinz Watties and Goodman Fielder, want anything to do with GE and GMOs in food production.
The three year mixed pasture trial was established to determine whether mixed pasture could increase milk solids production and improve nitrogen efficiency. Cows fed on mixed pasture excreted half the amount of nitrogen (N) in their urine compared to cows on standard pasture. Cows on the mixed pasture ate less but were more efficient with an overall increase in milk protein concentration. There were advantages in feed availability in summer and autumn from the mixed pastures, especially during the recent drought.
Previous dismissal of concerns by FSANZ: http://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/consumer/gmfood/seralini/Pages/default.aspx
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued guidelines for two-year whole food feeding studies to assess the risk of long-term toxicity from GM foods.This approach largely validates the methodology and choices of Prof GE Seralini in his 2012 study on GM maize NK603 - that have been previously criticised.
Media Contact: Jon Carapiet - National Spokesman 021 0507681
Claire Bleakely - President - 027 3486731