GENET archive


APPROVAL & FOOD: Trans-Tasman rift emerges over GE corn

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia



DATE:   04.08.2007

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A split has emerged between New Zealand and Australia over the approval of a type of genetically-engineered (GE) corn. The New Zealand Food Safety Minister has overridden the joint food authority’s approval of the corn for human consumption. New Zealand has deferred the approval of Monsanto’s high lysine genetically-engineered corn under its Food Safety guidelines. The corn is engineered to add weight to pigs and poultry but has been approved for human consumption by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). FSANZ’s Lydia Buchtmann says the GE corn is safe for humans. ”We’ve gone out and done additional work on this, and had it peer reviewed so we’re highly confident that it’s safe,” she said. Greenpeace’s Louise Sales says only uncooked GE corn has only been tested on animals. ”It’s the cooking process that can actually cause the formation of dangerous compounds,” she said. The joint food authority says the approval is in case the GE corn is accidentally mixed with food products.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia

AUTHOR: Catherine Clifford


DATE:   03.08.2007

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Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has, for the first time, amended its food safety code to approve for human consumption a geneticially-modified corn designed for animal feed.

Biotech giant Monsanto applied to have the Code amended so it could sell its GM high-lycine corn, called LY038, in Australia and New Zealand.

LY038 has been engineered to have high levels of the amino acid, lysine, in combination with high levels of sugar up to four times the amount found in conventional sweetcorn. When fed to livestock the high-energy food speeds growth and muscle development, especially in poultry and pigs.

But a storm is brewing on both sides of the Tasman over the GM corn’s approval for human consumption.

Greenpeace alleges Monsanto applied to have the food standard changed because the company anticipates there could be accidental contamination of the human food chain even though LY038 is specifically designed for animals.

Genetic-engineering spokeswoman, Louise Sales, alleges the decision by FSANZ sets a worrying precedent partly because this is the first time the Code has been amended in this way and partly because the testing procedure conducted by Monsanto was wanting.

”They relied on feeding studies on chickens and rats on uncooked corn and obviously humans don’t eat uncooked corn,” she says.

But Food Standards Australia New Zealand spokeswoman, Lydia Buchtmann, says Monsanto’s application met all necessary safety requirements.

Ms Buchtmann adds FSANZ’s risk analysis of LY038 was extensive, thorough and detailed.

”We’re very rigorous in our safety assessments and, in fact, we’re renowned around the world for how well we do them,” she says.

Dr Jack Heinemann is the Associate Professor of Microbiology at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Dr Heinemann says he is disappointed with the FSANZ decision because he believes the high-lycine feedstock has been approved without the full range of safety testing necessary should the product enter the human food supply system.

”No safety studies have been conducted on this corn using cooked and processed material,” he says.

”It is conceivably possible this corn will be of economic benefit to farmers,” he says, ”but the question facing our food regulator is not whether it makes chickens grow faster but whether this corn is safe and appropriate for human food,” says Dr Heinemann.

Meanwhile, New Zealand has just announced it will not immediately follow Australia’s lead in gazetting the amendment.

Instead, Food Safety Minister, Annette King, has asked her own Food Safety Authority to provide her with more advice on whether it is appropriate to accept within Australia and New Zealand’s joint food standard a genetically-modified product that is intended for use as stockfeed.

We sought comment from Monsanto Australia. The company says it is happy for us to speak to its US-based experts on high-lycine GM corn, but will not be in a position to arrange interviews until next week.



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