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RISK ASSESSMENT: New Zealand‘s government urged to reject ‘dangerous‘ GM co




                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  GOVERNMENT URGED TO REJECT ‘DANGEROUS‘ GM CORN

SOURCE: New Zealand Herald, New Zealand

AUTHOR: Martin Johnston

URL:    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=149&objectid=10452484

DATE:   19.07.2007

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GOVERNMENT URGED TO REJECT ‘DANGEROUS‘ GM CORN

 

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listen to the Radio New Zealand broadcast "GM Corn" with Profs. Heinemann and Cooper at:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/__data/assets/audio_item/0005/1028660/ntn-20070719-0907-GM_Corn-wmbr.asx

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Two leading scientists are calling for the Government to reject a new kind of genetically modified corn which they say could be linked to a variety of diseases.

Professor Garth Cooper of Auckland University and Associate Professor Jack Heinemann of Canterbury University want tougher testing of the corn, LY038, made by international seed company Monsanto.

The corn is designed to be a more nutritious feed for animals, but because of the risk of its accidentally entering the human food chain - which officials say is slight - it needs approval as a human food before it can be used.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand last year recommended approval by the nine food ministers from both countries, but New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister, Annette King, in February sought a review.

After the review, the agency has again recommended approval, saying food derived from LY038 ”is as safe as food derived from other corn varieties”.

But the Sustainability Council, chaired by Professor Cooper, and Canterbury University’s Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, headed by Dr Heinemann, say the high levels of lysine in LY038 make it the first GM corn designed to be substantially different from conventional corn in its nutritional profile.

”While lysine is an essential amino acid, it is also highly reactive with common sugars and the heat of cooking accelerates the formation of advanced glycation end-products.”

The latter are implicated in conditions including heart disease and chronic kidney failure. They are also what cause the ”browning” of foods.

The two groups say the food standards agency has failed to apply proper testing standards - by accepting a Monsanto study based on rats and chickens fed with raw corn when humans eat it cooked; and by not consistently comparing LY038 with a GM-free corn, contrary to international standards.

”This decision is precedent-setting as once one GM bio-industrial product is accepted as a food on this basis, the stage is set for a raft of other products - including plants producing industrial and medical substances - to be approved using this lower safety standard.” They say Ms King should exercise New Zealand’s right to opt out of accepting the new corn.

Professor Cooper said that because of the uncertainty over the effects of the high level of lysine, the corn should be subjected to the same testing as experimental medicines, including human trials.

”The currently available safety data for the proposed high-lysine corn is judged to fall far short of the quality required for adequate pharmacological safety assessment,” he said.

Ms King’s spokesman said yesterday she would not comment until the transtasman ministerial food council’s decision was released next week.

The agency said in its review report that its assessment of LY038 was ”entirely consistent” with international guidelines and its own.

Spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann denied that lower standards had been applied and said the assessment included comparison with conventionally-grown corn.

”We think Jack Heinemann has misinterpreted a lot of the things he has raised.”

When asked if human feeding trials were necessary, she said: ”Lysine is an amino acid; it’s part of a protein; it’s something we eat every day.

”It’s nothing new. It’s just genetically modified to make this a high-lysine corn, so animals thrive better and grow better.”



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  FOOD SAFETY REGULATOR FAILS GM LYSINE CORN TEST

SOURCE: Sustainability Council of New Zealand, New Zeland

AUTHOR: Press Release

URL:    http://www.sustainabilitynz.org/news_item.asp?sID=174

DATE:   19.07.2007

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FOOD SAFETY REGULATOR FAILS GM LYSINE CORN TEST

A novel form of genetically modified corn that poses serious health risks, but has been inadequately safety tested, looks set to be approved for human consumption on Monday - unless New Zealand stands aside from this decision.

New Zealand has the right to ”opt out” of decisions made by the Trans-Tasman food safety regulator, FSANZ, and the spectrum of hazards this animal feed poses for humans fully justifies such a break.

The high levels of lysine engineered into this product, called LY038, make it the first GM corn designed to be substantially different to conventional corn in its nutritional profile. While lysine is an essential amino acid, it is also highly reactive with common sugars and the heat of cooking accelerates the formation of Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). These AGEs are implicated in a series of major and important human diseases (or their complications), including atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease, hypertensive heart disease, the cardiovascular complications of diabetes mellitus, and chronic kidney failure amongst others.

Despite these risks, FSANZ has failed to even apply baseline testing standards. In particular:

- It has accepted a Monsanto study based on rats and chickens fed with raw corn, when humans eat cooked corn - and it is the cooking process that accelerates the production of the AGEs.

- Contrary to international food safety guidelines, it has not consistently compared the high lysine corn to one that is free from genetic modification in order to detect differences. The Codex guidelines intend that comparisons are made with a corn variety that has a long history of safe use, not another variety that is also the product of gene technology.

High lysine corn was never intended to be a human food. Permission is being sought for this animal feed to be classed as human food in order to minimise legal risks for the developer, Monsanto. Without such an approval, if the high lysine corn is detected in food, then those food products would be illegal to sell and subject to potentially costly recalls.*

This decision is precedent-setting as once one GM bio-industrial product is accepted as a food on this basis, the stage is set for a raft of other products – including plants producing industrial and medical substances – to be approved using this lower safety standard.

FSANZ states that it has not identified any benefits to consumers from the lysine corn. People seeking wholesome food are being confronted with a regulator prepared to allow pollution of the food chain simply to provide legal protection for those who are unwilling to spend the money to keep such contaminants out.

FSANZ claims that if approved, only very small proportions of the new corn would become human food. However, even small quantities of such substances pose serous food safety risks and once approval is given, there is no upper limit on the proportion of LY038 corn that can legally enter the human food supply.

In the case of a food engineered to express high levels of lysine, it would be prudent to ensure that appropriate tests of safety are performed on all such engineered products, beginning with a study that measures AGEs. This is particularly the case given the known role of lysine-containing compounds in some of the most serious diseases afflicting Western society, and the growing evidence for their toxicity when consumed in foods. The tests assessed to date by FSANZ fall well short of that mark.

In February, New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister Annette King triggered a first review by FSANZ of LY038. Following this, FSANZ has again recommended approval and the minister has one vote out of nine, along with each Australian state, as to whether the high lysine corn is approved, as is expected to be the case. Given the lack of adequate safety testing, if the corn is approved, the minister should exercise New Zealand’s right to opt out on this decision.

Supporting statement by Dr Garth Cooper >>.

http://www.sustainabilitynz.org/docs/HighLysineFoods_DrGarthCooper.pdf

Supporting statement by Dr Jack Heinemann >>.

http://www.sustainabilitynz.org/docs/CommentsonFSANZReview_DrJackHeinemann.pdf

 

Notes:

1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) issued a recommendation to the Ministerial Council, of which Annette King is a member, on May 23 2007. From there, the Minister has a statutory 60 days within which to respond to that recommendation.

2. International guidelines for food safety testing have been laid down by a joint WHO/FAO body - the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Codex test protocol for biotech foods specifies that testing be carried out by comparing characteristics of the new GM food with a ”conventional counterpart”. The 2003 guideline further notes that: ”for the foreseeable future, foods derived from modern biotechnology will not be used as conventional counterparts”. If GM varieties are accepted as safe comparators, the fundamental rationale of the testing protocol is undercut.

3. The potential costs of a product recall of an unauthorised GMO contaminant were clearly demonstrated by another GM corn variety called Starlink that was also intended only as an animal feed, was not approved as a human food, and was supposed to be strictly segregated when grown. However, segregation proved ineffective and it contaminated a large proportion of US corn production, triggering the most costly food product recall in US history.


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