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US Regulators' Industry Ties Cast Doubt on Decisions by NZ

Inappropriate ties to industry and stark differences in responses by different regulatory authorities internationally to chemical and food safety studies has cast doubt on the rigour of New Zealand Regulatory authorities (EPA and FSANZ) decision-making.

In the last few months there have been revelations of collusion and 'revolving door' politics in the USA. As research on most of the pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) products legalised in New Zealand come from the unpublished industry supplied by applicants, rather than published peer reviewed science, there are concerns that approvals have been flawed.

There are now three legal cases that have found a link between glyphosate based herbicides and certain types of cancer. The hearings have exposed the fact that studies showing chronic health effects were covered up and rewritten by ghost authors and regulators colluded to overlook scientific evidence.

These risks may be further escalated because of increased levels of glyphosate being detected in processed foods and drinks. This escalation is linked to the overuse of glyphosate-based herbicides and the introduction of GE plants resistant to the herbicide Roundup. [1]

FSANZ has approved the unlabelled, passive contamination of GE rice into the Australian and New Zealand food chain relying on applicants data. The GE rice has been engineered to contain a beta-carotene gene, a precursor to Vitamin A**, in the grain.

“The approval of the GE rice was made without any safety or risk testing. This adds to concern that regulatory authorities are increasingly basing their approvals on industry opinions rather than scientific research” Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ.

"The Australasian regulator, FSANZ, does not look at levels of pesticides in the foods nor ask for feeding trials to be conducted when they assess GE foods."

Newly published research confirms just how misleading FSANZ's decision has been regarding the benefit and risks used to justify the approval. The study by Bollinedi (2019) revealed loss of benefit within weeks of GE golden rice being stored after harvest. [2]

GE rice contains low levels of -carotene rice, however when stored there was a significant degradation (79-84%) in the levels of beta-carotene. To preserve some of the vitamin benefit the rice will have to be vacuum packed in its unprocessed paddy condition and eaten uncooked. Further degradation of beta-carotene levels occur when cooked, falling by up to 90%.

"It is clear the FSANZ approval is a mistake and that the transgenic GE -carotene rice will not provide the health benefits touted by applicant or the patent holder Syngenta," said Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

“This study is concerning as it shows no benefit to people from the approval of GE contamination of rice supplies. A large carrot has 5 times more -carotene than 2 cups of cooked rice."[3]

In recent years commercial interests have been pressuring major rice growing countries to adopt GE rice on the pretext that it will improve eyesight. In the Philippines, MASIPAG, a farmer led organisation, protecting the traditional biodiversity of hundreds of farmer-bred rice varieties, are calling on their governments to stop GE rice approval and develop the native species, focusing on those that produce beta-carotene in larger and more stable amounts that the GE rice. [4]

"As with the Roundup cancer cases, it will be future generations who will be affected by Regulators fast-tracking GE foods?” said Claire Bleakley.

"FSANZ must reassess all their GE decisions now that international analysis cast them in serious doubt."

* Environmental Protection Authority and Food Standards Australia New Zealand
** 1 vitamin A unit = 3.6-28 beta carotene units depending on the fat content.



[2] Bollinedi, H., Dhakane-Lad, J., Gopala Krishnan, S., Bhowmick, P., Prabhu, K., Singh, N., & Singh, A. (2019). Kinetics of -carotene degradation under different storage conditions in transgenic Golden Rice® lines. Food Chemistry, 278, 773-779.

[3] Tang G, Qin J, Dolnikowski GG, Russell RM, Grusak MA.(2005) Spinach or carrots can supply significant amounts of vitamin A as assessed by feeding with intrinsically deuterated vegetables. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Oct;82(4):821-8.


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