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Corn which could cause diabetes could be released

13 June 2006

Corn which could cause diabetes on the brink of release in NZ

A type of corn due to be approved for use in New Zealand if a draft recommendation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is followed could have serious health implications for New Zealanders, the Green Party says.

"Only the New Zealand and Australian Food Safety Ministers can stop this risk to our health by rejecting the recommendation when they meet in Australia shortly," Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

The corn, High-Lysine Corn LY038, is produced by seed giant Monsanto, who have applied for its release in New Zealand to be used in animal feed. It is genetically modified to contain levels of the amino acid lysine at substantially higher levels than are found in other corn varieties.

Lysine itself is not a health risk, but when high levels are cooked in combination with sugars, which are also present in the corn, compounds called AGEs are produced which have been implicated in causing Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and several other serious health conditions.

"It is very alarming that this corn variety is so close to being approved for release in New Zealand. While Monsanto insists that it will only be used for animal feed, they are applying for approval as a human food so they don't have to keep it separate," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"Despite the fact that the food risks of cooking lysine and sugars are well known, FSANZ made no effort to test what the health impacts would be if LY038 were to enter the human food supply and be cooked. In its submission on the draft report, the Centre for Research in Biosafety at Canterbury University identifies numerous ways that animal feed could either inadvertently or deliberately end up being consumed by humans. Given these risks, FSANZ's oversight is grossly irresponsible," Green Party Health and Food Safety Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"New Zealand is already struggling with epidemic levels of diabetes. To approve the release of a substance which could easily end up in the human food chain, and once there, could contribute to this condition, runs counter to basic common sense.

"The Centre for Research in Biosafety also reports in its submission that FSANZ's standards deviate from the recommendations of international food safety bodies, including the World Health Organisation, and from its own internal processes" Ms Kedgley says.

The Greens will be asking the Minister for Food Safety some serious questions about LY038 in the House this afternoon. "Given the fact that FSANZ doesn't comply with WHO guidelines, and all the concerns raised about LY08, we are urging the Minister to reject the draft recommendation by FSANZ that this corn be approved, and demand full testing of its impact on human health," Ms Fitzsimons says.

ENDS

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