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Monsanto apply to have GE wheat allowed in NZ food

Monsanto apply to have GE wheat allowed in NZ food

Monsanto has applied to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to allow genetically engineered wheat to be introduced into the New Zealand food chain.

GE wheat has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world, although similar applications have been made in Canada and the United States.

Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" wheat is engineered to resist Monsanto's own brand of herbicide "Roundup". Major concerns have been raised over its environmental impact and the difficulty of segregating GE from conventional wheat varieties. Other herbicide resistant crops n such as soy n have led to increases in herbicide use and contamination of GE free crops.

This GE wheat application is part of Monsanto's push to plant GE wheat in Canada and the USA. Widespread opposition to Roundup Ready wheat in these countries has delayed Monsanto's plans for commercial planting until at least 2005. The Canadian Wheat Board is the biggest wheat and barley marketer in the world and they claim that 82% of their international buyers don't want GE wheat.

Wheat has special significance as a staple in the New Zealand diet. It is not just present in foods such as breads, cereals and pastas, but in a wide range of processed foods as a thickener.

Even FSANZ says that the use of GE wheat goes against consumer choice. According to FSANZ documents, a likely impact of approving GE wheat will be.

"Cost to consumers wishing to avoid GM food by a potential restriction of choice of products, or increased prices for non GM food"

Unfortunately, the way FSANZ assess the risks of GE foods is to basically assume they are safe unless proven otherwise. This is the exact opposite of a precautionary approach! FSANZ relies far too heavily on the information provided by the biotech companies themselves.

Despite widespread opposition from consumers, FSANZ has already approved 21 GE crops for human consumption with a further five assessments pending. However, many of these foods are not even on the market and many food companies don't use GE foods because of public opposition.

Information on how to make a submissions is available on: http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/campaigns/ge/wheat_subs.asp

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