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Lack of Responsible Oversight Leaves Everyone at Risk

GE Free New Zealand

In Food And Environment Inc.

PO Box 13402, Wellington, NZ


Lack of Responsible Oversight Leaves Everyone at Risk 

Parliament's Regulatory Review committee has tabled its report on the complaint by GE-free NZ regarding the approval of the GE soybean resistant to 2,4-D. [1] They have found that the complaint did not meet standing orders for the Regulatory Review committee and therefore have dismissed it, leaving no further avenues for scrutiny of the risk to public health.

The Regulatory Review committee decision reveals a systemic gap in oversight that puts all consumers at risk and leaves nobody responsible for allowing potentially serious harm.

Over the last two years GE-Free NZ raised grave concerns regarding soybeans engineered to tolerate the chemical 2,4-D which have been given approval by our Food Safety Minister despite a total absence of scientific studies to show if food made from the beans is safe to eat or not. 

Further reasons for concern are that the USDA has declined planting of the soybean due to lack of safety evidence and Australia has banned the use of 2,4-D in agriculture due to high dioxin levels. Agent Orange was made up of 45% 2,4-D, and has also had long lasting deleterious effects on the health of people.

"Food safety is the responsibility of officials at FSANZ in Australia, the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Minister of Food Safety in New Zealand, and consumers are reliant on their decisions. It is shocking that our governmental bodies who we trust to keep us safe are overlooking a serious issue of food safety," said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ.

"The system is allowing approval of a new GE food that is intrinsically reliant on toxic pesticides, without conducting safety studies that are vital to assure consumers it is safe to eat. This is a dereliction of a duty of care to protect public health.”

Assumptions used by FSANZ to justify approval without safety testing are no longer supported by the most current scientific evidence.

Dr. Bohn et al in the journal Food Chemistry [2] has confirmed that GE foods are nutritionally depleted and contain high levels of toxic metabolites compared to their conventional and organic counterparts. Since the introduction of GE crops use of chemical herbicides has tripled, and there is added concern that the toxic components of the herbicide may be concentrated in the edible part of the plants. 

To legitimise the increase chemical spraying officials have approved an arbitrary increase of herbicide residues up to 200 times the levels that Authorities allowed in food ten years ago.

The increase in chemicals and novel DNA sequences in GE food carry new levels of risk. Dr. Spisak et al have just published a study [3] that has identified DNA molecules large enough to carry complete genes but avoid degradation in the gut to be fully absorbed into the blood stream, then distributed to various organs in the body. Other international studies on the epigenetic effects of the survival of DNA have shown that the maternal diet can affect the child’s lifetime health [4] . Canadian studies found that DNA of Bt insecticidal genes and metabolites of herbicides used on GE crops had crossed the placental barrier and were found in fetal blood [5].

FSANZ has approved 78 different varieties of GE foods largely relying on industry assurances of safety and assuming DNA cannot survive digestion to be absorbed into the blood stream, which is now shown to be wrong. FSANZ have also refused to study the synergistic effects of the GE foreign genes and pesticides that are present in the foods by saying the pesticides are not part of the GE assessment process.  

Public health is at serious risk as FSANZ continues to fail to ensure that scientific risk assessments are used in the approval of genetically engineered (GE) food.

"There are lessons to be learned from history. The FSANZ assessment process has a direct parallel to assessments of smoking, DDT, thalidomide and PCB where the minimum of testing was done. In those examples officials approved the products as safe, leaving the next generation to clean up the effects," said Claire Bleakley, “and it's happening again”.


[1] Complaint regarding the New Zealand (Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code) Food Standards 2002, Amendment No 53 http://www.parliament.nz/resource/0002181747

[2] Bøhn T., Cuhra M., Traavik T., Sanden M., Fagan J. and Primicerio R. (2014) Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans.Food Chemistry, Volume 153,Pages 207–215 

[3] Godfrey KM, Sheppard A, Gluckman PD, Lillycrop KA, Burdge GC, McLean C, Rodford J, Slater-Jefferies JL, Garratt E, Crozier SR, Emerald BS, Gale CR, Inskip HM, Cooper C, Hanson MA. Epigenetic gene promoter methylation at birth is associated with child's later adiposity.  Diabetes. 2011; Vol: 60(5):1528-34. doi: 10.2337/db10-0979. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21471513

[4] Aris A, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol. 2011; Vol:31 (4):528-33. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.004. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21338670

[5] Spisak S, Solymosi N, Ittzes P, Bodor A, Kondor D, et al. (2013) Complete Genes May Pass from Food to Human Blood. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69805. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069805

[6] http://press.gefree.org.nz/press/20140224.htm


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