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New Regulations Are Needed to Protect NZ

19 August 2005

GE Contamination Shows New Regulations Are Needed to Protect New Zealand's Economy

GE Free NZ in food and environment is angered that locally-produced maize was contaminated by an imported GE soy product destined for animal feed and is calling on MAF, ERMA and Food Authorities to coordinate the development of new standards to stop such incidents threatening the integrity of the food supply and New Zealand's economy.

Firstly such GE ingredients should not be allowed in any food shipment to New Zealand given the fact that all manufacturers say they are importing GE-free animal feed. The user of the contaminated feed should own up as to why they had imported it at all.

Secondly, the animal feed should not have been anywhere near human food let alone being allowed to transfer a non-approved GE contaminant that prompted panic amongst manufacturers and exporters.

Contamination coming from another GE product raises grave issues about food safety, adequacy of segregation, and the potential impact on people with allergies who seek to avoid certain foods and do not expect 'accidental contamination' to have taken place. The problem is made all the more serious because of the lack of public health monitoring to gauge the impact of more than a score of GE foods already quietly approved for importation.

If inadvertant ingestion of a GE product causes severe anaphylaxis there are no diagnostic tests or standardised systems for medical professionals to deal with such an event.

"It is irresponsible of any Food Safety Authority to allow foods onto the market without a diagnostic, treatment, incident-reporting and trace-back system in place to cope with such situations" says Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"Further, the NZFSA relies on data from ESR whose commercial partner is Syngenta, which then raises serious questions of independence and possible conflicts of interest."

The NZFSA has spent months ignoring its responsibilties to actively monitor our food and it still has not tested the New Zealand food supply for the illegal entry of BT10 corn contamination though it is still being detected in recent shipments to Japan.

How long does the public have to wait before the NZFSA takes concern about GE foods seriously? The Transtasman body FSANZ has even admitted through internal emails that they do not have the requisite experience to independently assess concerns about GE raised by submitters. Nor has it even asked for or seen the raw data from animal feeding studies supposed to back up many GE applications.

"The NZFSA is treating the consumer with derision by refusing to label or respond to the concerns that are raised from contamination events. Does someone have to die before the need for strict segregation and public health monitoring is taken seriously?" says Claire Bleakley.

"Under the present situation somone could be seriouly ill as a result of an incident such as that of GE soy in conventional maize and no-one would be the wiser about the cause."

A recent poll found that 74% of all New Zealanders do not want to eat GE foods: it is time that an independent reassessment was made of all GE foods authorised to date, as well of the flawed system used to approve them.

Government should also commission MAF, ERMA and the Food Safety Authority to immediately develop protocols that will reduce the chance of such potentially-disasterous incidents happening again.

ENDS

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