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SMC: GMO laws for gene-edited plants

GMO laws for gene-edited plants
Europe’s highest court has ruled gene-edited crops should be subject to the same stringent regulations as GMOs.

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that crops created through processes such as CRISPR are subject to the 2001 directive that legislates deliberate release of GMOs into the environment.

Closer to home, our own food safety regulator - Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) - is in the process of reviewinghow the Food Standards Code applies to gene editing.

Professor Peter Dearden, Director Genomics Aotearoa, said the EU decision would have little impact here, but said it was a problem that: "we, and the EU, yet again, are trying to regulate technologies rather than outcomes".

"In the end, the key things to test are the risks and benefits of the organism to be released. Surely this is more important than the way it was made."

Massey University's Professor Barry Scott, co-chair on the Royal Society Te Apārangi gene editing panel, called the ruling "hugely disappointing". "[It] does not seem to take into account the significant differences in the new gene editing technologies compared to the older technologies."

Plant & Food Research's Dr Kieran Elborough - General Manager Science, New Cultivar Innovation - said it was important to distinguish that the court ruling was not the same as "a scientific paper detailing the safety or efficacy of these technologies".

"This is an example of the challenges faced by regulators as potential new solutions to important issues such as food sustainability and security in the face of a growing population and climate change emerge."

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the review.

Quoted: NZ Herald

"This normally shows that the magma left its host area in a hurry."

University of Auckland volcanologist Professor Shane Cronin
on new research examining how quickly magma may rise in Aucklands volcanoes (and how much notice Aucklanders could get before an eruption).

Sugar labelling options
The Trans-Tasman body responsible for setting food label regulations is investigating how packaging could better communicate sugar content in foods and drink.

Seven options are being considered, which are not mutually exclusive:

1. Status quo
2. Education on how to read and interpret labelling information about sugars
3. Change the statement of ingredients to overtly identify sugars-based ingredients
4. Added sugars quantified in the nutrition information panel (NIP)
5. Advisory labels for foods high in added sugar
6. Pictorial display of the amount of sugars and/or added sugars in a serving of food
7. Digital linking to off label web-based information about added sugar content.

In announcing a public consultation over the options, Food Safety Minister Damien O'Connor told Health Central the issue clearly mattered to New Zealanders and aligned with the Government's commitment to improving public health.
"Without improvement, without cutbacks we're going to face an ever-increasing cost in our health system through diabetes, through obesity. Intake of sugar is one of those factors affecting the situation," O'Connor told Newshub.
AUT Professor of Public Health, Grant Schofield favoured option 6 - pictorial teaspoons, and said new regulations should over-rule the controversial Health Star rating.

"The Health Star rating is already dead in the water. The algorithm is flawed in the combination of fat, salt and sugar. The food industry brought this to us, we were suckered in. Perversely, very high sugar foods can get 4+ health stars," he told the SMC.

Submissions can be made here until September 19.

SAVVY applications closing soon
Applications for two Science Media SAVVY workshops in Auckland are closing in early August.

We're holding two 2-day Science Media SAVVY training workshops in Auckland in September.
Sept 3-4 – Media SAVVY for Māori researchers
Sept 6-7 – Science Media SAVVY
These highly-acclaimed workshops offer researchers first-hand insight into the workings of news and social media, as well as hands-on, practical exercises to improve communication.

Our experienced facilitators provide a supportive environment for researchers to consider their work from different perspectives and find new ways to describe the value of their research to the public.

Ideally suited for researchers with previous media experience seeking further development of their skills, as well as beginners anticipating media interest in their work.

Applications close Aug 5. Apply now.

More information about our Science Media SAVVY workshops is available on our website and via Curious Minds.

SAVVY for Māori researchers

In partnership with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, our tailored workshops for Māori researchers invite guest speakers from Māori and mainstream media to share their insights, and offer opportunities for Māori researchers to discuss common issues and perspectives.

Workshop fees have been waived, thanks to support from Curious Minds - He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara. Travel and accommodation funding support may be available - please see the application for details.

Applications close Aug 5. Apply now.

Find out more about Media SAVVY for Māori researchers.

Policy news & developments

Safer staffing accord: Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced a joint accord between DHBs, the NZ Nurses Organisation and the Ministry of Health to ensure safe staffing levels in public hospitals

Firefighting foam update: The EPA has found PFOS-containing foams at various sites around the country as part of its investigation into firefighting foam.

Gender pay gap plan: The coalition government has launched an action plan designed to end the pay imbalance between men and women.

Mental health pay boost: A pay increase affecting 5000 mental health and addiction support workers will come into effect next month, to give staff the same pay rates as other care and support workers.

Student wellbeing projects: A funding round, with $750,000 available, has opened for projects aimed at supporting the wellbeing of international students, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced.

Grasshopper protected: The home of a giant native grasshopper now has greater levels of protections as Crown land in the Mackenzie Basin was designated conservation land.

Psa appeal lodged: An appeal has been filed against the High Court's ruling that MPI failed in its duty of care regarding the kiwifruit disease Psa.

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