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GE corn rethink welcome, health must be considered

21 February 2007

GE corn rethink welcome, health risks must be considered

Food Safety Minister Annette King should be congratulated for standing up for proper process and seeking a ministerial review of the recommendation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to approve a genetically engineered corn for animal and human use, Green Party Co- Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"The FSANZ draft decision creates an alarming precedent regarding the level of scrutiny required before GE organisms are approved for human consumption," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"I strongly urge the Minister to ensure the review goes beyond mere procedural matters, and also revisits the substance of the decision, given the inherent health risks to all New Zealanders posed by this product."

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. They are also seeking approval for use in human food of the corn, which has been genetically modified to contain levels of the amino acid lysine at substantially higher levels than found in other corn varieties.

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

"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.

"Despite the fact that the food risks of cooking lysine and sugars are well known, FSANZ made no effort to evaluate what the health impacts would be if LY038 were to enter the human food supply and be cooked.

"It is therefore essential that the ministerial review that Mrs King has now set in train regarding the FSANZ decision also gives full consideration to these inherent health risks. High levels of diabetes are already a major problem in New Zealand. We should not be releasing a substance into the food chain that could contribute to this condition, or to any other health problem."


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