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GMO Potatoes Are A Threat To Public Health

GMO Potatoes Are A Threat To Public Health

Allowing GE potatoes into the food chain in New Zealand would be a mistake and threaten public health. For the first time a GMO version of a staple food—not just oils derived from GE crops, is set to be signed off by authorities.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is calling for submissions on five lines of genetically engineered (GE) potatoes. [1] FSANZ has historically approved all previous applications for GE foods, without independent safety testing.

The application for GE potatoes (A1139) admits the potatoes have significantly altered vital constituents (glutamine and asparagine) to allow easier processing. However, they have not been safety tested on any organism to see what adverse effects they might have when eaten, making any approval irresponsible and unwarranted.

FSANZ has provided only the industry references from Dow Chemical to support claims of safety. Even the industry studies reveal significant nutritional changes between the parent lines and the engineered potatoes. But the implication for consumers of these known differences, and of unidentified changes, are being ignored.

"The GE spuds should not be approved," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-free NZ. "It is irresponsible for FSANZ to dismiss significant differences that demand proper testing and claim instead that those differences are within the bounds of natural variation in other potatoes."

GE-Free NZ calls on all industries to refuse to use these potentially harmful potatoes in their products. The public is being treated as collateral damage.

If FSANZ approves the application, it will be up to McCain's, Watties, and other manufacturers of potato products to keep GE spuds out.

Fast food chains like McDonalds and KFC, and supermarkets like Countdown and Foodstuffs, must also prevent these untested spuds ending up in New Zealand larders and restaurants.

The drive to commercialise a GMO that is a vital staple food in kiwi diets, is seeing safety for the consumer cast aside. Despite previous approvals over the last 20 years there are no available diagnostic tests or human studies to establish what effects there are from GE foods. This is a serious failing in the system, when digestive complaints, allergies, and organ illnesses are at epidemic levels.

It is now known, however, that animals fed genetically engineered soy and corn have suffered liver and kidney malfunctions, blood and immune system failure, and tumour development. [2] There are serious concerns that basic changes in the potato amino acids could cause brain damage and problems for pregnant mothers and developing babies. [3]

“It will not be good enough just to warn women to avoid the essential staple potatoes if they are pregnant. These products should not be allowed," said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ.

"It is reckless of FSANZ to let the application proceed this far, let alone rubber stamp it with an approval. This shows that they do not have the requisite expertise to carry out their statutory duties and may also indicate inappropriate bias."

FSANZ needs to stop the clock immediately on the applications and require lifetime feeding studies, and full 'omic' analysis of these potatoes before any consideration can be made.

This application should never have been released for comment until the safety of these foods has been determined, which neither FSANZ or industry has done.

The GE potatoes application is open for public submission until 7 July 2017.

[1] Application A1139, Food derived from Potato Lines F10, J3, W8, X17 & Y9http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/applications/Documents/A1139%20GM%20potato%20F10%20J3%20W8%20X17%20Y9%20SD1%20Safety%20assess.pdf

[2] Séralini, G., Clair, E., Mesnage, R., Gress, S., Defarge, N., & Malatesta, M. et al. (2014). Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerantgenetically modified maize. Environmental Sciences Europe, 26(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5

[3] Ruzzo, E., Capo-Chichi, J., Ben-Zeev, B., Chitayat, D., Mao, H., & Pappas, A. et al. (2013). Deficiency of Asparagine Synthetase Causes Congenital Microcephaly and a Progressive Form of Encephalopathy. Neuron, 80(2), 429-441.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2013.08.013


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