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Minister urged to call for a review of the GM rice

Minister urged to immediately call for a review of the GM rice.

GE Free NZ is calling on the Minister for Food Safety, Hon Damien O’Connor, as a member of the Ministerial Council to request that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) review the draft of their GM rice approval (A1138).

This application was strongly sponsored by the industry corporates like, Syngenta and Dow who are the developers. [1]

The GM rice contains three new proteins that have altered the rice endosperm so it can produce vitamin A. Despite many years of genetic manipulation and cross breeding, the levels of beta-carotene in this rice are minimal. [2]

“A person would have to eat 4 kg of cooked rice, (assuming it was fully absorbed and eaten immediately after harvest with minimal cooking) to get the same level of vitamin A that one medium carrot or 1 tsp. parsley would provide,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ. “If stored for 75 days a person would have to eat 31kgs of rice to get the same amount as a medium carrot”

The whole application has been assessed using unpublished applicant data carried out by their own companies. FSANZ did not receive, or request, any ingestion/feeding studies with the application, so there is no data on whether the GM rice expressing these new proteins would cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in children, immune compromised people or the elderly.

GM rice studies over 90 days have found significant changes, affecting the liver and kidneys, with immune system depression; the study could not verify the safety of the rice. [3]

“Though not immediately toxic, these changes could lead to chronic illness leading to organ damage,” said Ms. Bleakley, “The first food of our babies is often rice based. It is reprehensible that our food safety regulator puts industry needs before our children’s and peoples safety.”

There are concerns over the closeness of some of the proteins to snake toxins [4]. This however has been dismissed by FSANZ, who say snake toxins are not toxic if taken orally. Yet no one in Australia or New Zealand regularly drinks or eats snake poisons.

International guidelines followed by the EU say that if there are significant changes to the GM food caused by the transgene, then there must be 90-day feeding studies as well as allergy testing.

“As this rice is only being approved to prevent trade disruption, we ask the Minister to call for a review of the GM rice, and insist on comprehensive 90 day feeding trials that should have been provided before the approval was made,” said Ms. Bleakley.


[1] https://www.dropbox.com/sh/58nh6x76xtkds89/AADBxFjZozyz5tpZfDrlaZYLa?dl=0

[2] Schaub, P., Wüst, F., Koschmieder, J., Yu, Q., Virk, P., Tohme, J., & Beyer, P. (2017). Nonenzymatic -Carotene Degradation in Provitamin A-Biofortified Crop Plants. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry, 65(31), 6588-6598. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b01693

[3] Poulsen M, Kroghsbo S, Schroder M, et al. A 90-day safety study in Wistar rats fed genetically modified rice expressing snowdrop lectin Galanthus nivalis (GNA). Food Chem Toxicol. Mar 2007; 45(3): 350-363. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691506002559?via%3Dihub


[4] http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/applications/Documents/A1138%20SD1.pdf (p.33)


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