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NZ Should Emulate South Australia's GE Moratorium

15/12/2019

New Zealand should protect our global export reputation by following the example of South Australia's moratorium on release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms. [1]

“The SA Government is to be congratulated for its understanding of international consumer sentiment. New Zealand farmers must take heed. This outcome in SA means consumers can now be guaranteed that food from SA is GE free," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE free NZ.

In November 2019 the Australia Senate passed a Bill that allows some GE products into the food chain without testing or labeling. This has been followed by the trans Tasman Food Standards Australia New Zealand Authority (FSANZ) moving to change the Food code to reconsider regulations about which foods developed through GE methods, called New Biotechnology Techniques (NBT), should be subject to pre-market safety assessment. This signals that FSANZ will be discussing the exempting of certain GE foods that have been created through unproven newer, risky NBT technologies.

The FSANZ plan will add to confusion as to whether risky GE products receive pre market assessment or avoid regulation with the excuse that it would be too expensive for them to be properly regulated.

Consumers worldwide are concerned with the lack of transparency with regard to unlabelled, untested GE foods entering the food chain as they have never been eaten or tested for allergenic problems," said Jon Carapiet "These newer technologies have been shown to be subject to mutations and “off target” problems that have unknown potential effects on consumers' health."

The FSANZ consultation document [2] claims to be careful in its approach to changing the code governing which GE foods should be assessed for risk and says that safety and labeling is still a major part of the standard.

The reality, however, is very different. Vested interests are being put ahead of consumer protection, and ahead of preserving the integrity of New Zealand's export reputation, which South Australia's moratorium protects for their exporters.

Many people aware of FSANZ's track record consider current labelling of GE foods a farce. The Ministry of Primary Industries in New Zealand has not monitored GE levels in foods since 2003.

Lack of transparency and assesment will make monitoring the safety of any exempted GE foods even more difficult—probably impossible. No one will know where they are in the food chain. This adds to the current problem of a complete lack of diagnostic tests for health professionals to run should they suspect that a GE food may be leading to health problems in patients.

FSANZ has approved every GE food that has been submitted to it, and with no independent safety testing ever being conducted. FSANZ has been extremely negligent in rejecting any health concern raised by non-industry scientists and has been turning a blind eye to any problems raised by research into adverse or unknown effects of GE foods on health. [3]

"New Zealand stands to benefit by following the lead of South Australia in instigating a moratorium on GE release and by demonstrating continued commitment to proper regulation of imported GE foods," said Jon Carapiet.

References:
[1] https://www.portlincolntimes.com.au/story/6534395/upper-house-vote-against-lifting-gm-moratorium/
[2] https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/gmfood/Documents/NBT%20Final%20report.pdf
[3] https://www.gefree.org.nz/documents/advanced-gene-editing-technologies-gmo-2-0/

ends

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