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One​ ​meal​ ​of​ ​hot​ ​chips​ ​may​ ​alter​ ​your​ ​genes

GM potatoes, grown in the US, can now be imported and sold as processed food in Australia. Simplot, ​the​​ ​developer of the GM potato, ​is​ ​a​ ​large​ ​multinational​ ​with​ ​brands​ ​such​ ​as:​

  • ​Birds​ ​Eye, 
  • Leggo’s, ​
  • Edgell,​ ​
  • Lean​ ​Cuisine,​ ​
  • Harvest,​ ​
  • Chiko,​
  • ​I&J,​ ​
  • Five​ ​Tastes​ ​and​ ​
  • Simply​ ​Great​ ​Meals.​ ​ 

They claim ​the​ ​GM potatoes​ ​are​ ​less​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​go​ ​brown, ​​bruise​ ​and will​ ​produce​ ​less​ ​acrylamide​ ​that​ ​may, ​or​ ​may​ ​not, ​​be​ ​linked​ ​to​ ​cancer*. ​

Perhaps​ ​this​ ​sounds interesting​ ​and​ ​potentially​ ​useful?​ ​

How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​feel​ ​knowing​ ​that​ ​the​ ​type​ ​of​ ​genetic modification​ ​used​ ​to​ ​make​ ​these​ ​new​ ​potatoes,​ ​RNA interference (RNAi),​ ​changed​ ​the​ ​way​ ​baby​ ​bees’​ ​genes worked​ ​after​ ​just​ ​one​ ​meal?​ ​(Nunes​ 2013).​ ​It​ ​altered​ ​their​ ​hormones,​ ​immune​ ​system​ ​and response​ ​to​ ​stress.​ ​This​ ​surprised​ ​the​ ​scientists​ ​as​ ​they​ ​didn’t​ ​expect​ ​any​ ​effect,​ ​however, one​ ​in​ ​ten​ ​of​ ​the​ ​bees’​ ​genes​ ​were​ ​affected​ ​and​ ​acted​ ​differently. 

Simplot supplies fries and hash browns to McDonalds and as they would be sold ready to eat, they would not need to be labelled as GM whereas currently they would need labelling if sold in the supermarket. GM potatoes are the first GM vegetable or fruit allowed to be sold in Australia.

Australian regulators don’t test, don’t require peer reviewed studies and never refuse GM food applications

When​ ​companies​ ​want​ ​to​ ​release​ ​a​ ​new​ ​GM​ ​food​ ​they​ ​apply​ ​to​ ​Food​ ​Standards​ ​Australia New​ ​Zealand​ ​(FSANZ). ​This​ ​is​ ​a​ ​government​ ​department​ ​based​ ​in​ ​Canberra. ​ ​They​ ​have​ ​no laboratories​ ​and​ ​do​ ​no​ ​research​ ​work.​ ​Instead, ​ ​they​ ​look​ ​at​ ​the​ ​studies​ ​done​ ​by​ ​the applicant​ ​GM​ ​company, ​​in​ ​this​ ​case​ ​Simplot. ​ ​These​ ​studies​ ​are​ ​usually​ ​done​ ​in-house​ ​by​ ​the company​ ​scientists​ ​and​ ​are​ ​not​ ​published​ ​in​ ​journals​ ​or​ ​peer-reviewed. ​ ​This​ ​means​ ​they avoid​ ​the​ ​scrutiny​ ​considered​ ​necessary​ ​for​ ​studies​ ​to​ ​be​ ​seen​ ​as​ ​part​ ​of​ ​scientific knowledge. ​They​ ​are​ ​a​ ​grey​ ​zone​ ​of​ ​science​, ​where​ ​the​ ​company​ ​employs​ ​scientists, ​ to create​ ​science, ​for​ ​the​ ​company’s​ ​benefit.

FSANZ​ ​has​ ​recommended​ ​the approval​ ​of​ ​every​ ​GM​ ​food​ ​application​ ​they​ ​have​ ​received. ​​The Forum​ ​of​ ​Health​ ​and​ ​Agriculture​ ​Ministers​ ​from​ ​Federal​ ​and​ ​State​ ​Governments​ ​use​ ​FSANZ’s advice​ ​to​ ​approve​ ​GM​ ​food. ​ ​FSANZ​ ​decides​ ​which​ ​evidence​ ​will​ ​be​ ​heard​ ​and​ ​given​ ​weight. This​ ​system​ ​is​ ​circular, ​ FSANZ​ ​says​ ​it​ ​doesn’t​ ​approve​ ​GM​ ​food, ​ the​ ​Forum​ ​does. ​​The​ ​Forum says​ ​it​ ​approves​ ​GM​ ​food​ ​based​ ​on​ ​the​ ​advice​ ​of​ ​FSANZ. ​ There​ ​is​ ​no​ ​Science​ ​Ombudsman who​ ​can​ ​investigate​ ​complaints​ ​of​ ​FSANZ​ ​dismissing​ ​or​ ​ignoring​ ​scientific​ ​evidence​ ​of​ ​harm or​ ​potential​ ​harm.

Peer reviewed evidence of damage from eating GM dismissed by regulator

FSANZ​ ​dismissed​ ​the​ ​peer-reviewed, ​ published​ ​RNAi​ ​bee​ ​study​ ​(Nunes​ ​2013) ​ claiming​ ​it​ ​had no​ ​relevance​ ​to​ ​the​ ​GM​ ​potato​ ​despite​ ​using​ ​the​ ​same​ ​technique. ​ ​They​ ​gave​ ​no​ ​reference​ ​to any​ ​science​ ​to​ ​back​ ​up​ ​their​ ​opinion. ​ ​Instead​ ​they​ ​implied​ ​that​ ​if​ ​there​ ​were​ ​any​ ​problems the​ ​GM​ ​potatoes​ ​would​ ​have​ ​looked​ ​different. ​It​ ​is​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​respond​ ​to​ ​this. ​The​ ​point​ ​isn’t the​ ​appearance​ ​of​ ​a​ ​GM​ ​potato​ ​but​ ​the​ ​effect​ ​it​ ​has​ ​when​ ​eaten. 
FSANZ​ ​have​ ​ignored​ ​scientists​ ​warnings​ ​of​ ​potential​ ​harm. ​ The​ ​​Centre​ ​for​ ​Integrated Research​ ​in​ ​Biosafety​ ​(INBI)​ ​ “predicted​ ​that​ ​dsRNA​ ​​ ​ (i.e.​ ​RNAi) ​ ​could​ ​be​ ​​transmitted to​ ​humans​ ​through​ ​food​, ​ ​and​ ​that​ ​dsRNA​ ​would​ ​be​ ​sufficiently​ ​resistant​ ​to​ ​cooking and​ ​normal​ ​stomach​ ​pHs​ ​to​ ​potentially​ ​be​ ​taken​ ​up​ ​by​ ​cells​ ​or​ ​circulated​ ​through blood. ​​If​ ​this​ ​were​ ​the​ ​case, ​there​ ​would​ ​be​ ​the​ ​potential​ ​to​ ​cause​ ​unintended​ ​and possibly​ ​adverse​ ​gene​ ​silencing​ ​in​ ​humans​ ​ (​Heinemann​ ​et​ ​al., ​ ​2011​).”​ ​This​ ​means ​our​ ​genes​ ​and​ ​our​ ​health​ ​could ​be​ ​affected​ ​by​ ​eating​ ​this GM​ ​potato.

GM foods are being tested on us

FSANZ​ ​has​ ​already​ ​decided​ ​that​ ​animal​ ​feeding​ ​trials​ ​of​ ​GM​ ​foods​ ​are​ ​not​ ​necessary, ​ ​except, perhaps, ​ ​when​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​desired​ ​nutritional​ ​change. ​ ​A​ ​GM​ ​potato​ ​claimed​ ​to​ ​reduce acrylamide, ​ ​and​ ​therefore, ​ ​perhaps, ​ ​cancer, ​ ​could​ ​be​ ​seen​ ​as​ ​necessitating​ ​a​ ​feeding​ ​trial. However​ ​FSANZ​ ​say​ ​“​ ​There​ ​are​ ​also​ ​concerns​ ​about​ ​the​ ​unethical​ ​use​ ​of​ ​animals​ ​for​ ​feeding  studies​ ​…”​ ​Is​ ​it​ ​unethical​ ​that​ ​children,​ ​pregnant​ ​women,​ ​elderly,​ ​or​ ​sick​ ​humans​ ​will be ​the  first​ ​animals​ ​to​ ​eat​ ​a​ ​GM​ ​potato?​ ​FSANZ​ ​expects​ ​GM​ ​companies​ ​to​ ​“monitor​ ​for existing​ ​and​ ​emerging​ ​risks”​ ​of​ ​their​ ​products.​ ​This​ ​can​ ​only​ ​happen​ ​if​ ​people​ ​know​ ​when they​ ​are​ ​eating​ ​GM​ ​food.

You are probably eating GM food every day.

GM​ ​ingredients​ ​are​ ​in​ ​most​ ​processed​ ​food​ ​in​ ​Australia​ ​and​ ​are​ ​everywhere​ ​in​ ​the​ ​US​ ​food system. ​ ​In​ ​the​ ​EU​ ​GM​ ​crops​ ​are​ ​mainly​ ​confined​ ​to​ ​imported​ ​GM​ ​soy, ​ ​corn​ ​and​ ​canola​ ​fed​ ​to animals. ​ ​This​ ​stark​ ​difference​ ​is​ ​because, ​ ​unlike​ ​Australia​ ​and​ ​the​ ​US, ​ ​the​ ​EU​ ​has​ ​clear​ ​GM labelling.​ ​Australia’s​ ​labelling​ ​is​ ​full​ ​of​ ​loopholes​ ​that​ ​means​ ​that​ ​even​ ​a​ ​bottle​ ​of​ ​canola​ ​oil made from​ ​100% ​GM​ ​canola​ ​ ​escapes​ ​labelling. 
Currently, ​ ​GM​ ​crops​ ​including​ ​soy, ​ ​corn, ​ ​canola, ​ ​sugar beet​ ​and​ ​cotton, ​ ​are​ ​processed​ ​into ingredients​ ​that​ ​avoid​ ​labelling​ ​in​ ​Australia. ​ ​The​ ​GM​ ​potato​ ​is​ ​different. ​ ​It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​whole​ ​food that​ ​will​ ​contain​ ​GM​ ​DNA​ ​and​ ​protein. ​ ​It​ ​will​ ​be​ ​grown​ ​in​ ​the​ ​US, ​ ​not​ ​Australia. ​ ​Just​ ​over​ ​a quarter​ ​of​​ ​processed​ potatoes ​in​ ​Australia​ ​are​ ​imported, ​ ​mostly​ ​from​ ​the​ ​US. ​ ​If​ ​they are​ ​pre-cut​ ​chips​ ​or​ ​other​ ​products​ ​and​ ​sold​ ​in​ ​supermarkets​ ​they​ ​would​ ​need​ ​to be​ ​labelled. ​ ​Yet​ ​four​ ​out​ ​of​ ​five​ ​processed​ ​potatoes​ ​go​ ​to​ ​cafes, ​ ​takeaways​ ​and​restaurants. These​ ​GM​ ​potatoes​ ​will​ ​escape​ ​any​ ​labelling. If the GM potato is processed into ingredients like potato starch, it will avoid labelling like other highly processed ingredients. 
Will Simplot​, the creator of the GM potato, ​​ ​insist​ ​that​ ​US​ ​farmers​ ​grow​ ​their​ ​patented​ ​GM​ ​potatoes,​ ​so​ ​increasing​ ​their​ ​profit? What​ ​will​ ​happen​ ​to​ ​Australian​ ​potato​ ​farmers​ ​who​ ​are​ ​already​ ​being​ ​undercut​ ​by​ ​cheap imports?​ ​Do​ ​we​ ​really​ ​want​ ​GM​ ​potatoes​ ​when​ ​conventional, ​ non-GM, ​ breeding​ ​has​ ​already developed​ ​potatoes​ ​resistant​ ​to​ ​blight, ​ ​browning​ ​and​ ​that​ ​have​ ​low​ ​acrylamide​ ​when cooked?

What can you do?

This GM potato can only flourish in the dark, share this article with family and friends. Simplot supplies chips and hash browns to many companies including MacDonald’s. Let them know you don’t want to eat it and tell supermarkets that you don’t want to buy it.

Cooking​ ​at​ ​home, ​ growing​ ​food, ​ buying​ ​from​ ​local​ ​farmers​ ​and​ ​food​ ​outlets you​ ​trust​ ​is​ ​a​ ​great​ ​way​ ​to​ ​start protecting yourselves. ​ This​ ​can​ ​be​ ​fun​ ​and​ ​friendly​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​delicious. ​We need a food system we can trust, where we know what we are eating and how it was grown. Take action and your action will help us all.

Happy​ ​Eating


*The US National Cancer Institute says that more studies are needed to show the effect of acrylamide in the diet on human cancers. They suggest "Decreasing cooking time, blanching potatoes before frying, and post drying (drying in a hot air oven after frying) has been shown to decrease the acrylamide content of some foods."

Edited 5th Nov 2017


  2. FSANZ application received from Simplot “A1128 – Food derived from reduced Acrylamide Potential & Browning Potato Line E12”
  3.  Nunes​ ​(2013)​ ​Non-Target​ ​Effects​ ​of​ ​Green​ ​Fluorescent Protein​ ​(GFP)-Derived​ ​Double-Stranded​ ​RNA (dsRNA-GFP)​ ​Used​ ​in​ ​Honey​ ​Bee​ ​RNA​ ​Interference (RNAi)​ ​Assays
    Insects​​ ​​2013​,​ ​​4​(1),​ ​90-103;​
  4.  FSANZ “Safety Assessment of GM foods”
  5. Heinemann et al 2011 “A​ ​comparative​ ​evaluation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​regulation​ ​of​ ​GM crops​ ​or​ ​products​ ​containing​ ​dsRNA​ ​and​ ​suggested improvements​ ​to​ ​risk​ ​assessments”
  6. FSANZ application received from Simplot “A1128 – Food derived from reduced Acrylamide Potential & Browning Potato Line E12”
  7.  FSANZ “Safety Assessment of GM foods”
  8. Australian Food and Grocery Council SUBMISSION 14 MAY 2010 to Department of Health and Aging IN RESPONSE TO: REVIEW OF FOOD LABELLING POLICY AND LAW
    Page 44 “Option 2 Label when there is any GM use at all”...” Most food products currently would attract a label.”
  9. REGULATION (EC) No 1830/2003 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 September 2003 concerning the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms and the traceability of food and feed products produced from genetically modified organisms and amending Directive 2001/18/EC
  10. The Age May 5 2017 Victoria's traditional potato patch thins out as imports flood market Rochelle Kirkham
  11. GM Watch “The superfluous GM potato”