We have been eating Genetically Modified (GM) crops for nearly twenty years. Ninety-nine per cent of GM crops are either sprayed with weedkiller, mainly Roundup, or kill insects by destroying their guts or do both.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), Current GM applications and approvals.
Where it says ‘tolerance’ it means the GM crop can be sprayed with a weedkiller, usually glyphosate (Roundup) or glufosinate, Where is says ‘protection’ it means the GM plant produces a toxin that kills the named insect usually Lepidoptera. Some GM crops are both ‘tolerant’ of weedkiller and ‘protect’ by killing insects. Three GM potatoes were approved in 2001. They are no longer sold. GM potatoes have been approved recently in the US and Canada but there has been no application to sell them in Australia as yet. The GM wheat application was withdrawn. There is no GM wheat grown commercially anywhere in the world but GM wheat trials have contaminated some US farmers’ fields. The GM rice was approved by FSANZ after GM rice trials contaminated US crops. It is not commercially grown anywhere now although GM rice is growing unofficially in China and has been found in exported rice and rice products. For more details see: http://madge.org.au/how-shop-gm-free
The companies say these GM foods are the most tested in history. But what tests have been done?
No animal tests required.
Regulators do not ask for long-term, reproductive, developmental or multi-generational animal feeding studies on GM crops.
However, the companies can submit animal feeding trials. Most of the studies last for 90 days or less. This is much shorter than the two-year life span of a rat or a mouse. Sometimes only five to seven animals per group are tested but it can be as few as two. These tiny groups will only show harm if it is extreme.
The whole GM plant may not be tested. Instead animals are force-fed one dose of the substance the GM developer thinks they have engineered into the plant. The animals are then observed for only one or two weeks. These tests cannot show GM food is safe for us to eat over the long term. Perhaps the tests are designed to check that we won’t drop dead after one GM meal?
The companies who want their GM crop approved pay for the tests and provide them to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). FSANZ do no independent testing or ongoing surveillance and expect the GM companies to “monitor for existing and emerging risks of their products.”
FSANZ have never rejected a GM crop application.
FSANZ Safety Assessments of GM foods:
The responsibility for demonstrating the safety of any new food product on the market lies with the developer of that product.
Why does FSANZ not do its own independent testing of GM foods?
Why doesn’t FSANZ require that GM foods be tested in animals?
Is post market monitoring of GM foods undertaken?
There are currently no official mechanisms within Australia and New Zealand for monitoring the long-term impacts of GM foods. In Australia and New Zealand, as in most other countries, the responsibility for post-market monitoring is covered by an ongoing duty of care on the part of the developer. The developer is expected to monitor for existing and emerging risks that may be associated with its product and notify regulatory authorities whenever new information is uncovered.
Tests looks at chicken breast weight or lamb chop tenderness
Animal feeding studies examining the weight of chicken breasts and the tenderness of lamb chops have been used in applications for the GM food we eat. These are animal production studies, done to reassure farmers that animals fed GM feed will produce sufficient meat. These studies do not show that GM foods are safe for us to eat.
When studies do show harm
When independent, published, peer-reviewed studies show harm FSANZ dismisses them.
FSANZ requests no further investigation if company-supplied studies show harm to animals. As an example, the following report linked below, describes how a potential sign of harm is dismissed on false grounds:
DRAFT RISK ANALYSIS REPORT APPLICATION A363 Food produced from glyphosate-tolerant canola line GT73
Differences in liver weight were observed in rats fed the genetically modified canola line compared to the parental line but these differences were not considered to arise as a result of the genetic modification of canola. This difference has been attributed to a higher level of glucosinolates in the glyphosate-tolerant canola than in control line. (p9)
“Yet the level of glucosinolates was only about a third of the official level of concern as measured by the Codex Alimentarius Commission,29” (p5)
“Lists of studies” claiming to show safety are nonsense
Two popularly touted ‘lists of studies’ are the Nicolia review (1700+ studies) and the GENERA list (400+). These lists are a random mix of studies mostly irrelevant to human safety. Some are done on animals like trout, quail, chickens, cows and sheep that have different guts to humans and/or lay eggs. Studies showing harm, or the potential for harm, are listed and yet their significance is downplayed or ignored.
Nicolia Review 1700+ studies
An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research Alessandro Nicolia, Alberto Manzo, Fabio Veronesi & Daniele Rosellini 2014
Only 17.5% (312) studies are on GM food and feed. The review notes studies questioning the safety of GM DNA and RNA, it’s transfer into the body via the gut, the safety of the intended and unintended GM proteins and yet all evidence of harm is dismissed. (p81-84).
- GENERA – Genetic Engineering Risk Atlas.http://genera.biofortified.org/viewall.php
- Search for : Studies on irrelevant animals: Steinke 2010; Brake 1998 (also search for trout, broiler chickens etc). Studies showing harm or potential for harm: Ewen, Pustai, 1999; Wilson, Latham, Steinbrecher 2006; Carman 2013; Seralini 2009. Genera states the Seralini 2012 study was retracted. It was retracted for being ‘inconclusive’. If this was grounds for retraction then the first two Watson and Crick papers on the structure and replication of DNA would need to be retracted too.
- Let’s give the scientific literature a good clean up by Prof Jack Heinemann
- It has since been republished in a peer-reviewed journal and stands in the scientific literature. http://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5
We want independent tests and full food labelling
We wouldn’t believe a couple of ‘lists of studies’ could show ‘all pharmaceutical drugs are safe’. We expect each drug to undergo rigorous testing. We should expect the same for our food. These tests must be independent, detailed, look at human health not chicken breast weight and be long-term.
Currently our labelling laws are full of loopholes so almost all GM food escapes labelling. We insist companies selling us food tell us what is in it.
If you wish to #ShopGMfree and #EatGM-free:
- Use the MADGE decision tree app (in development)
- Buy from the GM-Free products list
- Find out more at MADGE’s Shop GM-Free page