The statutory agency for Australia and New Zealand has invited submissions on an application to change the countries’ Food Standards Code to allow food derived from a genetically modified soybean. The closing date for submissions is August 23.
Calling on government agencies, public health professionals, the food industry and the community to comment on the application, Steve McCutcheon, chief executive of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, said Bayer CropScience and Syngenta Seeds had sought permission to allow food derived from a soybean that has been genetically modified to be tolerant to two herbicides.
‘No health risk’
“Syngenta has made a joint application to FSANZ for permission to allow food derived from a genetically modified soybean tolerant to two herbicides: glufosinate-ammonium and mesotrione,” a source at the seed company told us.
“A safety assessment by FSANZ has found no public health or safety concerns relating to this soybean line and that it is as safe for human consumption as food derived from conventional soybean.”
According to its executive summary, the application seeks to “vary FSANZ Standard 1.5.2 to allow the use of genetically modified soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) derived from transformation event SYHT0H2 in the Australian and New Zealand food industries.”
Five food products are derived from soybean: whole soybeans, oil, meal, hulls and protein. Soybean oil is the primary food product consumed by humans in Australia, with the other products used either as food products or as components of animal feed.
“Analyses of seed and forage from several US field testing sites demonstrate that SYHT0H2 soybean is nutritionally and compositionally similar to, and as safe and nutritious as, conventional soybean.
“Well-characterised modes of action, physicochemical properties, and results of safety studies demonstrate that the AvHPPD-03 and PAT proteins present in SYHT0H2 soybeanpresent no risk of harm to humans or livestock that consume soybean products or to wildlife potentially exposed to SYHT0H2 soybean,” the submission concluded.
Voice of opposition
However, this confidence was not shared by Clare Bleakley, president of the GE Free NZ campaign group. “This is a highly dangerous application,” she said, adding her belief that both the pesticides and the modified soybean would be “incredibly detrimental to human health”.
“Glufonsinate is a banned pesticide in countries like Norway. It is worth thinking about what happens to workers who spray that crop, and what happens when you eat the produce.”
The call for submissions has come shortly after New Zealand’s food safety minister, Nikki Kaye, confirmed that she would table an 1,800 signature petition asking her to freeze all new GM applications and review existing ones.
However, Kaye made it clear that she however acknowledges did not agree with the petition’s points, saying that: “existing evidence does not indicate that... a risk exists [from GM crop production].