Soil & Health wants a ban on seed imports of alfalfa, soy, corn & maize, as well as GE foodstuffs, from the USA and other GE producing countries, following shonky environmental and food safety appraisals by overseas agencies coming to light.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Monsanto have both been found wanting in the last month, with implications for New Zealand’s environment and food supply, according to Soil & Health.
“Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), MAF, and the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) have all accepted pseudo science or untested recommendations from Monsanto, Syngenta, USDA, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and others, rather than the concerns of cautious New Zealanders”, said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“Now with US courts and independent scientific peer reviews showing up flaws, including environmental and human health risks, in previously accepted data and institutions, it is time to smarten up clean green New Zealand’s controls.”
A number of genetically engineered foods have been allowed into our food supply without adequate testing, and the risk of environmental contamination from GE contaminated seed or microbes remains high, according to Soil & Health.
Following the release of previously blocked Monsanto data on rat feeding studies of MON 863 corn, approved by FSANZ in 2003 for use in food and feed in New Zealand, it was found that the rats fed with the GM corn showed signs of toxicity in the liver and kidneys compared with those fed non-GM corn. Possible hormone alteration was also shown.
“FSANZ and NZFSA are too quick to accept GE company pseudo science and have consistently ignored the concerns of those providing precautionary advice,” said Mr Browning.
“A FSANZ staff member has said that no independent feeding tests or independent assessments of company data are necessary and confidential company data are fine for safety assessments.”
“The new information shows that the FSANZ approach does not treat risk seriously enough, and MON 863 corn should be immediately withdrawn, with an apology to New Zealand consumers.”
“The ministerial review, recently requested by Food Safety Minister Annette King, of FSANZ’s draft decision to approve another Monsanto GE Corn (High-Lysine LY038), is a necessary change to the FSANZ once over lightly and she’ll be right mate approach to novel foods that have obvious health risks. The Minister now needs to review all GE foods with a view to the corrupt processes and risks to the health of New Zealanders,” said Mr Browning.
“NZFSA’s appalling acceptance of untested LL601 rice shows another agency’s predisposition for not rocking commercial interests, although consumer surveys consistently show that New Zealanders do not want GM food.”
Disturbing research that has been ignored to date by food safety authorities includes foods well established in New Zealand: GE soy and canola. Ten-year feeding studies on GE peas showed significant health risks and the peas were destroyed. However, most studies are short term and not independent, but more are finding a dangerous link between chronic illness and GE foods, says Soil & Health.
Giant seed company, Syngenta is also involved with cover-ups, illegal plantings, and contaminated shipments. Syngenta is responsible for the largest case of GE contamination in the world, with at least 185,000 tonnes of Bt-10 GE corn, which although approved only for animal feeds, was mixed with US grain meant for human consumption between 2001 and 2004, and sent around the world.
According to The Lancet, “BT10 contains certain synthetic genes and proteins which are not easily broken down by stomach enzymes. In some cases, such proteins may survive in the gut for ten to twenty times as long as most ‘natural’ proteins, and this may account for the lesions and other physiological abnormalities observed in animal feeding studies involving GM crops.” There are concerns that allergic reactions may follow, and that some abnormalities may lead to cancerous growths.
According to Dr. Brian John of GE Free Cymru, “Syngenta knew about the contamination of Bt11 corn by the illegal Bt10 variety several months before the story was broken by Nature magazine in March 2005. For at least four months Syngenta and the US regulatory authorities, including the USDA and USEPA, connived to keep the contamination incident under wraps, while contaminated grain continued to be distributed on the world market. Dr John maintains Syngenta at first failed to reveal that Bt10 contained antibiotic resistance marker genes, but then had to admit it under pressure from independent scientists.”
Soil & Health says that it is time for Syngenta products to be dropped. Syngenta was the company behind Corngate and withheld information from that inquiry, and all four sweet corn varieties implicated with the 2006 contamination event were Syngenta seeds.
Last month the USDA was found violating the law and called ‘cavalier’, by a U.S. District Court Judge for failing to adequately assess possible environmental impacts before approving GE Roundup Ready alfalfa developed by Monsanto.
Less than two weeks before, another judge found that there is ‘substantial evidence that the field tests (of GE Roundup Ready Bentgrass) may have had the potential to affect significantly the quality of the human environment’, and that the USDA could not process any further field test permits without conducting a more thorough review.
“New Zealand should ban seed import from companies and administrations with such a shonky record,” said Mr Browning. “GE Free alfalfa has particularly high potential as a high value export crop for New Zealand, according to a successful plaintiff in the USDA alfalfa case. The US alfalfa grower, Mr Phil Geertson, who visited New Zealand recently, told me that the US was contaminated due to Monsanto and the USDA’s incompetence, and New Zealand had huge potential as an exporter of varieties already in the country.”
“These revelations of corrupt corporate and closely connected US agencies, supplying misinformation and poor judgement, must mark a turning point for New Zealand agencies charged with food safety, health and environmental sustainability,” said Mr Browning.
“It is time for New Zealand to turn around from risky and unnecessary GE experimenting, and create a truly sustainable nation with an international point of difference: GE Free, clean and green, and heading to an Organic 2020.”