The genetically modified (GM) crop industry is not happy. It’s been over 20 years since the introduction of the first GM crops to Australia and the majority of our food remains GM free – because quite frankly we don’t want to eat GMOs. However, the GM crop industry has a plan.
Independent testing commissioned by Friends of the Earth has found nanoparticles in popular Australian infant formula products that are both illegal in Australia and potentially dangerous. Three of the seven samples tested contained nano-hydroxyapatite particles. Nano-hydroxyapatite has been found to cause cell death in the liver and kidneys of rats and is prohibited from use in infant formula in Australia in any form.
In late March, Dr Michael Antoniou, Reader in Molecular Genetics at King’s College London School of Life Sciences will be visiting Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. He is here to discuss his concerns with a range of new genetic engineering techniques that the Federal Government is currently proposing not to regulate.
Last year the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - declared glyphosate – the main ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp – a probable carcinogen. We hoped that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) – would intervene to protect our health. It hasn’t. The APVMA has decided not to review its current approval for glyphosate because it claims to know better than the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation. Why so? Because it has access to unpublished industry data that has never been subject to peer review and that regulators refuse to make public!
Australia’s gene technology regulator is proposing changes to its gene technology regulations that would allow products derived from genetically modified (GM) plants, animals and microbes untested and unlabelled into our food. If the OGTR deregulates these new GM techniques there will be no monitoring or surveillance. Anyone from amateur biohackers - to industry - to terror groups would be free to use them to genetically modify plants, animals and microbes. Entirely new diseases and poisons could be made. And they could enter our food chain and our environment with no safety testing and no labelling. The results could be catastrophic.
Cancun, Mexico – This week, international conservation and environmental leaders are calling on governments at the 2016 UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) to establish a moratorium on the controversial genetic extinction technology called gene drives. Gene drives, developed through new gene-editing techniques- are designed to force a particular genetically engineered trait to spread through an entire wild population – potentially changing entire species or even causing deliberate extinctions. The statement urges governments to put in place an urgent, global moratorium on the development and release of the new technology, which poses serious and potentially irreversible threats to biodiversity, as well as national sovereignty, peace and food security.
GM-Free Australia Alliance members reject the Productivity Commission’s recommendations to remove states’ rights to ban genetically manipulated (GM) crops for marketing reasons and to remove GM food labelling. GM crops pose unacceptable risks to our health, the environment and key export markets and removing the bans and GM labeling would eliminate choice for farmers and consumers. Louise Sales from Friends of the Earth’s Emerging Tech Project says: “The Productivity Commission has ignored the compelling evidence from the Tasmanian and South Australian Governments, and other stakeholders, that show the value of remaining GM-free. Instead its report reads like a Monsanto press release.”
Our food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has misrepresented the findings of two independent reports it commissioned on the safety of nanomaterials in food and food packaging. The reports were supposed to have been completed by June 2015 but were never released. On 27th May 2016 Friends of the Earth submitted an FOI request to FSANZ for these reports and associated documents. Six days after the request was filed FSANZ released the reports – claiming that the reports concluded “none of the nanotechnologies described are of health concern.” This as a deliberate misrepresentation of the reports. In fact, the reports draw attention to the major data gaps regarding the safety of nanoparticles in food and food packaging and raise concerns regarding the potential toxicity of nano-silica, titanium dioxide and silver.