Calls for a halt to GM food approvals

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 3rd June 2008

West Australian Premier, Alan Carpenter, has called for better labelling of foods that contain Genetically Modified (GM) ingredients and an immediate halt to the approval of all GM foods in Australia until more is known about the safety of eating them.

Mr Carpenter said Australia’s national food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), should not approve any more foods for human consumption until it introduced independent scientific trials to determine the safety of GM foods. “I find it unbelievable and unacceptable that the national food regulator relies principally on the say-so of the GM companies when assessing GM foods as safe to eat,” he said. “WA consumers want and deserve to know what they are feeding their families and they expect foods containing GM are not only labelled as such, but there is monitoring and enforcement of the labelling.”

“This is not the case currently in Australia – no-one does any GM labelling checks, so foods are either unlabelled or not required to be labelled.

“GM ingredients are present in an extensive range of foods on supermarket shelves including corn chips, breakfast cereals, taco shells, bread, cakes, margarines, biscuits, soups, soy products and as oils.”

Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance said FSANZ was already approving GM crops that were never intended for human consumption – such as GM corn, which was bred for use in making ethanol – as safe for people to eat without having done independent tests. “GM labelling should apply if the food is an oil derived from a GM crop, a whole food, or if any ingredients derived from GM crops are present in the final product,” Mr Chance suggested. “There is also published evidence which highlights health concerns about GM foods, including allergies, damage to vital organs and links to cancer.

“Consumers are right to be suspicious about claims from GM companies that the foods are safe to eat.”

Mr Chance said he and Health Minister Jim McGinty would write letters to their Federal counterparts requesting their support to change the current standards.

“The WA Government notes that supermarket chains including Woolworths have recognised their customers’ concerns and have policies of not using GM ingredients in their house-brand products where possible, and Coles requires its house-brand products to be GM-free,” the Minister revealed.

WA currently has a moratorium on the commercial production of GM crops.

“There is a lack of independent information about the performance of GM canola in Australian growing conditions and evidence of strong rejection by consumers, both in Australia and in important overseas markets,” Mr Chance claimed. “Until these issues are resolved, the only responsible course by any government is to maintain a very cautious approach to the technology.”

The GM debate is igniting passion around Australia with many leading Australian chefs signing a charter last week opposing GM food. The charter calls for thorough labelling of all food products containing GM ingredients and opposes legislation in Victoria and NSW, which permits the production of GM canola in Australia for the first time.

Victorian and New South Wales farmers are allowed to grow GM canola but, under current laws, foods with GM canola will not be required to indicate on the label that the product contains GM ingredients.