FSANZ criticised for GM food approvals

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 21st October 2008


Greenpeace has questioned the approval process used by food standards body FSANZ, with the environmental activists reporting that eight leading scientists have endorsed their new report critiquing the regulation of genetically engineered (GE) food in Australia.

The report, Eating in the Dark, calls for an urgent independent review of the safety assessment regime for GE food, and for all foods derived from GE crops to be labelled.

The report argues that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is failing to meet its key objectives of protecting public health and safety; providing adequate information so consumers can make informed choices; and preventing misleading conduct by food companies. It alleges there is evidence showing that, far from keeping abreast of recent insights into the impact of GE food, FSANZ remains mired in outmoded science.

GM canola was permitted in Victoria and New South Wales for the first time this year and the report claims we “need better safety testing and labelling to protect consumer health and choice”.

According to Professor Jack A Heinemann, gene ecologist, director of the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI) in New Zealand, and one of the endorsees of the report, “FSANZ is gambling with the health of consumers in order to please agrochemical corporations and Australia’s trading partners.”

While governments and regulatory agencies worldwide are displaying growing caution in response to the ever-increasing uncertainty about the safety of GE crops, FSANZ is one of only a few regulators in the world to have approved every single application it has received for GE food products, the report suggests.

Lydia Buchtmann, spokesperson for Food Standards Australia New Zealand, has disputed the claims of Greenpeace. “All GM foods are assessed for safety on a case-by-case basis and only those found to be safe are approved for sale,” she said, according to ABC Online. “The safety assessment process for GM foods is based on internationally accepted methods and approaches. These approaches are also used by other countries and endorsed by international bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).”