PO Box 13402
Wellington, New Zealand

GE-Free New Zealand

in food and environment (RAGE Inc.)

Scientists Raise Safety Concerns For Glyphosate-Resistant GE Foods 05/09/2020

Scientists have found that spraying with glyphosate-based herbicide triggers unintended effects even in genetically modified soybean varieties resistant to this type of pesticide.

The researchers, from GenØk–Centre for Biosafety in Norway and the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Brazil, found severe metabolic disturbances in both stacked (multiple transgene) and single transgene trait GM soybeans caused by exposure to a glyphosate-based herbicide. The findings could have implications for food safety. [1]

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is currently assessing stacked GE corn (A1192) engineered with 6 novel protein genes conferring resistance to 12 different pesticides, including two versions of glyphosate resistant genes. [2] This raises concerns that FSANZ assessment of the interactions between multiple chemicals and genes in GE foods is inadequate or nonexistent. This in turn suggests such products are going unregulated, creating a risk to public health.

FSANZ has approved for introduction into the food chain more than 80 varieties of 8 food crops genetically engineered to withstand a range of pesticides. The agency has not, however, mandated GE labeling, or required safety data on GE foods when eaten over the long-term in either animals or humans.

Consumers are left in the dark over what products might contain GE ingredients and their health effects.

The FSANZ Authority says it liaises with the APVMA* as it does not assess the safety of agrochemicals used in growing GE crops. The APVMA, however, have responsibility only for setting maximum residue levels (MRL) on individual, not multiple, pesticides in crops grown in Australia and does not conduct food safety assessments of pesticide residues in GE foods. [3]
"Nobody is responsible for testing toxic chemical residues in scores of imported GE foods that FSANZ have approved," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

"Food safety is significantly undermined by this gap in regulation, but the New Zealand Minister is left as powerless as consumers in being able to address the situation.”
FSANZ’’s evasion reveals serious problems, because GE foods now contain multiple foreign genes (stacking) inserted to confer resistance to many separate pesticides. FSANZ, with no justification, routinely dismiss and reject scientific publications showing harm from ingestion of whole GE foods. [4]

Unfortunately, New Zealand's Minister, on the Ministerial Forum where the final sign off on a GE application is made, has no real power to challenge or require labelling, as any vote to protect consumer interests could be considered a trade barrier.
New Zealand needs to establish its own Food Standards Authority. The call has been prompted by the lack of notification to engage New Zealand consumers and food producers in a review of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Act.

*APVMA = Agricultural Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Agency

[1] Zanatta, C.B., Benevenuto, R.F., Nodari, R.O. et al. Stacked genetically modified soybean harboring herbicide resistance
and insecticide rCry1Ac shows strong defense and redox homeostasis disturbance after glyphosate-based herbicide application. Environ Sci Eur. 32, 104 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-020-00379-6

[2] https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/applications/Documents/A1192%20Application%20Document_redacted.pdf

[3] https://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/media/Documents/GM%20Foods_text_pp_final.pdf (p.6)

[4] https://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/consumer/gmfood/safety/documents/Table%20of%20Studies%20on%20GM%20foods_15July2011%20FINAL.pdf