ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

14 February 2002

OZ - COUNCILS BAN GM TRIALS/ANZFA'S TIRADE/HUMAN BIO-PIRACY

1. Oz Councils ban GM trials
2. ANZFA'S ATTACKS ON GE FOOD CRITICS INTEMPERATE
3. Australian Company Suspected of Human Bio-Piracy

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1. Councils ban GM trials   [shortened]

By Stefanie Balogh
The Australian, February 14, 2002
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,3772387%255E2702,00.html

A GROWING number of local councils are forging ahead with moves to outlaw genetically modified crop trials despite the industry ridiculing the bans as unenforceable.

Rosalie Shire Council, in Queensland's Darling Downs food cradle, is the latest of about 30 local governments across the nation to pass a resolution declaring itself a GM-free zone.

While these councils have moved to ban trials, this cannot be enforced because they have no legislative backing from state governments.

Rosalie Shire Mayor Noel Strohfeld was pushing the Queensland Department of Local Government and Planning to alter state laws to allow official GM-free zones.

But so far no states have taken that step.

South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria have all released discussion papers on the issue. Victoria rejected the zones last year.

Tasmania, however, has introduced a two-year moratorium on GM crops.

"We were worried about the environmental risks and especially in transferring genes between species -- animals and plants, that sort of thing . . . it could open up a Pandora's box," Mr Strohfeld said.

"We feel if there is something we do overlook now, it could start a chain reaction catastrophe that perhaps the world is not ready for."

Greg Hallam, chief executive officer of the Local Government Association of Queensland, said his association had "steered well clear of it" and did not have a policy or view on GM-free zones. [the Local Government Association in the UK supports the Five-Year-Freeze]

"Our legal advice is they can't do it under the existing law. You have to have the laws changed," Mr Hallam said.

Brian Arnst, spokesman for GM-company Monsanto, said he would be "surprised" if any state government agreed to pass legislation allowing council areas to claim GM-free status.

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2. ANZFA'S ATTACKS ON GE FOOD CRITICS INTEMPERATE

February 14, 2002
GeneEthics Media Release

Australia NZ Food Authority chief Ian Lindenmayer today made intemperate and misinformed attacks on Australian GeneEthics Network's director Bob Phelps and the Public Health Association's Dr Judy Carman.

"We are surprised and concerned that the federal regulator, Ian Lindenmayer of ANZFA, so clearly sides with the chemical giants to promote gene technology and its food products," says GeneEthics Director Bob Phelps.

"ANZFA's leaflet distributed through supermarkets nationally at taxpayer expense gives a biased account of the labelling rules on foods produced using gene technology."

"In the public interest, we want ANZFA's GE food assessments to require more robust testing and all foods produced using gene technology to be labelled," he says.

"If genetically engineered foods really offered the many benefits claimed for them then companies would want to label," he says.

"But there are only risks, not benefits for food buyers, especially for the young and the elderly so there are no labels," Mr Phelps says.

"Not a single GE label is on any of the twenty-one different varieties foods produced by gene technology approved by ANZFA," he says.

"Soy, corn, canola, potato, sugarbeet and cotton seed products which can be sprayed with more herbicide or produce their own insecticidal toxins are now approved," he says.

"This is despite 93% of Australians demanding GE food labels," he says.

"We want the same rules applied to GE labels as apply to GE-free label claims - that any use of gene technology at any point in the production process should be disclosed on the label," he says.

"Ian Lindenmayer concedes that all is not known about the safety of GE foods, yet wants food buyers to accept their risks," he says.

"We are concerned that most testing is done by the gene tech companies and their evidence is not peer reviewed," he says.

"The companies and the regulators bear the onus of proof for safety but they have not dispelled scientific or public uncertainties," he says.

"We want new French and UK proposals for tightening GE food testing and assessment to be seriously considered for introduction to Australia and NZ," he says.

"Precaution is the best policy, but ANZFA is recklessly approving GE foods," he concludes.

More Comment:  Bob Phelps  03 9416 2222 (H) 03 9830 1592 (H)

GE FOOD LABELLING

Gene Food Cover-up

Labelling laws deny us the right to know how our food is made. Foods produced  using gene technology will not be labelled, though we were promised labels from  December 7 this year. Food Authority (ANZFA) standards set by Health Ministers  exempt most of the 22 approved
varieties of imported GE soy, corn, canola,  potato, and sugarbeet products. Local and imported foods made from cotton resistant to chemical herbicides or containing insect toxins - oil, seed and thickener - are also exempt. Labelling exemptions cover:
. GE foods (meat, milk, eggs, honey, etc) made from animals fed on GE feedstock;
. refined GE foods, eg: oil, sugars,  starches, where the refining process is assumed to remove foreign DNA and/or protein;
. processing aids or food additives made by GE microbes;
. GE flavours present at less than 0.1%;
. GE foods from restaurants, take-aways, etc; and
. to cover 'unintentional' contamination, a GE food or additive which is less  than 1% per ingredient in an unlabelled processed food.

Because of all these exemptions, probably only 2 or 3 labels would have been  required, but ANZFA has also just allowed any GE foods ('stock-in-trade') produced and packaged before December 7 2001 to remain unlabelled for a further 12 months. Processors had over a year to get ready for GE labels but know that any food branded GE would stay on the shelf.

GE FOOD TESTING

We submit there is an urgent need that:
1. The Precautionary Principle, which now features in many pieces of environmental legislation and the Gene Technology Act 2000, should also be applied in the testing, assessment and monitoring of foods produced using GEOs.

2. We reject the US position based on substantial equivalence, put to the Task Force. The concept of substantial equivalence is not science-based.

Mere comparison of novel foods produced using gene technology with their conventional counterparts inadequately informs or justifies conclusions that they are safe.

3. We support a more precautionary and proactive approach to food safety testing and assessment (the following report refers). We ask the Australian Codex Contact point to contact the French agency AFFSA and UK Health, to fully inform yourselves of the proposed innovations reported below, with a view to adopting and advocating them here and in the Codex forums.

4. In addition to the French and UK proposals, GeneEthics also favours:
intergenerational animal studies;
premarket human trials;
the results of all corporate studies not to be the sole basis for GE food assessments;
all such study results to be confirmed by other independent tests and peer review.

Edited Report:
Paris - February 5, 2002 - Issue #310
FAST is produced and written by Timothy Carlson.
MODIFYING THE RULES
...the French food safety agency AFFSA has issued an opinion on what kind of tests should be required of any modification heading to market. Taking into account the concerns that spring from  reasonable caution, and the demands of good science, the agency advocates  several additions to current practices as embodied by the  existing international protocol for GMO testing. At the genetic level, the stiffer standards would require:
a full sequencing of the gene transplanted; a full sequencing of the entire junction region of the host, where the transgenic  material is spliced in; the use of new techniques for the analysis of gene expression to detect any unforeseen changes due to the gene modification; longer  range toxicity studies; subchronic toxicity studies to determine the effects, if any, on  vital systems such as immune, reproductive and hormonal systems; complementary studies to animal testing, such as tests focused on the edible  part of a modified plant and not just its genome; suggested parameters for statistical reporting that specify, for example, the minimum number of test animals to get a statistically significant result.
... the  suggested regulations could serve as a guideline for developing the EU standards ... the report rhymed in many parts with a similar report just issued in the UK, whose  authors see no cause for alarm in testing data already obtained, but are concerned about questions existing testing programs don't answer.   (Le Figaro, January 31,  p13, Martine Perez)
[ends]
see also: "ANZFA approval of non-labelled GM corn, canola prompts outcry" -
http://just-food.com/news_detail.asp?art=47750&dm=yes"The Australia New

***

3. Australian Company Suspected of Human Bio-Piracy
Tongan Human Rights Activists to Address Adelaide Conference

archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html

Tongan human rights activists have condemned an agreement between the Tongan government and an Australian biotech company, Autogen Ltd., to collect blood samples from the Tongan people. The reported agreement was concluded without any public debate and opens the way for the commercialisation and patenting of the genetic material of indigenous peoples.

The current status of the agreement is unclear. According to the Director of the Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement, Lopeti Senituli, "I was informed by Tonga Heath officials last year that no agreement was signed with Autogen but we have good reason to suspect that Autogen Ltd could be trying to circumvent the Tongan publicís scrutiny by disguising its genetic research proposal as a public health programme funded by the Australian government."

Mr. Senituli is scheduled to present a paper on the issue at the Australasian Bioethics Association Conference in Adelaide on 14 February. The paper will be jointly presented with Margaret Boyes of Sydney.

Mr. Senituli said, "The Tongan people believe that God is the Creator of all living things and therefore all lifeforms should be treated in a way that respects their intrinsic value as living generational manifestations of Creation. The conversion of human lifeforms, their molecules or parts into corporate property, as Autogen is proposing is in direct conflict with our belief in the sanctity of human life."

He also said that the Autogen proposal is the latest phase in the colonization of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific and their resources.

"Three centuries ago they came for sandalwood. Today the bastards are after our genes."

For further information contact Margaret Boyes
Until 2pm Wed 13/2/02 Sydney on ph. (02) 9568-4348
From 7pm Wed 13/2/02 on 0408-818-012

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