NZ's Achilles Heel: Scientists Warn of Harm from GE Food

Tuesday 29 October 2013, 2:21PM
By GE Free NZ

An international group of over 85 scientists, academics and physicians has
warned that harmful effects of GE foods may be being deliberately ignored,
and say that there is no scientific agreement that genetically engineered
(GE) foods and crops are safe. [1]

The expert group dismisses claims by industry that GE foods are proven safe,
and in their conclusion warn that scientific research on the risks from the
expansion of GE foods into the animal and human food chain must be “honest,
ethical, rigorous, independent, transparent, and sufficiently diversified to
compensate for bias”.

As well as speaking out against bias in research and regulation that puts
public health at risk, the experts say assessment must also involve
“socioeconomic” considerations of the broader environment, community and

The international alert has been issued at a time when it has been revealed
that New Zealand consumers could be under threat from high pesticide
residues in GE food. New results from an accredited laboratory that tested
Argentinian genetically modified soybeans found levels of glyphosate almost
5 times higher than the acceptable maximum residue level. These soybeans
also have significantly reduced protein content. [2]

New Zealand imports around 1,200 tonnes of soybean meal per year from
Argentina. [3] This is a concern for New Zealanders especially those seeking
ethically and safely produced food. The sprays used on these GE crops have
been linked to reproductive problems and deformities in communities who live
and work near the GE soybean plantations.  There is also particular concern
for consumers who have allergies to more conventional wheat products and
rely on soybean for their main dietary source of protein.

The unmonitored importation of GE soy and other GE crops as animal feed is
the Achilles heel for New Zealand food producers and exporters like
Fonterra. Food safety is being compromised as companies seek to save money
by taking the 'cheap and nasty' option to feed animals that we rely on to
produce our milk and meat for export, and for New Zealanders to consume.
“Untested new GE soy varieties risk harm from the engineered genes but also
the cocktail of dangerous herbicides used in the growing environment. The
chemical mix on GE crops is resulting in food becoming a “biotech pesticide
factory” that signals long term human health problems,” said Claire Bleakley
president of GE Free NZ.

Unlike traditionally bred, hybrid and open pollinated plants, which are
killed if herbicides are sprayed on them, herbicide-resistant Genetically
Engineered (GE) plants are designed to survive high levels of pesticides
whilst they are growing. The growing of GE “pesticide-tolerant" plants has
resulted in weed and insect resistance that has then led to even more
chemicals being used.

By contrast, scientific studies in countries that do not use Genetically
Engineered plants have shown that there has been a reduction in overall use
of pesticides, and have better overall production. [4]

"GE Free NZ is aware that the Ministry of Primary Industries has not
conducted any monitoring for labelling requirements or pesticide levels on
GE foods since 2002," said Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE Free NZ.
“Vulnerable people who need to be able to trust that our official food
approval systems are robust, can no longer have confidence that authorities
are doing their job properly by monitoring the rising levels of pesticides
in the diet.”

It is extremely important that the regulators and local authorities are able
to protect communities from the rising evidence of harm from any use of GE
in the diet, especially the rising toxic levels of pesticides in GE foods.

New Zealand has an advantage as a GE Free agricultural nation that we must
protect. The importation of pesticide-laden GE human and animal feed is a
threat to the integrity of our food system.


[1] No consensus on GMO safety - scientists release statement.

[2] High levels of residues from spraying with glyphosate found in soybeans
in Argentina (2013) TestBiotech

[3] Heinemann J., Massaro M., Coray D., Apapito-Tenfen S. & Wen J (2013)
Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest.
International Journal of Agricultural

[4] Argentine soy losing protein content, prices may fall

[5]Soybean Imports (Mundi)

[6] Paganelli, A., Gnazzo, V., Acosta, H., López, S.L., Carrasco, A.E. 2010.
Glyphosate-based herbicides produce terato-genic effects on vertebrates by
impairing retinoic acid signaling. Chem. Res. Toxicol., August 9.