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GE-Free NZ is disappointed that the Minister for Health has chosen to support the approval of the novel 2,4-D herbicide tolerant GE Corn and believe she has been misled about the seriousness of the lack of safety data.
A letter from Minister Kate Wilkinson to GE-Free NZ states that she is satisfied with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) conclusions about the safety of 2,4-D corn. (The 2,4-D corn was submitted for registration by Dow for approval into the human food chain, and GE-Free NZ had asked the Minister to review the safety data after FSANZ staff recommended it be approved).
"The Minister referred to the FSANZ final report which is littered with flawed and misleading commentary,” says Claire Bleakley president of GE-Free NZ.
“The report cannot justify any assumption this food is safe. The product clearly needs to be sent back for comprehensive long term feeding studies looking into the effects of its chemical residues and metabolites on animals and humans."
The GE 2,4-D herbicide-tolerant corn has been engineered with two foreign genes, so that it can survive three applications of two herbicides 2,4-D and quizalofop-P-ethyl over its growing season. To date there have been no studies to see what, if any, are the effects of 2,4-D and its metabolites on humans, but published studies on animals fed GE foods show changes to organs and blood parameters, the worst leading to kidney and liver damage.
In rejecting the request to act, the Minister also said that no Maximum residue level (MRL) safety level had been set in New Zealand so FSANZ would apply international Codex Alimentarius MRL, which is 0.05mg/kg in maize and sweet corn.
There is also concern that the fear of trade agreements enabling legal action by the applicant, if the new GE corn was not approved, was a larger consideration than the fact that this novel herbicide-resistant food could harm New Zealanders.
The FSANZ report is highly misleading in its concluding safety statement that:
2,4-D is already widely and safely used on food crops (JMPR 1974) and 2,4-D MRLs for a variety of plant-derived food commodities have currently been adopted by Codex.
“This is erroneous as Codex maximum residue levels for 2,4-D have not been set on food except recently to allow for the introduction of GE crops,” said Claire Bleakley.
The FSANZ report also says:
"The Applicant has supplied data to show that no herbicide metabolites are produced in DAS-40278-9 that are not also produced in conventional crops sprayed with the herbicides." (p.12)
"This residue is the same as that found on conventional crops sprayed with 2,4-D and would be present at very minor levels." (p.30)
The carefully worded statements obscure the fact conventional crops die if sprayed with herbicides and that the FSANZ report acknowledges that 2,4-D metabolites were detected in the GE corn. Therefore comparisons on toxicity residues between unsprayed conventional crops and GE 2,4-D sprayed crops are deliberately misleading.
The FSANZ report adds that "side-chain degradation of 2,4-D has been observed in many conventional plants (IPCS 1984) albeit to a limited degree not necessarily associated with tolerance to 2,4-D." (p.17)
As no conventional food crops can tolerate 2,4-D as it is predominantly used on weeds, the recognition that side chain degradation forming potentially toxic metabolites must be further studied.
"The metabolites of 2,4-D could be highly persistent and toxic to humans," says Claire Bleakley from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
"The Minister's refusal to call for a re-consideration of the 2,4-D corn, shows that she is being misled against the interests of public health and food safety. If finally the 2,4-D corn (A1042) is approved there may be grounds for legal challenge."
Application A1042 Food Derived >From Herbicide-Tolerant Corn Line Das-40278-9 Approval Report
Séralini G-E., Mesnage R., Clair E., Gress S., de Vendômois J and Cellier D., Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. Environmental Sciences Europe 2011 23:10.doi:10.1186/2190-4715-23-10 http://www.enveurope.com/content/pdf/2190-4715-23-10.pdf
Maize Codex MR http://www.codexalimentarius.net/mrls/servlet/PesticideServlet?Pesticides=20&Items=201&out_style=by+substance&Domain=PesticideMRLs&Language=english&query_form=%2Fmrls%2Fpestdes%2Fpest_q-e.htm