Gene technologies among considerations as FSANZ prepares to revise its food code

Dr Grant Jacobs, a computational biologist based in Dunedin, has reminded New Zealanders and Australians they will have to hurry if they want to make last-minute submissions to revise Food Standards Australia and New Zealand’s code for controlling new food varieties.

The role of gene technology (he points out HERE) comes into considerations.

FSANZ is seeking input from the community on whether food derived using new breeding techniques (NBTs) should be captured for pre-market approval under the Code, and whether the definitions for ‘food produced using gene technology’ and ‘gene technology’ should be changed to improve clarity.

The consulting paper will need digesting first.

Dr Jacobs last year offered an outline of things to consider with current GMOs.

A key issue, he explains, is that by focusing on “breeding” technologies, good new varieties are being blocked.

This is not a case of avoiding risk. An alternative is to focus on each new variety on it’s own merits, it’s traits, the nature of that plant, and how it’s managed in the field, and so on. They’re the things related to risk.

Dr Jacobs provides anyone interested with his earlier list of thoughts on regulating gene-edited varieties

At the top of a list of 13 thoughts are:-

* GMO has little scientific meaning. People have different ideas about what it means, and it carries emotive baggage. Instead, use specific terms appropriate to each application.

* They’re new varieties, call them that. They’re basically the parent plant with one feature tweaked.

* The key to making these new varieties is being able to “read” genomes and work out what particular genes do. Editing technologies are “just” tools to make “whatever”.

To find other writing on this topic, he gives advice on how to use the Sciblogs homepage to find material and suggests this reading list: –

Kumara are transgenic (Transgenes occur in nature too.)

Genetic modification now accepted by most New Zealanders (A survey indicates New Zealanders now accept GM food as safe.)

GMOs and the plants we eat: neither are “natural” (An essay on food.)

Green Party GM policy and discussion about GE or GMOs (The Green Party should revise their stance on GM.)

In a demon-haunted world (Not about GM, but unfortunately relevant. A tribute to Sagan, sorely needed in these times.)

Is GM corn really different to non-GM corn? (Reporting other’s objections to one controversy.)

Séralini GMO maize and Roundup study republished with no scientific peer review (One of the ‘unorthodox’ researchers opposing GMOs re-publishes a retracted paper with no fresh peer-review.)

Christmas trees weedy and not (The proposed project that the court case shut down – despite EPA approval, and that it didn’t involve introducing new genes. Wilding pines are a curse in New Zealand.)

Carrots for my neighbour (A short story of sorts.)

New Zealand political spokesperson for GE and more endorses homeopathy for Ebola (What can we say. Some people are… interesting. He re-asserted this claim in his valedictory speech.)

Changing the GMO regulations – the ministry options (The options that set the current legislation.)

Gene editing and GMOs in NZ, part one (A short series; parts two and three are linked at the start.)

GMOs and legislation: useful suggestions for New Zealand in British report (A summary of a large UK report. Not a short read!)

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on GMO legislation (Lighter take on the previous article.)

In a footnote, Dr Jacobs complains about how notifications of these submission calls are so hard to discover.

Surely there must be a simple way to have them sent to you without having the circular problem of knowing what sites to “follow” in order to receive them. (For parliamentary submissions, I’ve tried the government notifications tools; my experience was that it seemed to want to send (spam!) me everything BUT what I wanted!)

He says he will write later on relevant issues, such as “‘genes from other species”.

He has illustrated his post with a picture of transgenic C5 plums, which contain a gene that makes them resistant to plum pox virus.

UPDATE: Dr Jacobs advises the deadline has been extended to 19 April (see his comment below).

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