Current GM food labels no longer fit for purpose – FSANZ report

Current definitions of ‘food produced using gene technology’ and ‘gene technology’ in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code are not are no longer fit for purpose, according to a report by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) published today.

The definitions  lack clarity, are outdated, and do not reflect the diversity of techniques now in use, the report says.

It concludes that the only viable option is to amend the definitions.

The report finds there may be a case, based on risk, for some foods that use these new breeding techniques to be excluded from the requirement for pre-market safety assessments.

It also says there are are different views among those who submitted to the review about the acceptability and risk of GM foods and how best to regulate them. Continue reading

Regulator seeks advice on how to deal with food editing by new genetic techniques

The food safety regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), is calling for suggestions on  how it should consider applications for foods that have been made using new genetic techniques that aren’t currently covered by the laws which govern it.

The current code only covers food produced by genetic techniques that add DNA into a genome. This excludes newer gene editing techniques like CRISPR/Cas9, which knock out genes or proteins, or others that don’t change the DNA of the final food product.

FSANZ is asking for submissions on how these newer techniques should be assessed before they go to market.

According to the Science Media Centre (HERE), the options range from treating them like conventional breeding techniques – given a green light once a technique has been proved safe – or to be treated like current genetically modified organisms which would mean that each application requires a rigorous safety assessment.

The consultation report won’t change the current regulations or labelling requirements, but it will inform how they move forward on this issue.

The Science Media Centre asked genetics and food safety experts to comment on the consultation report.

It has received this response –

  • Professor Peter K Dearden, Genomics Aotearoa and University of Otago, comments:

“In the past few years a range of novel technologies, many based on a technology called CRISPR/cas9 gene editing, have been developed. Many of these technologies challenge the only way we have thought about transgenic organisms (GM organisms), because they can change the DNA of an organism, rather than inserting a new piece of DNA.

“This technology mirrors somewhat mutagenesis, a technology that produced all of the plants of the ‘green revolution’, for example. Mutagenesis involves making lots of mutation in an organism’s DNA and then selecting those that have a useful outcome. Gene editing is less scattergun, but a reasonably precise way to make the mutation that you want.

“This falls between the old technologies of mutagenesis, and the newer ones (though now outdated) of transgenesis. These technologies do use a lab manipulation to change the DNA, but they don’t involve the insertion of a piece of DNA from another organism.

“FSANZ are investigating what people think about the outcomes of these new technologies, and a few more specific ones that have similar effects. This is incredibly timely, as products made with gene editing are already being developed overseas, and detecting gene edited organism is much harder than detecting a transgenic one.

“These new technologies have enormous potential but getting their regulation wrong may, on one hand stifle innovation, and on the other cause disquiet about risk. I applaud FSANZ for asking questions about these technologies, and am impressed by the thoughtful, knowledgeable and effective ways they have presented the information.”

European food safety authorities reject GM corn that can be used in NZ

Europe’s food safety regulator has rejected a form of GM corn that is legal to use in New Zealand foods, according to a press release from the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety at the University of Canterbury.

The same product was approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) in 2010.

The new GM corn’s rejection by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) upholds a standard set by the international food safety guidance body known as Codex. This requires assessments of GM foods to be made with reference to the conventional food it was derived from.

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