Greens challenge criticism of scientists over GM

Last updated 05:00 12/04/2013

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The Government is following a "selective line" in panning research highlighting the way new genetically modified molecules are sneaking into our food, the Green Party says.

A study by Canterbury University geneticist Professor Jack Heinemann and overseas colleagues has shown Food Standards Australia-New Zealand (FSANZ) and other regulators do not require evidence the molecules are safe.

Their peer-reviewed work in the journal Environment International has sparked debate among scientists.

Answering a parliamentary question from Green Party GM spokesman Steffan Browning, Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye claimed there had been "significant" criticism of the study.

She quoted the first sentence of a comment on the Science Media Centre website made by Professor Peter Langridge of Adelaide University slamming the study and accusing the authors of ignoring the science and "ignoring common sense".

Langridge was one of two experts whose critical comments were posted.

Kaye told The Press she considered Langridge's comments were "significant" criticism.

"I am aware of other criticism via the Science Media Centre and in media reports," she said, but did not expand on that.

She said she had confidence in FSANZ.

New Zealand foods containing modified soybeans, such as margarines, chocolate and mayonnaises, incorporate double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) material that some scientists fear can stop human genes from functioning normally.

Browning told The Press he was not satisfied with Kaye's answers.

"She didn't address the issue properly in Parliament, clearly running with something that has come purely from officials. It is a line I'm familiar with ... that is not answering the issues of food safety satisfactorily at all.

"She just dodged the real substance of Jack Heinemann's report."

Browning said he was anxious to see what response FSANZ had to Heinemann's research.

"I will be incredibly surprised if they do anything which would suggest they would put a hold or reassessment on existing material they have approved that has double-stranded RNA in it.

"There's nothing for a consumer to be confident about with the information coming out of FSANZ. To say it will take a few weeks [to respond] shows they don't have the real capacity scientifically to do this work."

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- The Press


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