Europe rejects GE corn but Australia has 'no concerns'
KELLY BURKE CONSUMER AFFAIRS
November 12, 2009
A GENETICALLY engineered corn authorised by the Australian food regulator as safe for human consumption has been withdrawn from Europe because of safety concerns.
Monsanto has pulled its commercial development application for high lysine LY038 corn, originally intended only as feed for animals, after the European Food Safety Authority questioned the safety studies already conducted by the company and used by Food Standards Australia New Zealand to approve the GE corn in 2006.
Rather than conduct additional research as the European authority requested, Monsanto decided to abandon its bid to introduce the corn to the European market.
FSANZ has subsequently come under attack for its approval of the corn by the University of Canter-bury's centre for integrated research in biosafety in New Zealand. The research's leader, Professor Jack Heinemann, a prominent anti-GE campaigner, said FSANZ ignored the centre's detailed scientific analysis conducted over two years by 10 biosafety researchers and instead ''shopped around'' for alternative opinions which would cast a more favourable light on the corn's safety. Other countries which have approved LY038 include Canada, South Korea, the Philippines and Japan.
Although the crop has yet to be grown here commercially, Monsanto Australia told the Herald there were no immediate plans to withdraw from the local market. The product had been withdrawn in Europe purely for commercial reasons, the Monsanto spokeswoman said, an assertion FSANZ repeated in a statement issued to the Herald yesterday.
''Following a rigorous safety assessment of genetically modified high lysine corn in 2006, we concluded that it was as safe as its conventional counterpart,'' the statement said. ''We have no safety concerns about this corn.''
FSANZ said it had followed the processes outlined by the international food standards-setting body, Codex Alimentarius, which is overseen by the World Trade Organisation.
But Professor Heinemann said Monsanto went against the Codex Alimentarius by using another genetically modified product as the control in its safety studies.
''This violates both international food safety testing guidelines and European rules,'' he said. ''We were the first in the world to point this out and FSANZ chose to ignore it. The European Food Safety Authority didn't.''
The European authority also expressed concern that Monsanto had failed to conduct any tests on cooked LY038, which could cause a chemical chain reaction leading led to a higher level of advanced glycation end products, believed to be pathogenic.
Research recently published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that if ingested, these end products could be linked to cardiovascular and chronic kidney diseases. Earlier research has also suggested a link with some cancers and Alzheimer's disease.
- Australian food regulator accused of ignoring research pointing to failings in the safety studies conducted by Monsanto.
- Monsanto accused of using a GM product as its control, in contravention of international protocol.
- Monsanto failed to conduct safety studies on cooked GE corn, leading to European regulator's concerns consumption could be linked to cancer, heart and kidney disease and Alzheimer's.