The Green Party is calling on Food Safety Minister Annette King to veto a recommendation from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to approve a genetically engineered corn for animal and human use, given the evidence that the corn could pose a significant health risk to New Zealanders.
The corn, High-Lysine Corn LY038, is produced by seed giant Monsanto, who have applied for its release in New Zealand to be used in animal feed. They are also applying for approval for use of the corn in human food. The corn has been genetically modified to contain levels of the amino acid lysine at substantially higher levels than found in other corn varieties.
"It is alarming that this corn variety is so close to being approved for release in New Zealand. While Monsanto insists it will only be used for animal feed, they concede that this corn may also indirectly enter the human food chain and are therefore applying for its approval as a human food so that they don't have to keep it separate," Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.
"Lysine itself is not a health risk, but when high levels are cooked in combination with sugars, which are also present in the corn, compounds called AGEs are produced which have been implicated in causing Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and several other serious health conditions.
"Despite the fact that the food risks of cooking lysine and sugars are well known, FSANZ made no effort to evaluate what the health impacts would be if LY038 were to enter the human food supply and be cooked," Ms Fitzsimons says.
"In its submission on the draft report, the Centre for Research in Biosafety at Canterbury University identifies numerous ways that animal feed could either inadvertently or deliberately end up being consumed by humans. Given these risks, FSANZ's assessment is totally inadequate," Greens' Health and Food Safety Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.
"New Zealand is already struggling with epidemic levels of diabetes. To approve the release of a substance that could end up in the human food chain, and once there, could contribute to this condition, runs counter to basic common sense.
"The Greens are demanding to see thorough and independent testing of the impact of this GE corn on human health. The Centre for Research in Biosafety reports in its submission that the testing procedure for this corn deviated from the recommendations of international food safety bodies, including the World Health Organisation - and failed to meet FSANZ's own declared standards," Ms Kedgley says.