Previously known as Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics PSRGNZ - Charitable Trust
Affiliated to the international organisation PSRAST - Physicians and Scientists for the Responsible Application of Science and Technology
As required under the new 2005 Charities Act, PSGR has reregistered as a charitable trust.

18 Apr 2013

Thank you for your correspondence of 2 April 2013 regarding Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s approval of a new genetically modified (GM) soybean (soybean DAS-44406-6).

As you know, on 22 February 2013 FSANZ released its Assessment Report of GM soybean DAS-44406-6.  The Assessment Report finds that this new GM soybean is safe for human consumption and recommends that FSANZ’s approval should be accepted by the Australia and New Zealand Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the FoFR).

It should be emphasised that this approval relates to the safety of this soybean for human consumption.  The approval by FSANZ does not constitute permission for the release of viable GM soybeans in the New Zealand environment.  In New Zealand the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for considering applications for the release of GM organisms.  The EPA has not received any applications for the commercial release of GM organisms, and so there are no GM organisms approved for commercial production in New Zealand.  In addition, under New Zealand’s biosecurity laws all imported GM seed foods and animal feeds must be non-viable (i.e. they cannot be sown to produce crops).  This requirement is enforced by biosecurity officers at the border.

The FoFR has collectively determined that there are no grounds to seek a review of the FSANZ approval.  The FoFR’s decision was publicly notified by FSANZ on 18 April 2013 in the New Zealand Herald and the official New Zealand Gazette.

There are 57 GM food varieties approved for sale in New Zealand.  The safety assessment process for GM foods shared by New Zealand and Australia is well respected internationally, and was subject to scrutiny by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification in 2001.  In its final report the Royal Commission concluded that ‘the Authority’s assessment is independent and that by international standards its methodology is sound’.  FSANZ can and does consider new and emerging evidence about GM foods and can reassess previous approvals if necessary.  To date the scientific evidence has not suggested a need to reassess approved GM foods.

You have raised a number of specific concerns in your correspondence in relation to FSANZ’s assessment of soybean DAS-44406-6.  I note that these issues were also raised in your submission to FSANZ as part of the public consultation process on this new soybean.  FSANZ responded to the issues you raised in its Approval Report, noting in many cases that the studies or issues cited have already been reviewed by FSANZ and other risk assessment agencies and do not warrant further investigation.  FSANZ has also published facts sheets on many of the studies and the scientific issues you raise.

I am conscious that you and your organisation maintain a different position on many of these issues to FSANZ, and I have taken the view into consideration in my decision on soybean DAS-44406-6.  However, I am advised that the clear weight of scientific evidence on the safety of approval GM foods, including this most recent soybean, indicates that they are of not more risk than conventional varieties.

Thank you again for your correspondence.

Yours sincerely

Hon Nikki Kaye, Minister for Food Safety

 

(N.B. See FSANZ reports on http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodstandards/applications/applicationa1073food5541.cfm.)