Genetically modified foods contain ingredients derived from organisms which have been genetically engineered. In this very unnatural and experimental procedure genes from one organism are cut and spliced into a totally unrelated species, e.g. bacterial genes may go into food crops. The introduced genes can influence the activity of other genes so the new organism's responses in the environment, and effects on people eating them are unpredictable
Agri-chemical giants Monsanto, have genetically engineered a "Roundup Ready Soyabean" (RRS). The new bean is not cheaper, tastier or healthier, the benefit accrues solely to Monsanto who manufacture the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate). Growers will be able to spray greater quantities of glyphosate without damaging the crop. This will lead to greater residues of glyphosate and its breakdown products in foods and in the water table. Already the New Zealand authorities have been asked to increase the allowable residue level of glyphosate by 200% in imported soya beans.
Inadequate and naive import regulations have allowed GM soyabeans
to be handled, stored, processed and marketed in New Zealand since
October last year. Soyabeans are used in approximately 60% of
processed foods including margarine, salad dressings, biscuits,
cakes, bread and dozens of others, so the consumer is virtually
a guinea pig in a vast nutritional experiment. Monsanto are developing
"Roundup Ready" sugar beet, maize, potato, tomatoes,
cotton and flax. Other GMFs including tomatoes and tomato products,
rape seed, yeast, enzymes including flour improvers and riboflavin,
are coming on the New Zealand market from overseas without any
labeling, and with almost no publicity or information. This is
because the USA, Canada and Japan have accepted GMFs more freely.
Several crop species have been approved so far for field trials
in New Zealand including a crop of rape seed (canola) near Oamaru
which has had to be planted twice since birds ate the first lot
* labeling -The public have a right to know what they are
eating and to have a choice of eating foods free of genetic modification.
If the GMF is assessed as "substantially equivalent"
to the unmodified food because it looks and tastes the same
then it will not require labeling unless the genetically modified
material exceeds 5% of the product. This figure is not based on
any biological or safety grounds. Labeling is also important for
traceability. In the USA 37 people died and 1500 were permanently
paralysed because of a toxin in a genetically engineered bacterium
used to produce the food supplement trytophan. Because the product
was not labeled the US Authorities had difficulty identifying
* Long term and cumulative effects of genetic engineering,
including the introduction of genetic material into sperm, eggs,
pollen, ovules, or early embryos, will almost certainly lead to
irreversible and highly unpredictable consequences in the whole
ecosystem, e.g. a genetically modified pumpkin was so resistant
to natural and chemical controls it spread into surrounding fields
and became an intransigent weed. This failure to invoke the precautionary
principal may also produce serious health problems in humans,
in particular serious allergic reactions to new proteins not encountered
before. The attitude of companies and the researchers working
for them is totally irresponsible and unethical.
Currently the Australia New Zealand Food Association is deliberating on the assessment and labeling of GMFS, Proposal P97. Submissions close on 3rd of April 1997. This does not give you much time but a flood of late submissions would be hard to ignore. Greenpeace is asking for
1. a moratorium on the introduction of any GMFs
2. compulsory labeling of any product derived from, or containing GM ingredients. The ANZFA proposal is complex, unwieldy, likely to be expensive and result in very few foods carrying labeling.
3. mandatory segregation of GMF from conventional food
4. better consultation with the public and increased representation of consumer, health, and environmental groups on the ANZFA. At present it is made up of officials and food industry representatives and meets behind closed doors.
5. ANZFA must adopt the precautionary principle in all
its work. Draw attention to the dangers.
Address of ANZFA is PO Box 10559, The Terrace, Wellington.
An ANZFA representative has indicated that late submissions will be received, and although he was not specific, we imagine that the end of April '97 might be an indicative deadline. In a radio interview, he said that many submissions saying 'we don't want genetically modified foods' have already been received and they would like submissions that will help in forming their final document, 'with scientific information'. This should not stop people giving more support to the precautionary view without scientific backup, however.
Update: On April 3 '97, a group of approx. 70 people, chanting and carrying banners saying no to GMF's marched around the streets of Wellington.
Information for this sheet came from Greenpeace, Private Bag
92507 Wellesley St,Auckland, Dr David Lovell-Smith, NZ Natural
Law Party ph 338 8629 and Guy Hatchard, Director, Natural Food
Campaign ph 09 522 7 052
June 97 article: monsanto recalls GE canola seed containing "unapproved gene"
Editorial by St. Joe Valley Greens on genetically modified corn imports to Europe, and the use of WTO concerns to bully decision makers
Monsanto web site - read their slant on roundup and the soybeans.
Greenpeace demonstration in Iowa
Mutant Soya Latest!
Pure Food Campaign Homepages
Pure Food Campaign Links list.
General ideas on ethical shopping, some of the
decisions required when trying to shop ethically
can be found on the next page.
Just Shoppers' Guide is a guide to
ethical shopping. For further information contact:
The electronic version of Shoppers Guide has been taken directly from the paper version, with the permission of Pat Scott. For further information on the electronic version contact Stuart Sontier