Minister asked to reject new corn variety
Genetic-modification researchers are pushing New Zealand Food Safety Minister
Annette King to reject a new designed corn they claim could be linked to cancer
and other diseases.
International seed company Monsanto wants approval for the new GM corn,
called LY038, designed to be more nutritious feed for animals. The corn requires
approval as feed because of the risk, considered slight by officials, of it
inadvertently entering the human food supply.
Transtasman agency Food
Standards Australia New Zealand has recommended approval, saying it is safe for
human consumption. Ms King and her Australian ministerial counterparts have
until next Monday to seek a review.
High concentrations of
However, the Sustainability Council of New Zealand and Canterbury University's Centre for Integrated Research in
Biosafety have called for Ms King to use her review powers. They said LY038
contained extremely high concentrations of lysine (an amino acid needed by the
body to make protein) and its derivatives.
"When cooked, these substances
may form chemicals that are strongly implicated in causing certain diseases or
their symptoms, including diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and cancer." Dr Jack
Heinemann, a biochemist and geneticist at Canterbury University, said the two
groups' health concerns were based on high-quality evidence published in
"There is uncertainty about the degree to which it's a
health risk. That's precisely why we are concerned. The uncertainty is large
enough that we don't think it can be just ignored," he said.
Food standards rejects claims
But Food Standards
rejects the claims. The agency had reviewed the scientific literature and found
no evidence of a link to cancer or other diseases. The corn was tested against
non-GM corn, in accordance with the international standards. Ms Buchtmann said
Food Standards had approved 26 GM foods but she had seen few products on shelves
in Australasia whose packages stated they contained GM
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