News last update:6 Aug 2012

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 lysine
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 scientific journals.
"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 ingredients.

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