Authority ignored corn risk - expert
The Press
(Christchurch) 12/11/09

Trans-Tasman food regulators knew nine years ago of the adverse effects of heating genetically modified (GM) crops, but still approved for human consumption a GM corn now withdrawn from Europe.

A Canterbury University research centre says Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) was aware of the consequences of heating to a certain temperature a high-lysine DuPont-Pioneer GM soybean before its approval in 2000.

Despite that, FSANZ did not carry out heating tests on Monsanto's high-lysine LY038 GM corn or ask Monsanto to do them, it says.

FSANZ refuses to withdraw approval for LY038 corn, which has been in development as feed for animals and was approved as safe for New Zealanders and Australians to eat in December 2007.

The international biotechnology and seed company withdrew an application for its approval in Europe after several nations questioned how safe it was and how well it had been tested. However, Monsanto says the retraction is for commercial reasons.

The Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI) believes the corn might contribute to the causes or symptoms of cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer's disease if it accidentally enters the human food chain.

INBI director Professor Jack Heinemann said there was increasing evidence that heating high-lysine GM foods formed end-products that increased the risk of those diseases.

The authority quoted feeding studies of pigs and chickens in which the soybeans were heated to between 80 degrees Celsius and 105C. That led to a decrease in animal growth consistent with an adverse nutritive or toxic effect.

Thirty-nine pigs required two-thirds more of the GM soybean heated to 80C to 85C to attain the same weight as pigs fed on a control diet supplemented with lysine from conventional sources.

Heinemann said it was "arrogant" of FSANZ to dismiss European authorities' concerns over LY038 corn by saying it had looked at the data and concluded cooking made no difference to safety, "despite never having seen or asked for data on the cooked corn".

FSANZ spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann said Heinemann's assertions that the pig-feeding study showed an apparent decrease in the growth of the animals when processed at some temperatures was not supported by the results.

"In nine of 10 different experimental groups in this study, involving over 300 animals, there was no difference in the feed conversion ratio between any of the diet treatments," she said.

"There was a slightly decreased ratio in only one group receiving the GM soybean processed at the lowest of four tested temperature ranges [80C to 85C].

"At the higher temperatures [85-90C, 90-95C and 100-105C], however, there was no difference in growth between the animals fed GM soybean and those fed a standard diet."

Heinemann said FSANZ was being selective.

"INBI isn't manipulating the facts; it is asking FSANZ to use some," he said. ENDS