Food trials for GM crops

30 Nov, 2005 08:45 PM
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THE State Government will fund animal feed trials to determine the safety of genetically modified (GM) food crops.

Agriculture Minister Kim Chance announced the trials this week and said independent data was necessary for the government to freely determine the safety of GM foods.

"The State Government is mindful that many in the community hold concerns about the safety of GM foods, with much of the research in this area being conducted or funded by the very companies that promote the GM product," Mr Chance said.

"The trials will be conducted at the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER) in Adelaide and will involve rats being fed three GM corn varieties and two GM canola varieties.

"The trials will be long-term feeding studies over several months."

Mr Chance said the GM corn and canola feed samples would be imported from the US, but did not identify which company or organisation they would be sourced from.

He said the rats would be examined for any cancerous or pre-cancerous growths and the potential for GM DNA to enter the rats' bodies would also be assessed.

Mr Chance said it was concerning that news of lung damage in mice in a CSIRO GM pea feed trial had only come to light recently, despite 10 years of research and development.

The inflammation in the mice's lungs was a result of an allergic response to a protein produced by the GM pea.

"There has been concerns for a long time that when a gene is taken out of one organism and put into another the protein expressed by that gene may be different," Mr Chance said.

"The current safety assessments used by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand do not measure this possibility.

"The results of the GM pea study show the need for thorough and independent feeding studies on GM foods."

The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) welcomed the WA feed trials.

NCF spokesperson Julie Newman said the CSIRO GM pea trials had confirmed consumers' concerns about GM foods.

"The CSIRO pea trials were voluntary and found serious health issues with the GM product," Mrs Newman said.

"If they had not done the trials we would never have known the risks of the GM peas.

"Considering GM crops are not recallable once released, we need to be absolutely confident of the GM product's safety before it is released."

But WAFarmers president Trevor De Landgrafft said toxicology trials should be left to the experts so the Agriculture Minister could focus on agronomic GM issues.

"It is interesting the minister wants to get embroiled in safety aspects of GM food which is supposedly the role of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator," Mr De Landgrafft said.

"I would have thought path-to-market issues, segregation and coexistence issues would have been more important to examine than GM food safety as there are already many food safeguards in place.

"There are already scientific bodies in place to do these sorts of trials."

Mr De Landgrafft said WAFarmers questioned why the agriculture minister had chosen the IHER to do the trials, rather than WA¹s own Agriculture Department.

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