STOP the sale of GM Golden Rice in Australia
Recently, Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) approved an application (A1138) to permit products containing GM golden rice to be sold in Australia and New Zealand.
We are asking Ministers on the Ministerial Forum of Food Regulation to call for a review of the approval in order to safeguard community health and food sovereignty in Australia and globally.
What is GM Golden Rice?
Golden rice is a genetically engineered line of rice that produces pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene). It was developed by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as a technocratic, quick fix for vitamin A deficiency (VAD) occurring in some countries of the ‘global south’.
What’s the big deal?
1. Golden rice is not as effective as a healthy, varied diet and has less Vitamin A than other food sources such as carrots.
Vitamin A deficiency, and malnutrition in general, cannot be addressed through golden rice or other forms of genetic engineering. It is a socio-economic issue that requires structural changes to improve standards of living and ensure people have access to a diverse range of healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods. Further, a single carrot contains more vitamin A than nearly 4kg of cooked GM golden rice. Vitamin A degrades in storage, which means a person would need to eat 31 kg of golden rice within 75 days after harvest to get the same amount as in a handful of fresh parsley.
2. FSANZ approval will lead to the production of GM Golden Rice in the Philippines, thereby undermining local food sovereignty and democracy.
By permitting golden rice to be sold, FSANZ is thereby supporting the global GM regime that undermines regional food sovereignty. Filipino farmer-led group, MASIPAG have spoken out about how Australia’s decision will mean the Philippines will automatically approve the production of GM rice without democratic participation. They note that there are no studies comparing this rice with locally available Vitamin A rich food or with the government programme of supplements. GM golden rice is set to benefit major corporations, like Syngenta, rather than farmers and communities. Filipino farmers, along with farmers in India and Bangladesh, could be seduced into growing GM golden rice under unfair contracts, rejecting traditional varieties that are nutritionally diverse and suitable for the environment.
3. Products containing GM golden rice will not be labelled appropriately
GM golden rice will not be directly imported into Australia but it has been approved so that a recall is not required if it is found in imported rice. Its status as a contaminant means GM golden rice will also not require labelling. The Australian consumer will be unaware of how much GM golden rice is in their food and what that means for the food’s nutritional properties. We ask for thorough labelling and complete transparency so that consumers are fully informed.
4. FSANZ have not adequately assessed the safety of GM golden rice.
The application to permit the sale of golden rice in Australia has been assessed using unpublished applicant data. FSANZ did not receive, or request, any ingestion/feeding studies with the application, so there are no publications on whether GM rice would cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in children, immune compromised people or the elderly. The Golden Rice crop is unstable, as is shown by the wildly varying b-carotene yields. FSANZ cannot do an adequate assessment on nutritional safety due to this instability, especially in the levels of nutrients and anti-nutrients.
What do we want?
Genetic modification is a powerful technology with potential detriments not yet fully understood, and it should not be permitted in our food system. GM foods are wholly inappropriate given we already have more than enough food to ‘feed the world’ and the means to produce healthy food, utilizing regenerative, agroecological practices.
We are asking the Ministers on the Ministerial Forum of Food Regulation to review the FSANZ approval of GM golden rice (A1138) under section 21 of the FSANZ Act. We ask for comprehensive 90 day feeding trials, peer-reviewed evidence that the GM golden rice can be stored and cooked without nutrient loss, and data demonstrating that the GM golden rice produces a stable level of Vitamin A. We also demand complete transparency and process based labelling so that all products containing potential traces of GM Golden Rice, including highly processed foods like rice bran oil, are labelled clearly.