May 29, 2012
Oils and other highly processed foods should be labelled as genetically modified despite being exempt under Food Standards Australia New Zealand rules says an anti-GM campaigner.
Genetic modification is the process in which an organism’s DNA is manipulated and it is used for several reasons including to create pesticide resistant crops.
GM food is a heavily debated topic and in some countries it remains illegal.
Labelling laws in Australia state two exemptions from GM labelling – highly refined foods and foods with one per cent or less of unintentional GM matter.
Highly refined foods are thought to contain no DNA or protein, thus rendering them non-GM.
However, Gene Ethics Executive Director Bob Phelps said that was not necessarily the case.
“The position of Food Standards Australia New Zealand is that, in principal at least, the process of producing oil should remove DNA and protein even though it doesn’t,” Mr Phelps said.
“Even the companies now can see that there might be some.
“I mean it’s small amounts but it means certain processes like cold pressed oil for example don’t remove all the DNA and protein.
“We also question if that’s the crucial thing.
“These things are identified not only by their DNA and protein.
“It’s something about the profile of the oil as well.”
Patisserie student Muriel Burye said despite learning the ins and outs of the food industry she was not aware of the exemptions in Australia’s GM labelling.
“It scares me and makes me question other products,” Ms Burye said.
She says consumers need full disclosure and GM labelling should be extended to include the labelling of foods that have come from animals that have been fed GM grain.
“If you buy organic, they specify if they’ve been grass fed,” she reasoned.
“It should be the same with GM.”
A Food Standards Australia New Zealand spokesperson said highly refined products such as oil were unlikely to require labelling because DNA and protein had probably been removed as a result of processing.
Photo: Shauna Upton