June 2024 Newsletter

GM-Free Australia Alliance advocates for food and farming free from

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Dear Nina 

Thank you for your interest in clean GM-Free food for Australia. 

Welcome to our EOFY Appeal June 2024 newsletter! This month we explore GM wheat in Australia and overseas. A media statement has also been released by FSANZ about the avian influenza (bird flu) and what it means. We dive deeper into what gene editing is and we have Part 4 of the corn situation in Mexico. 

Below is also a selection of products from our growing GM-Free True Food Guide.

As we power ahead with the work of collating and verifying over hundreds of GM-Free products for our upcoming GM-Free True Food Guide, we ask you to generously consider donating to help publish our guide. $10 minimum amount.

DO you WANT a 2024 Shopping List of GM-Free products, which you can use immediately to help substitute any GMOs you may have in your current diet?

Our 2024 GM-Free Shopping List will be in hard copy and published very soon on our website in a downloadable PDF and printable format, so you can take it shopping with you and share it with your friends!

Please consider a tax deductible donation if you can, and help us keep increasing the number of products in our Guide and keep fighting for a GM-Free Australia.

Say NO to GMOs by sending us photos of the labels of your favourite GM-Free Foods to add to our list at truefood@gmfreeaustralia.org.au

Thank you to all those who have donated to us!

Please Donate

GM-Free Company of the Month is Real Foods Corn Thins Pty Ltd

It is the policy of Real Foods to ensure that every product manufactured is free from Genetically Modified Ingredients.
Real Foods have asked for and received assurances from our suppliers of maize, soybeans, rice, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, sesame seeds, chia seed, seasonings and sunflower oil that none of the products sourced from them contain genetically modified organisms.
Maize and soybeans are the foods most subject to genetic modification in the United States and are therefore of primary concern. None of our Maize or soybeans are sourced from the United States. Real Foods have implemented a rigid Vendor Assurance Program, requiring written confirmation from each supplier, that the ingredients supplied are free from Genetic Modification. Further to this, we conduct random sampling of our raw materials and have these samples tested by an independent laboratory to confirm the genetic status of the raw materials purchased, are GMO free.
Real Foods recognises that this issue is of concern to many worldwide. We strongly support the principle that the consumer has the right to make an informed choice as to whether they wish to consume foods containing genetically modified ingredients. We therefore support full and comprehensive labelling of all food products containing genetically modified ingredients.
We will continue to make regular, ongoing inquires of our suppliers in order to stay informed of the possible presence of any GMO ingredients and if necessary, to switch our source of supply so that those products which are GMO-free remain so.
https://www.cornthins.com/en/about-us

GM wheat

In a joint document,[1] organisations from Asia, Africa, and Latin America state that HB4 GMO wheat from the Bioceres company has not been tested for safety and is less productive than conventional wheat. This story is reported by the Argentine journalist Dario Aranda in a Spanish-language article in the publication Pagina12. The following report is largely based on Aranda’s article.  

The organisations, from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, denounced the harmful effects of GM wheat, which is already being consumed in Argentina and threatens to reach other countries. In a detailed 14-page document, social movements, peasants and indigenous peoples requested the intervention of United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs due to the risks to food, health and the environment posed by the GMO produced by the Bioceres company. They affirmed that there are no independent studies confirming its safety, denounced the dangerous herbicide glufosinate ammonium, which it is engineered to tolerate, and stated that the GM wheat is less productive than conventional wheat (GMWatch, 2024)

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has assessed an application made by Trigall Genetics seeking to permit the sale and use of food derived from a new food produced using gene technology: wheat line IND-00412-7. This wheat line has been genetically modified for drought and herbicide tolerance (glufosinate). FSANZ approved the draft variation on 27 April 2022.

Food derived from wheat line IND-00412-7 may enter the Australian and New Zealand food supply as imported food products. These may include flour, bread, pasta, biscuits and other baked products. Permission to cultivate wheat line IND-00412-7 or to import viable seeds into Australia or New Zealand would require prior regulatory assessment and approval by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR)2 in Australia and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)3 in New Zealand. No such permissions currently exist.

A GMO-Free sliced super seeds sourdough bread

The safety assessment of wheat line IND-00412-7 is in Supporting Document 1 (SD1). No public health and safety concerns have been identified. Based on the data provided and other information, food derived from wheat line IND-00412-7 is considered to be as safe for human consumption as food derived from conventional non-GM wheat cultivars (FSANZ, 2022).

FSANZ is not aware whether food products containing HB4 wheat are currently on the market in Australia or New Zealand. FSANZ’s approval of food derived from HB4 wheat does not mean it is permitted to be cultivated in Australia or New Zealand. Permission to cultivate the wheat line would require separate regulatory assessment and approval by the Gene Technology Regulator in Australia or by the Environmental Protection Authority in New Zealand. While no GM wheat has been approved for commercial cultivation in Australia or New Zealand, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) is currently assessing an application for a license to grow HB4 wheat in Australian field trials.

Recently, “A research breakthrough from the University of Adelaide, South Australia, has identified molecular pathways that could help influence the flowering time of wheat without sacrificing yield with an early flowering time.” They are hoping to see boosts to yield as a result of the project.

Dr Scott Bode’s, a future fellow at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, “research team is now furthering its work with field trials at the University’s Research Enclosure to test for performance of the gene-edited lines under field condition”. (Heard, 2024)

We disagree and believe that the wheat should not be approved without the proper checks and balances, and is less productive than conventional wheat. We do not believe that they are as safe as conventional non-GM wheat cultivars. We believe that there is plenty of international evidence that the University of Adelaide should be reviewing before putting any seeds in the ground which could contaminate any local GM-Free crops. 

Bill’s Multi fruit Bread, Bill’s Super Seeds, Bill’s Multigrain Bread, Bill’s Spelt Bread, Zafarelli Spaghetti, Honest to Goodness Organic Instant Noodles, Garlic and Pepper, Tom Yum and Kimchi and Byron Gourmet Pies are all GM-Free.

Notes

1. The document is available in SpanishPortuguese, and English. (GMWatch, 2024)

References

(Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), 6 May 2022) 199-22 Approval report – Application 1232. Food derived from drought-tolerant and herbicide-tolerant wheat line IND-00412-7 A1232 Approval Report final.pdf (foodstandards.gov.au)

(GMWatch, 28 February 2024) Organisations around the world warn of GM wheat risks and low yields. Organisations around the world warn of GM wheat risks and low yields (gmwatch.org)

(Heard, Gregor, Thursday, 6 June, 2024) Adapting wheat to climate change. Farm Weekly.


Media statement on avian influenza (bird flu) and food safety from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) – 14 June 2024

Avian influenza (bird flu) is not a food safety concern and it is safe to eat properly handled and cooked chicken meat, eggs and egg products.

There is no evidence to show the virus can be transmitted to people through properly prepared food. 

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) CEO Dr Sandra Cuthbert said Australia’s world-class biosecurity and food regulation systems ensure the safety of the food supply.

“Farms affected by bird flu have been quarantined and the movement of animals and products restricted,” Dr Cuthbert said.

“Poultry flocks affected by bird flu are being destroyed as part of the emergency response to contain the disease as it is highly contagious in poultry. This approach is to restrict the spread of the disease between birds, not to manage food safety.

“For animal products to be sold as food, animals must not be a source of food safety concerns. All retail products must meet strict food safety production requirements.

“Together, biosecurity and food regulation measures provide confidence in the safety of the food supply.

“Consumers can be assured poultry and egg products on sale are safe to eat, noting consumers and food businesses should always follow good hygiene practices when handling and preparing food.”

It is always important to ensure proper storage, handling and preparation of food to reduce food safety risks (FSANZ, 2024).

We believe that the food is safe and not a safety concern. We thank FSANZ for their clarity on this situation. 

References

(Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ, 14 June 2024) Media statement on avian influenza (bird flu) and food safety from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) – 14 June 2024

Image of chickens Photograph: freeImages

What is gene editing and how is it different from older-style GM and conventional breeding?

Gene editing is a genetic modification procedure that (most often) begins with the creation of a break across the double strands of the DNA at a particular targeted location in the genome. The creation of a double-strand DNA break triggers DNA repair mechanisms which, depending on the gene editing experiment setup, can lead to genetic material being added, removed, or altered at this location.

It is the targeted nature of the double-strand DNA break and resulting genetic modification that gives rise to claims that gene editing is precise. The ability of gene editing to target the location of the modification contrasts with older GM techniques, where the GM gene(s) are inserted at locations in the genome in a semi-random fashion.

However, that is where gene editing’s precision ends. The break in the DNA is then mended by the cell’s own repair machinery. The DNA repair process following the creation of the double strand DNA break by the gene editing tool (such as CRISPR/Cas) is inherently imprecise. (See the added section below this article for an explanation of how the language used to describe gene editing has misled people regarding its supposed precision.)

On the one hand, the imprecision in DNA repair is exploited to destroy the function of a native gene, as intended. On the other hand, it can result in unintended DNA damage (mutations) at genomic locations other than the one being targeted (off-target mutations), as well as giving rise to unintended mutations at the intended edit site (on-target mutations) (Prof. Antoniou, M. & Robinson, C., 2024)

For further reading What is gene editing and how is it different from older-style GM and conventional breeding? (gmwatch.org)

References

(Prof Antoniou, Michael & Robinson, Claire, 25 February 2024). What is gene editing and how is it different from older-style GM and conventional breeding? GMWatch. What is gene editing and how is it different from older-style GM and conventional breeding? (gmwatch.org)

Image of damaged DNA chain Photograph: GMWatch
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Part 4: The pushback on growing GM corn in Mexico continues

Since Mexico imposed its restrictions on genetically modified (GM) corn in tortillas last February as precautionary measures to protect public health and corn biodiversity, the United States government has repeatedly justified its challenge to the policies under the countries’ trade agreement with the claim that Mexico’s policies are not based on science.

As the Mexican government notes in its 200-page response, “Far from there being a consensus on the safety of GMOs, scientific evidence points to various negative effects on health, on native corn and on the environment, derived from the cultivation and consumption of GM corn.” (119 –quotes from the document are italicized and cited here by their numbered paragraphs since pagination is different in the English and Spanish versions).

In the interest of offering a readers’ guide to this long and technical document, IATP highlights here some of the most important points. We include some quotes in the text and at the end from key academic, civil society and government leaders, who have been instrumental in the decades-long effort to stop GM corn and its companion herbicide glyphosate.

Real Foods Corn Thins Pty Ltd an Australian company producing GM-Free product. GMFAA recommends buying Australian and GM-Free.

Risks from direct consumption of GM corn: 13 pages of evidence that GM corn, particularly insect-resistant Bt varieties, poses potential health risks to humans through damage to the intestinal tract and other organs.

  • The section includes 66 academic references from peer-reviewed journals. (A partial list is included at the end of this article.)
  • The documented risks arise from: direct exposure through foods; epigenetic changes that can be passed to the next generation; increased antibiotic resistance; and reduced nutritional content.
  • Many studies highlight the increased risks in Mexico for a population that consumes 10 times the amount of corn as we do in the U.S. and does so in tortillas and other minimally processed forms that represent a very different scale of dietary exposure than we face in the U.S.
  • “Given the fundamental importance of corn as everyday staple food in Mexico, the population in Mexico is highly exposed and vulnerable to these risks due to the amount of corn grain consumed directly on a daily basis in the form of tortilla and other foods made with nixtamalized flour and dough.” (24)
  • “Although the United States has attempted to trivialize and dismiss this body of scientific evidence, Mexico’s assessment indicates that the risks are real and of particular concern to human health in Mexico.” (382)(Wise, 2024)

 “The Canadian government is trying to force Mexico to drop its restrictions on using genetically modified corn for making traditional foods. Mexico is a sovereign nation with the right to determine the future of its food supply and its needs to take action protect native corn from GM contamination,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) which published a response today to the Canadian government’s arguments.(3)

In its written submission to the trade dispute panel, Canada states its agreement with US government arguments that GM corn is safe for Mexican consumption. However, CBAN’s response argues that the science supports Mexico’s precaution, in particular because of the reliance on minimally processed corn in the daily diet of most Mexicans.

Mexico already bans the cultivation of GM corn but a Presidential Decree of February 13, 2023 restricts some uses of GM corn for human consumption, in particular the use of minimally processed GM (white) corn intended for use in dough and tortillas, to make traditional foods such as tortilla. The decree also orders a phase-out of GM corn for animal feed and processed food ingredients. The trade dispute does not challenge the decree’s phase-out of the use of the herbicide glyphosate that was originally scheduled to start on 1 April 2024, but was recently paused (GMWatch, 2024).

Real Foods Corn Thins Multigrain are GM-Free.

NOTES

(3) Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Response to Canada’s Arguments Against Mexico’s GM Corn Restrictions, April 9, 2024 trade response

For background and additional documents see www.cban.ca/trade (GMWatch, 2024)

References

(GMWatch, 9 April 2024) Canada argues against Mexico’s restrictions on GM corn. Canada argues against Mexico’s restrictions on GM corn (gmwatch.org)

(Wise, Timothy, 9 April 2024) Mexico defends GM corn restrictions with science. Mexico’s GMO Ban. The Organic and Non-GMO Report Mexico defends GM corn restrictions with science | The Organic & Non-GMO Report


Our GM-Free Product of the Month are Byron Gourmet  Pies

A selection from our growing GM-Free True Food Guide:

Here’s a selection of products from our True Food Guide which is growing and we thought you might like to look for it on supermarket shelves. Barilla Gluten Free pasta, Barilla Gluten Free Spaghetti, Syndian Baba Ganoush, Syndian Chilli Hommus, Syndian Curried Pumpkin and Chickpea Vegan Bites, Syndian Spicy Smoked Chipotle and Syndian Vegie and Lentil delight are GM-Free.

Our team at GM-Free Australia Alliance Inc. work tirelessly on educating people about the dangers of GMOs, including the next generation of GMOs 2.0, gene editing. We strongly advocate for GMO labelling through the GM-Free True Food Guide.

Join Our Mission

Our mission is to educate the public through the GM-Free True Food Guide to empower all Australians to make healthy GM-Free food choices. We rely solely on the generous donations of people like you, who care about the health and sovereignty of the food that you and your family eat.

Help the GM-Free Australia Alliance, help keep GM-Free foods out of the food supply, improve health by remaining GM-Free, and especially feed our children and babies with the best GM-Free food and produce.

The GM-Free True Food Guide Project can only succeed with adequate funding and enough volunteers to make it happen. We need your financial support to do it and to continue our vital job of advocating for a GM-Free Australia every day.

Help support the publication of the

2024 GM-Free Shopping List!

Act Now

PLEASE DONATE TO THE GM-FREE TRUE FOOD GUIDE! 

It’s been a journey over the past 17 years – educating and advocating for GM-Free farms, foods and futures. We’ve influenced public sentiment to demand labelling of GMOs, voice concerns and help grow awareness of GM-Free products all over Australia

Now we need your support to educate and empower the next generation of fighters for food sovereignty and GMO-Free foods!

PLEASE MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTBLE DONATION BY 30 JUNE 2024.

There are an ever increasing number of companies labelling GM-Free and we aim to capture these in the GM-Free True Food Guide. We are continuing to add new products to our ever-growing and now over 300 GM-Free product list. We are now working with other organisations to bring you the full list as soon as possible. Meanwhile we are putting together the 2024 GM-Free Shopping List as an interim offering of reputable Australian products and companies. 

We are currently looking for a social media volunteer for our cause. If you are a student in Communications, it could be a great internship for you. Please get in touch.

To join or Volunteer for our cause, please visit our website to get involved. Follow our Facebook pages, GM-Free Australia Alliance and True Food Network for the latest news, info and campaigns.

In our next Newsletter, look out for more information on the 2024 GM-Free Shopping List, the GM-Free True Food Guide and more stories on the push to keep food and what we put in our bodies is free from the known and unknown harms of genetic modification.

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We rely solely on the generosity of donations and volunteers to support our work. Every contribution you make counts and adds your voice to the power of our collective voice in Australia saying loud and clear:

NO to GMOs!

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Working for a GM-Free Australia

GM-Free Australia Alliance advocates for food and farming free from

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)!

We oppose the genetic engineering, editing, modification & manipulation

of living organisms.

Please Donate

Yours in True Food Freedom, 

GMFAA Committee of Management

GM-Free Australia Alliance Inc. 

http://www.gmfreeaustralia.org.auinfo@gmfreeaustralia.org.au
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