As European and US politicians fail to see eye to eye on the issue of genetically modified foods, one country in the southern hemisphere is getting to grips with tighter GM legislation.
After imposing a one per cent threshold for GM ingredients in food in 2000, the food regulator for Australia and New Zealand - Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)- reports that a new survey shows manufacturers have been sticking to the labelling rules.
The standard requires any food, food ingredient or processing aid produced using gene technology and containing novel DNA and/or novel protein to be labelled as 'genetically modified'. This standard also allows up to 1 per cent unintentional presence of GM food or ingredient in a final food. This compares to Europe's - recently cleared through legislation - 0.9 per cent threshold.
All foods produced using gene technology must be safety assessed by FSANZ prior to release on to the market for human consumption. As such, claims the food regulator, the labelling of GM food is not a safety issue, but one of consumer information. It enables consumers to make a choice about the food the wish or do not wish to eat.
In December 2000 the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council (comprised of Australian and New Zealand health ministers) agreed to a labelling standard for GM food that came into force in December 2001.
The small pilot survey carried out by FSANZ tested 51 samples from the commonly eaten foods containing soy or corn: soymilk (12), cornflakes (7), tacos (4), corn chips (13) and bread (15).
The survey found that all the samples tested complied with the GM labelling standard. The unapproved Starlink GM corn was not detected in any of the corn products tested and where traces of GM material were found, these were from approved GM foods that have been rigorously assessed for safety by FSANZ.
The UK Food Standards Agency has also recently published a report on a UK GM survey. Only 8 of the 91 products surveyed by the UK FSA were found to contain GM material, but all were below the UK's 1 per cent 'adventitious presence' permitted threshold.