US environmental lawyer Steven Druker warned the Australian government not to follow the US example on GM food policy.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the GenEthics Network and the Organic Federation of Australia, Druker explained that GM plants and food ingredients were approved by the US government despite a lack of proper testing and no understanding of their long-term health effects.
“The US Food and Drug Administration’s decision has been a deceitful attempt to evade the law, confuse the public and get these products on the market,” he alleged.
He went onto say that political pressure to adopt the biotechnology meant that a precautionary principle of long-term toxicological and environmental tests was ignored. Proper testing would take up to 18 years, he revealed, adding that the inadequate testing more often used is carried out by the food manufacturers themselves.
This essential means that without formal testing, the marketing of GM in the US has always been illegal, but widespread because of the pressure agri-business groups and politicians exerted over the US FDA. Alleging this illegality, Druker has led a lawsuit against the US FDA but more rigorous testing has still not been introduced.
In response to Druker’s warnings, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) stressed that FDA approval in the US does not translate into automatic approval in Australia. ANZFA managing director Ian Lindenmayer showed how safety assessment checks were rigorously carried out by its domestic scientists, all according to accepted international principles.
So far, Lindenmayer added, tests on the 20 GM foods applications received by ANZFA have found “no evidence any of these foods are any less safe than their conventionally produced counterparts and that they have all the nutritional benefits.”