On 15 February 2018, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) released a paper designed to review and consider how the Food Standards Code (the Code) applies to a number of new breeding techniques (NBTs). Specifically, bearing in mind the Code definitions of ‘food produced using gene technology’ and ‘gene technology’, the paper asked:
- whether the current definitions remain fit-for-purpose given the emergence of newer
genetic modification (GM) techniques
- whether subjecting NBT-derived foods to pre-market safety assessment and approval
is justified in terms of risk.
The review did not consider labelling issues, although it is known that some in the community would welcome an end to the labelling of foods that have been derived using genetic modification.
Once the review is complete FSANZ will decide whether to prepare a proposal to amend the Code. Any subsequent proposal to amend the Code will be a separate process involving additional public consultation.
The NBTs being considered were set out in the paper according to the type of outcomes they produce in the genome of the organism from which the food for sale would be obtained.
1. The genome contains new DNA
2. The genome is unchanged by gene technology (designated as null segregants)
3. The genome changed but no new DNA (known as genome editing)
Elaine Attwood, on behalf of Consumers SA, put in a submission providing our views on the six questions posed in the paper. Some of the concerns expressed by Elaine were acknowledged in the Review’s Preliminary Report. For example on the questions posed concerning risk and safety, our submission said:
‘NBTs are still not fully understood and/or their consequences fully known. Therefore it is essential that any application to use NBTs in the production of food for humans and animals should be considered on a case-by-case basis, as is the present situation.’
Similarly, on the issue of the genome containing new DNA, CSA’s comments were:
‘Whenever and wherever a new piece of DNA is inserted unto the genome, pre-market safety assessment and approval for any food for sale from it should be required. There should be no exceptions.’
A selection of views from other submitters are also mentioned in the Preliminary Report.
Although labelling of GM food was not to be addressed in the paper, many submitters raised it as a concern. The following comment is an example from one person with regard to labelling:
‘It is essential that all forms of genetic modification including CRISPR and ZFN are subject to regulatory control and are thoroughly tested for safety and unwanted effects before being approved for use. In the case of GM food material including ingredients, labelling of the GM content should be mandatory, to give consumers the choice of purchasing or not. There are various justifiable reasons for people to avoid GM food: many are unconvinced of their safety and lack of long-term effects, others find GM techniques abhorrent in principle.’
The consultation paper: Food derived using new breeding techniques, is available from the FSANZ website at:
The Preliminary Report is available from the FSANZ website at:
Elaine anticipates that a final report, including recommendations informed by the consultation process, will be released in early 2019.