You are here

References: MADGE Leaflet ‐ What’s happened to our Food? ‐ Sept 2011

Latest Madge Leaflet - Copies Available to order

If you would like to be sent copies of our leaflet to distribute, please contact us.
Donations are most welcome
to help cover printing costs if you are able to.

Download the 2011 Leaflet here. Below we link through to all the references used for the statements in the Leaflet. If you find any links are not up to date, please let us know


Your food looks, tastes and smells the same but it’s been changed in ways you can’t see. This may have harmful effects on people, especially children: What’s happened to our food?

Companies have Genetically Modified some food crops:

Soy, corn, canola, cotton (we eat cottonseed oil) and sugarbeet. Ingredients from these crops end up in many processed foods and are used in animal feed. GM plants have been changed in two main ways so they can

  • survive being sprayed with weedkiller (herbicide tolerant). This greatly increases the use of weedkillers.
  • kill certain insects that eat them (insect resistant). The GM toxins produced in the plants can’t be washed off

Food Standards Australia New Zealand: GM foods, Applications and current status
Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years Author: Charles M. Benbrook, Chief Scientist, The Organic Center Date: November 2009

What effect could these GM foods have on our health?

Animal feeding trials of GM foods report many negative effects pointing at inflammation, allergy, immune dysregulation, infertility; changes to the liver, kidney, pancreas and spleen.

Genetically Modified Foods Statement, American Academy of Environmental Medicine , 8 May 2009
Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements; Séralini et al. Environmental Sciences Europe 2011, 23:10
Prof Seralini Interviewed About Organ Damage Linked to GM Maize – GM watch film

How has this food been tested and regulated?

The companies that own the GM patents can, and do, restrict independent testing.

Under wraps; Emily Waltz, Nature Biotechnology, October 2009, Volume 27 Number 10
More evidence of Scientific Malpractice in GM assessment process; GM free Cymru

Our food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) conducts a pre-market safety assessment. It does no testing itself, commissions no testing and requires no animal feeding trials. Instead FSANZ relies on the studies done by the companies that own the GM crops.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand: Part 2 Safety Assessment of GM foods.
Is company data used during the assessment of a GM food?
“The responsibility for demonstrating the safety of any new food product on the market lies with the developer of that product….When an applicant seeks approval for a new GM food, they must provide FSANZ with the evidence that supports the safety of the product.”
Why does FSANZ not do its own independent testing of GM foods?
Why doesn’t FSANZ require that GM foods be tested in animals?

A review looking at Conflict of Interest has found that where at least one of the researchers was connected to the GM industry, 100% of peer reviewed studies made a favourable GM safety finding (Diels 2011).

Commercial interests shape peer reviewed articles on GM
Association of financial or professional conflict of interest to research outcomes on health risks or nutritional assessment studies of genetically modified products. Diels, J., Cunha M., et al. (2011). Food Policy 36: 197–203

The latest review of GM safety studies noted their limited number, that most reporting favourable findings had been conducted by the GM companies, and that the debate remains undecided at all levels. (Domingo 2011)

A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants José L. Domingo and Jordi Giné Bordonaba; Environment International Volume 37, Issue 4, May 2011, Pages 734-742

Is GM food labelled?

Rarely. Our labelling legislation is full of loopholes

Food Standards Australia New Zealand Standard 1.5.2; Division 2 – Labelling etc of food produced using gene technology; 4 Interpretation and application; 1 – (c-f)
MADGE submissions to the Blewett labelling review available on the MADGE site under the “About > Key Documents” page: Submission to round 1: 20th November 2010 Submission to round 2: 18th May 2011

and the GM companies have worked hard to ensure it stays that way.

Europe angers US with strict GM labelling, Peter Mitchell Nature Biotechnology 21, 6 (2003)
Monsanto against mandatory labelling of GMO products, M. R. Subramani, The Hindu Chennai, October 10, 2010
Oakhurst Sued by Monsanto Over Milk Advertising by Matt Wickenheiser, Tuesday July 8 2003 by the Portland Press Herald (Maine)
What’s the Problem with Labeling Genetically-Modified (GM/GMO) Foods? Monsanto’s website; Last updated 24 March 2009

The Australian Food and Grocery Council said that if all GM derived ingredients (including additives) had to be labelled most food products would need a label.

Australian Food and Grocery Council SUBMISSION 14 MAY 2010 TO: DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND AGEING IN RESPONSE TO: REVIEW OF FOOD LABELLING POLICY AND LAW Page 44, Table, Option 2: Label when there is any GM use at all... “Most food products currently would attract a label”

Who are the GM companies?

One company, Monsanto, is estimated to own 90% of the world’s GM crops.

The World According to Monsanto – Pollution, Politics and Power; Marie‐Monique Robin; ISBN 978‐1‐87678‐683‐3 Also a film of the same name
Who benefits from GM crops? Monsanto and the corporate-driven Genetically Modified crop revolution; Friends of the Earth International; Jan 2006

Other companies are Du Pont, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta and BASF. These companies also sell pesticides and pharmaceuticals. They began buying seed companies in the 1990s, are still acquiring them and now dominate the world seed market.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand: GM foods, Applications and current status
Seed Industry Structure 1996-2008; Philip H. Howard Assistant Professor, Michigan State University
The world’s top 10 seed companies 2006, , ETC Group 30 April 2007

Monsanto bought 19.9% of WA’s ex‐public plant breeding company InterGrain in 2010. They plan to introduce GM wheat into Australia.

InterGrain collaborates with Monsanto; Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Sept 2010
Intergrain and Monsanto Announce New Wheat Breeding Collaboration 26 August 2010 Monsanto website
Announcing InterGrain and Monsanto Collaboration - InterGrain website 26 August 2010

Reasons to be concerned about eating GM food

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine asked doctors to educate the public to avoid GM foods due to the "serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health".

Genetically Modified Foods Statement, American Academy of Environmental Medicine , 8 May 2009

There is no official monitoring of GM food safety in Australia. FSANZ expects the GM companies to monitor for "existing and emerging risks" and report back to FSANZ.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Consumer information, GM foods FAQ’s, Part 2 FAQ: Is post market monitoring of GM foods undertaken? “There are currently no official mechanisms for monitoring the long-term impacts of GM foods in Australia.” The GM companies are expected to “monitor for existing and emerging risks” of their products."

GM food was first introduced in 1996.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand: GM foods, Applications and current status
The applications began to be approved in the year 2000, but Monsanto indicated that food from various crops had entered our food supply before this time, for example, their GM soy from December 1996:
ANZFA Full assessment report and regulatory impact statement, Subject A338 – Food derived from herbicide tolerant soybeans "Soybeans harvested from these plants have been imported into Australia, and presumably New Zealand, since December 1996."

No studies have been done on the effects of introducing it into the food chain.

Official Committee Hansard, Senate, Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Estimates (Supplementary Budget Estimates) Wednesday 22 October 2008. CA 112, pdf page 116
"Senator SIEWERT—Okay. Just to clarify, there is no post‐approval review of any of the products that you have already approved?
Dr Brent— There is no post‐market monitoring per se. There were attempts in the UK to do some research on this issue. The UK Food Safety Authority or agency actually commissioned some research to see how difficult it would be to do post‐market monitoring on GM foods. I think the result of that and the consensus was that it was virtually impossible to do that sort of work. I think the UK spent almost £1million on that research and it was dropped.
Senator SIEWERT—Thank you."

What can I do?

  1. Ring food companies and ask them to source GM free ingredients. If they say they only use ingredients approved by FSANZ or with no GM DNA or protein, it may mean they use ingredients derived from GM plants or processes. Ask them to use only GM free ingredients. Ask them to source eggs, meat, milk, cheese fish and honey from animals fed GM free feed. Only GM cotton and canola are grown here. Australian fruit, vegetables and cereals are GM free. Shop carefully, buy from trusted companies and farmers, buy organic.
  2. Contact politicians to ask for:
    • Full labelling of any ingredient derived from a GM crop or process
    • A regulation system based only on human health

    Food Fears, Background Briefing, Radio National 18 April 2010
    FOOD STANDARDS AUSTRALIA NEW ZEALAND ACT 1991 (current 1 March 2001, amendments up to Act No. 121 of 2010) Section 3: Objects of the Act and Section 18: Objectives of the Authority… [Note the competing trade interests]
    3) Object of Act The object of this Act is to ensure a high standard of public health protection throughout Australia and New Zealand by means of the establishment and operation of a joint body to be known as Food Standards Australia New Zealand to achieve the following goals:

    • (a) a high degree of consumer confidence in the quality and safety of food produced, processed, sold or exported from Australia and New Zealand;
    • (b) an effective, transparent and accountable regulatory framework within which the food industry can work efficiently;
    • (c) the provision of adequate information relating to food to enable consumers to make informed choices;
    • (d) the establishment of common rules for both countries and the promotion of consistency between domestic and international food regulatory measures without reducing the safeguards applying to public health and consumer protection.

    18) Objectives of the Authority in developing or reviewing food regulatory measures and variations of food regulatory measures

    1. The objectives (in descending priority order) of the Authority in developing or reviewing food regulatory measures and variations of food regulatory measures are:
      • (a) the protection of public health and safety; and (b) the provision of adequate information relating to food to enable consumers to make informed choices; and (c) the prevention of misleading or deceptive conduct.
    2. In developing or reviewing food regulatory measures and variations of food regulatory measures, the Authority must also have regard to the following:
      • (a) the need for standards to be based on risk analysis using the best available scientific evidence; (b) the promotion of consistency between domestic and international food standards; (c) the desirability of an efficient and internationally competitive food industry; (d) the promotion of fair trading in food; (e) any written policy guidelines formulated by the Council for the purposes of this paragraph and notified to the Authority.

    3) A freeze on GM approvals and an independent review of GM ingredients currently in our food.

    What’s the alternative to GM crops?

    GM breeding is very recent. GM crops have been linked to superweeds,

    Super weed that can’t be killed. ABC news (USA) 6 Oct 2009
    Gene amplification confers glyphosate resistance in Amaranthus palmeri Todd A Gaines et al; PNAS January 19, 2010 vol. 107 no. 3 1029-1034

    plant pests and diseases,

    More experts raising concerns over Roundup, watch, 13 August 2011‐experts‐raisingconcerns‐over‐roundup
    Research links Roundup to root fungus by Cathryn Wellner, 15 August 2011, Care2

    pesticide related illnesses and birth defects in GM growing areas.

    Roundup and Birth Defects: is the public being kept in the dark? Earth Open Source June 2011

    Working with natural systems (agroecological agriculture) has doubled yields in Africa.

    Report: Agroecology and the right to food Olivier de Schutter, UN special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
    Agroecological farming 'can double food production in Africa over next 10 years' Tom Levitt, The Ecologist, 8th March 2011

    Food availability increases when there is adequate storage, transport and reduced food waste.

    International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development

    We need farming systems that protect the land and farmers and produce healthy food for everyone. References PDF version: September 2011