Consumer awareness about GMOs in AUS is on the increase and many consumers are concerned. This page has been developed to provide information to the consumer on issues surrounding GMO and Non-GMO certification. Information is supplied on the following;
DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid and is a complex molecule capable of encoding genetic information used by all forms of life. DNA molecules are usually shaped as a double helix and can be organised into long structures called chromosomes within cells.
Within a cell, DNA is capable of replication which means, exact copies of the DNA and the coded genetic information can be made and passed into the structure of new cells. Sections of the molecule which contain particular traits and characteristics are called genes.
More information on DNA can be found here http://www.genome.gov/25520880
Genetic Modification (GM) is the use of modern biotechnology techniques to change the genes of an organism, such as a plant or animal. As a simplified explanation, it involves cutting a piece of DNA that bears a particular trait from one organism and inserting into the DNA of the target organism. The objective of this is to provide the target organism with the desired trait from the donor species.
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a plant, animal or other organism that has been changed using genetic modification.
GMO development is accelerating across the food chain and is typically conducted by large, multinational biotech companies. The development is not limited to food crops but also includes animals such as fish and cattle. There is evidence that illegal GMOs have also been developed and released by either governments or organsiations from countries where regulatory control is poor.
GM can change the genes of an organism in ways not possible through traditional breeding techniques which do not alter DNA but rather enhance desired characteristics through a selection process.
Additional information on Genetic Modification can be found here http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Food-and-Agriculture/WhatIsGM.aspx
Many people believe that GM applied to food crops or animal feed crops could have disastrous long term effects on human health and the environment. Others feel that this concern is misplaced.
Australia’s Chief Scientist has made comment on GM Foods here; http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2011/11/genetically-modified-food-explained/
Studies indicate that most consumers would prefer to eat food that has not been genetically modified or fed GM feed. Consumers rely on government legislation and food labelling to inform and advise of GMO content so they can make informed choices.
o Enhanced taste and quality
o Reduced maturation time
o Increased nutrients, yields, and stress tolerance
o Improved resistance to disease, pests, and herbicides
o New products and growing techniques
o Increased resistance, productivity, hardiness, and feed efficiency
o Better yields of meat, eggs, and milk
o Improved animal health and diagnostic methods
o “Friendly” bioherbicides and bioinsecticides
o Conservation of soil, water, and energy
o Bioprocessing for forestry products
o Better natural waste management
o More efficient processing
o Increased food security for growing populations
o Potential human health impacts, including allergens, transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unknown effects
o Potential environmental impacts, including: unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on other organisms (e.g., soil microbes), and loss of flora and fauna biodiversity
• Access and Intellectual Property
o Domination of world food production by a few companies
o Increasing dependence on industrialised nations by developing countries
o Biopiracy, or foreign exploitation of natural resources
o Violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values
o Tampering with nature by mixing genes among species
o Objections to consuming animal genes in plants and vice versa
o Stress for animal
o Not mandatory in some countries (e.g., United States)
o Mixing GM crops with non-GM products confounds labelling attempts
o New advances may be skewed to interests of rich countries
• Biosecurity of natural habitats
o Overuse of glyphosate leads to superweeds and stonger herbicides
o Yields decline over time leading to self-perpetuation of biotech companies
GMO Labelling of food varies around the world from very strict in some countries such as Europe to non-existent in some lesser regulated societies. Australian regulations are developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and have been described as comparatively (to other countries), medium to low strength in regard to GMO labelling.
FSANZ regulations on GMO food labelling (Standard 1.5.2) can be found here; http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Series/F2008B00628
In summary, GM food products on sale in Australia and New Zealand – either as a whole food or as an ingredient in a processed food – must have their GM status declared if introduced genetic material or protein is present in the final food. However, there are exceptions:
– Foods where GM ingredients are highly refined and cannot be detected, such as cooking oils, margarine, sugars, starches, chocolate and baked goods. Many processed foods fall into this category.
– Foods made in bakeries, restaurants and takeaways.
– Foods from animals that are fed GM feed.
– GM labelling laws allow food products to contain up to 1% of GM organisms without labelling it GM, as long as the GM is present ‘unintentionally’ or by ‘accident’.
In Australia, there are currently no approved GM fresh foods, such as fruit and vegetables. Should they ever be approved, FSANZ regulations state that they must be displayed with a tag disclosing their GM status
A summary on GMO food status and regulations in Australia can be found here http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1216977/Factbox-GM-foods-in-Australia
PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction and is a test designed to amplify and identify small sections of DNA. When applied to GMOs, the test, conducted by advanced laboratories, can detect the presence of altered or novel DNA down to 0.01% of the specific ingredient. The test is considered to be the best available for GMO detection but is unable to detect the presence of a GMO where the food is a product where all DNA has been removed. Examples of such foods included highly refined oils and chemicals.
The test involves complex enzyme and organic chemistry and a series of temperature modifications that result in a section of DNA being replicated to a point of being detected using conventional chemistry techniques.
More information on PCR can be found here http://www.uq.edu.au/vdu/PDU_PCR.htm
There is no explicit legal requirement for any food business to conduct PCR testing for the verification of GMO content of food in Australia. There is no routine sampling and testing of imported products that may contain GMOs.
Some food manufacturers wish to adhere to a strict Non-GMO policy which exceeds the labelling requirements of the Food Standards Code. To manage this effectively, the business needs to develop a robust risk management system for the presence of GMO material in their product. They will typically develop strong Identity Preservation (IP) or traceability systems as part of these programmes.
These systems allow the food business to identify and ensure the Non-GMO integrity of their food products and ingredients from source through to the finished product.
The systems are further verified for effectiveness via a system of routine PCR testing for GMOs for all risk ingredients.
Some businesses make claims (such as Non-GMO) based on the fact that they have such programmes in place.
Our Non-GMO certification programme offers businesses the opportunity to have their Non-GMO system reviewed, challenged and audited against a leading standard of this type. The basis of a robust Non-GMO programme is Identity Preservation (IP) to ensure the exclusion of GMOs from products through separation, segregation and traceability back to a conventional source supported by DNA testing.
Non-GMO certification is based on a threshold of 0.1% max Australian authorised GM presence. FSANZ permits up to 10 times this amount before declaration and labelling is required.
Companies and products that bear the certification mark have achieved an appropriately high standard of verified control for Non GMO presence in the products.
An organisation that opts for our Non-GMO certification means they have invested a lot of time and effort and are thus serious about protecting the supply chain and responding to consumer needs. They are not only keen to demonstrate legal compliance but also support consumer choice for discerning Australian consumers.
By choosing products that bear the certification mark, a consumer can be assured that the product is truly Non-GMO sourced.
The directory and logos on this website provide links and information on companies that have achieved this certification.