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Food Standards Authority Defends GM Safety

Earlier this year, a scientific review raised concerns that double-stranded RNA molecules produced in new genetically modified crops could pose a risk to human health. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has responded to the claims by Heinemann et al. (2013) that this gene silencing technology is entering the food supply without adequate scrutiny.

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“The FSANZ response to Heinemann et al. 2013 is well-considered and very thorough. It demonstrates that the risk claims in the article are an overreaction based on dubious scientific evidence about the biosafety risks in plants genetically modified with gene silencing approaches.

“The public can take comfort from two key aspects.

  • Double-stranded RNAs (dsRNA) do not present a new issue for food safety. They are very common in a wide range of organisms, including many fresh foods that have a long history of safe use in our diet.
  • The current approaches used by regulatory bodies, including FSANZ, are sufficiently robust to address food safety of GM products with dsRNAs.”

Dr Tony Conner is Science Group Leader of AgResearch (New Zealand).

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“FSANZ’s report provides a sensible and well-argued counterpoint to Prof Heinemann’s claims, and I find their report very convincing.

“The difference of views expressed by FSANZ and Prof Heinemann spring, I think, from one controversial paper... This paper is disputed, as some authors have criticised the techniques used, and other experiments have failed to find evidence of plant RNAs in animals...We have no evidence that ingested RNAs from food affect human genes.

“[The evidence also shows]...RNA therapies targeting viruses and other diseases, designed to...

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