Independent tests on GM canola varieties (1/12/2005)

GM-canola in lab tests
By Linda Sharman
Countryman December 1 2005 pg 5

Genetically modified canola varieties Roundup Ready and Invigor are likely to be assessed under an animal feeding trial to be funded by the State Government.

And Topas 19/2, the Bayer variety found in non-GM canola recently, may also be added to the trial.

Agriculture Minister Kim Chance anounced the trial earlier this week, which aims to gain independent data on the safety, or otherwise, of GM food crops.

The Government has approved a proposal from the Institute of Health and Envirronmetal Research in Adelaide, a not-for-profit research institute which describes itself as having a scientific interest in the safety of GM organisms.

The announcement follows news that a study on a variety of GM pea caused inflammation of the lungs of mice.

IHER director Judy Carman told Countryman that in the initial proposal put to the Government a few months ago, she had recommended two canola varieties - Monsanto's Roundup Ready and Bayer Cropscience's InVigor - and three corn varieties, probably Bt varieties, be investigated.

But Dr Carman said she would recommend that now be expanded to three varieties to include Topas 19/2, also produced by Bayer Cropscience.

"We're wanting to pick a few key GM plants where there are some significant concerns about the safety of them, do the independent, thorough, long-term safety testing and see if there are any concerns or not," she said.

Dr Carman said while IHER believed there was a need for independent safety testing, with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand not requiring any animal testing before determining if a GM product was safe to eat, she stressed the research was not setting to get a pre-determined result.

"We're trying to work out if there are problems or not," she said.

And Mr Chance is of a similar view, saying the trial would be an independent study of GM food crops so that the WA government could gets its own data on GM foods, with much of the research usually done or funded by the companies promoting the product.

Rats will be used in the feeding studies, which will be conducted over several months to allow for any ill health to become apparent.

The study will examine the rats for any cancerous or precancerous growths, and assess the potential for GM DNA to enter their bodies, although Dr Carman expects the finer details of exactly how the trial will be conducted and assessed to be run by a sterering committee.

This is expected to be formed by the end of the year, and will be made up of 8-10 people from animal and human health and agriculture backgrounds to oversee the work and ensure the experiment is conducted properly.

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