11 Oct 2013

Monsanto seeking GE lucerne approval

9:09 pm on 11 October 2013

Monsanto is seeking to have a new genetically engineered variety of lucerne approved for human consumption in New Zealand.

The agri-chemical giant's Australian operation has applied to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to change the food standards code to allow food derived from genetically modified lucerne, also known as alfalfa.

Farmers in the United States are planting the new variety, which has reduced levels of lignin, allowing them to harvest it several days later and get a better yield.

FSANZ says there are no moves by Australian farmers to plant the new variety, and it's highly unlikely it will end up being consumed there or in New Zealand.

It is calling for submissions on the proposal but says it will take exceptional circumstances for foods derived from the genetically modified variety to end up in the food chain.

FSANZ chief executive Steve McCutcheon says the organisation's assessments show the lucerne poses no threat to public safety and there are no safety concerns for consumers.

Green Party agriculture spokesperson Steffan Browning disagrees, saying he has real concerns about FSANZ giving genetically engineered products not intended for human consumption the green light.