Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) today released the final report on its review of food derived using new breeding techniques (NBTs).
The final report was on whether the current definitions in the Code for genetically modified foods were fit for purpose, given recent advancements in genetic technologies said FSANZ chief executive Mark Booth.
Booth said the report was the result of a significant amount of work by FSANZ and included extensive consultation with stakeholders and the community.
"The review found that while there are diverse views in the community about the safety and regulation of food derived from NBTs, many agreed the current definitions are no longer fit for purpose and lack clarity.
Based on these findings, FSANZ would prepare a proposal to amend the definitions in the Code in the New Year said Booth.
This proposal would look at options to strengthen current regulations and make it clearer which foods should be subject to pre-market safety assessment by FSANZ said Booth.
"As with all proposals to amend the Code, FSANZ will consult with stakeholders and the community to ensure they can have their say.
"We understand this is an area where stakeholders have different views and concerns so communication and engagement will be a big part of our consultation process" said Booth.
Professor Rachel Ankeny of the University of Adelaide said the new FSANZ recommendations on food labelling represented a positive step forward, in that a review was overdue on approaches to foods produced using a range of gene technologies and other breeding techniques, given the changing science and diverse market trends in play.
"However, as our research at the Food Values Research Group at Adelaide has revealed, labels have their limits, and what is most important will be engaging with the public about what any new labelling regime will capture and what is not intended to be covered by it".
Ankeny said consumers often assume regulation covers everything that might appear on labels, when in fact many claims are unregulated and are "basically marketing techniques".
Standards such as substantial equivalency to "conventionally produced" products may not be acceptable to many people who are avoiding GM for reasons beyond perception of risk or similar, she said.
"Hence revisiting the advantages and disadvantages of both process and non-process based definitions is an important part of these recommendations that could lead to more engagement and dialogue with the general public with regard to GM food".
Read the report below: