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Australia, New Zealand permit sale of GM “golden rice” with GMO labelling

Industry News on Jan 11, 2018

The genetically-modified (GM) “golden rice” developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Manila, Philippines with enhanced beta-carotine to tackle Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) can be sold in Australia and New Zealand now.

While permitting sales of “ golden rice” ( GR2E), the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the regulatory agency insisted on the packaging to have the label, “genetically modified.”
According to a report in FOOD newsletter, the regulator insisted on the labelling because the rice will have novel genes and proteins.

The regulator, however, has not permitted the cultivation of this rice in both the countries.
IRRI had sought regulatory approval for the “ golden rice” to prevent ban of imported rice that may contain traces of the variety. This approvals removes any fear of bans. Also, it forestalls any price increase in imported rice to ensure testing and labelling that the imported rice does not contain any GMO.

“The Institute intends for Golden Rice to be grown in developing countries. Permitting Golden Rice in the [Australian] Food Standards Code would mean if small amounts were present in other shipments of imported rice there would be no trade issues,” ​the regulator noted.

“FSANZ has determined that Golden Rice would contain novel DNA and novel protein, as well as an altered nutritional profile (contains beta-carotene), and would be required to carry the mandatory statement ‘genetically modified’ on the package label,”​ it stated.

“This requirement would apply to rice sold as a single ingredient food (e.g. a package of rice) and when the rice is used as an ingredient in another food (e.g. rice flour, rice milk).​

In 2013 Australia imported 145,370 tonnes of milled rice (representing around 45% of the rice consumed). The main suppliers were Thailand (49%), India (19%) and Pakistan (13%) (FAOSTAT 2017). In the same year, New Zealand imported 42,381 tonnes of milled rice with the main suppliers being Australia (39%), Thailand (26%), and the US (13%).

Regulators are now considering similar appeals on Golden Rice in USA, Canada and the Philippines.