SafeFood Home

    No. 7 · Safe Food Campaign Newsletter ·July/August 2000

    NZ Council of Trade Unions Opposed to Genetic Engineering

    The following are excerpts from the NZ Council of Trade Unions (CTU) Minutes of the 1999 Biennial Conference:

    Remit 12: Genetic Engineering - Central Amalgamated Workers Union

    "This NZCTU conference is opposed to genetic engineering of any foodstuffs in this country, unless it can be demonstrated by research independent of those involved in the process, that the engineered foodstuffs are completely safe for human use. In the event it is satisfactorily endorsed that genetically engineered food is safe, anyone who is unconvinced must be free to choose through the clear and mandatory labelling of all food products.

    In addition, it is extremely irresponsible of the present government to threaten the international reputation of this country as a producer of natural foods, to ignore the long term damage G.E. will have on our food export trade.

    The CTU supports a moratorium on all genetically-modified crops."


    An Environment Policy Work Group is being set up by the CTU. Their starting point would be:

    • "Extending occupational health and safety issues into the wider community. This would mean extending the traditional union focus on hazards in the workplace to the effect which many of those hazards have in the wider community outside the workplace through discharge of pollutants from the workplace.


    Union members, ask your local union how they're progressing so far.SF

    How dangerous is soy?

    There have been conflicting views expressed recently about the safety of soy protein. In an open letter, two US Food and Drug Administration Scientists wrote the following concerning the recent FDA approval for a health claim for soy:

    We are writing in reference to Docket # 98P-0683; "Food Labeling: Health Claims; Soy Protein and Coronary Heart Disease." We oppose this health claim because there is abundant evidence that some of the isoflavones found in soy, including genistein and equol, a metabolize of daidzen, demonstrate toxicity in estrogen sensitive tissues and in the thyroid. This is true for a number of species, including humans. Additionally, the adverse effects in humans occur in several tissues and, apparently, by several distinct mechanisms.

    This prompted the 20/20 programme that featured recently. There are scientists who support these concerns while others stand firmly behind the safety of soy. The point here is to perhaps research the issue further by looking at whatever studies you can find and make your own mind up.

    A good web site to start this is science_in_the_public_interest/homepage.htmCentre for science in the public interest (CSPI)

    We hope to give you more information on this in the next newsletter.SF

    Aspartame 1

    Consumer Magazine recently published a story claiming that there was little or no credible scientific basis for claims of the health risks of aspartame.

    The article suggested that there is only "one well established health risk". The consumer article failed to point out a number of relevant facts:

    1. Aspartame was approved as a food additive and tabletop sweetener in 1981, only after FDA Director, Dr Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr. overturned recommendations of independent scientists not to allow it. Immediately following this Dr Hayes resigned from the FDA and went to work for the NutraSweet PR firm, Burson and Marsteller.

    2. Professor Ralph Walton from the College of Medicine at Northeastern Ohio University recently conducted a survey of aspartame studies in peer-reviewed medical literature. He found 166 studies that had relevance to issues of safety. Of these, 74 had Nutrasweet industry related funding, and 92 were independently funded. All of the industry funded studies supported the safety of aspartame, whereas 92% of the independently funded studies found some type of adverse reaction.

    In response to one letter from a discerning consumer advocate, the researcher who wrote the article said there is "good" industry funded research and "bad" industry funded research. She did not even consider that non-industry funded research might be credible. In fact, when Green Party MP Sue Kedgley offered her a pile of references (many of which were from peer reviewed scientific journals) into the health risks of aspartame, prior to publication of the article which discredited Kedgley, the researcher simply discounted them as irrelevant.

    By claiming that there is no reason for concern over the safety of aspartame, the Consumer article helps to perpetuate the myths that Monsanto has so heavily invested in creating. . (See article in "Ecologist" June 2000 and "Eating Safely" for more information).

    1 G.D. Searle, which makes aspartame, is a subsidiary of Monsanto | back


    • Avoid buying aspartame, otherwise labelled "Nutrasweet", "phenyllallaline", "Equal".
    • Write to the Minister of Health expressing your concerns
    • SF

    July 2000

© Safefood Campaign