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Australia’s food regulator, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is on the brink of a landmark decision that could change the future of what we eat.
FSANZ is deliberating over whether a range of new plant breeding techniques will be classified as genetic modification (GM).
The group of techniques — known as gene-editing — has been classified in New Zealand as genetic modification.
If not classified in Australia as GM, consumers will not know if they are eating plants altered using these techniques. . .
Environmental group Friends of the Earth is calling for all of the techniques to be subject to more scrutiny, saying they were still hotly contested amongst scientists.
“If these techniques aren’t regulated they are going to be making their way into the food chain unlabelled, and that’s going to reduce choices for farmers and consumers,” Louise Sales from Friends of the Earth said.
The emerging technology has been referred to as “New Plant Breeding Techniques”.
University of Adelaide Professor Peter Langridge chaired a scientific panel that advised FSANZ on the new techniques.
“Probably the technology that’s got most people excited is one called genome editing — ways you can go in and make quite targeted changes to the genetic makeup of an organism by either deleting a gene or modifying a gene in a quite targeted manner,” he said. . .
Professor Langridge said the panel had advised FSANZ some of the techniques should be de-regulated, but others should be classified as GM.