questions + answers
- What is genetic engineering (GE)?
- How does it differ from cross-breeding or other forms of biotechnology?
- Which foods are currently genetically engineered?
- Who is behind GE foods?
- Are GE crops grown in Australia?
- How do GE crops affect the environment?
- What are the health concerns?
- Are GE crops good for farmers?
- Will GE crops feed the world?
- Are GE foods labelled?
- What is organic food?
- Why is animal feed important?
- Does GE food have any health benefits?
In Australia, GE ingredients in food are derived from four main crops:
- imported corn (or maize) and soy; and
- local and imported canola and cottonseed products.
In 2008, GE canola was grown for the first time in NSW and Victoria, and may enter the food chain. Canola oil is used in a variety of processed foods, and canola meal can be fed to livestock such as chicken, pigs and dairy cattle.
Other GE ingredients may also be found in many essential processed foods such as bread, pastries, snack foods, baked goods, vegetable oils, margarine, flours, starches, sauces, fried foods, soy foods, lecithin, sweets, soft drinks and sausage skins.
Soy alone can be found in up to 60% of all processed food, including soy flour, soy oil or minor ingredients such as lecithin.
Corn is also widely used in processed foods — look out for corn starch, corn flour, corn oil as well as more hidden ingredients such as maltodextrin.
The largest use of GE crops is not to feed people directly but as animal feed — fresh meat, milk and eggs may be derived from pigs, cows and chickens fed on GE grains.
The True Food Guide (http://www.truefood.org.au/truefoodguide) lists companies (and their brands) that are avoiding the use of GE food. It also lists those companies and brands at risk of containing GE ingredients since their producers are not acting to remove these sources of contamination. Some companies have taken the initiative to mark food as “non-GE” or “GE free” on packaging.
Fresh vegetables sold in Australia should all be GE-free and organic foods are certified as being GE-free.