Currently, the only genetically modified food crops produced in Australia are canola and cotton, but a variety of other GM foods can be imported and used as an ingredient in packaged foods. Foods where GM ingredients are highly refined do not need to be labelled as containing GM products.
Genetically modified cotton has been grown commercially in Australia since 1996.
The cotton has been modified so that it is insect resistant, herbicide tolerant or both.
Cotton seed from GM cotton is crushed to produce cotton seed oil, which is widely used for cooking. Cottonseed meal can be used in stockfeed.
GM canola, modified for herbicide tolerance, was approved for commercial production in Australia in 2003.
However the states in which canola was being grown at the time placed bans -- bans which were only lifted by NSW and Victoria in 2008. WA also currently allows commercial growing of GM canola crops.
Canola oil is used in margarine-type spreads, dairy blends and as an ingredient in tinned and snack foods. Canola meal is often used in stockfeed.
IMPORTED GM FOODS
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), allows manufacturers to use a wide range of GM food ingredients imported from overseas. These include specific GM varieties of soybeans, corn, rice, potatoes and sugarbeet.
GM soybean products are used as ingredients in many processed foods, such as bread, pastries, chocolates, potato chips, margarine and mayonnaise. Soy lecithin (additive 322) is used as an emulsifier in spreads, cakes and confectionery. Soybean meal is often used in stockfeed, particularly for pigs and poultry and in supplements for dairy cattle.
GM corn products can be corn oil, cornflour or corn syrup; used in snack foods, fried foods and confectionery. It is also used for cattle feed.
GM potatoes can be used in processed products such as snack foods. However fresh GM potatoes cannot be sold in Australia.
GM sugar beet can be used as sugar in some imported processed foods
Field trials of pineapple, papayas, wheat, barley and sugarcane are underway in Australia. These products have been modified for insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, color, oil production, sugar composition, flowering and fruit development.
Gene technology research is also underway in Australia on bananas, rice and corn.
GM TECHNOLOGY IN ANIMAL FARMING
CSIRO says researchers are using gene technology to improve the efficiency of animal production. This research, carried out by universities, Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) and CSIRO, uses the natural genetic variation in livestock populations to selectively breed animals that produce more meat, milk and fibre.
Animals can be fed the approved GM products mentioned above.
GM FOOD LABELLING
GM food products on sale in Australia and New Zealand – either as a whole food or as an ingredient in a processed food – must have their GM status identified if introduced genetic material or protein is present in the final food. However, there are exceptions.
- Foods where GM ingredients are highly refined, such as cooking oils, margarine, sugars, starches, chocolate, baked goods. Many processed foods fall into this category.
In Australia, there are currently no approved GM fresh foods, such as fruit and vegetables.
Should they ever be approved, FSANZ's regulation states that they must be displayed with a tag disclosing their GM status.
Foods approved for sale in Australia and NZ by FSANZ (Food Standards Australia and New Zealand)
List by OGTR (Office of the Gene Technology Regular) of current licences for GM foods approved for sale in Australia.