How do Monsanto and GMOs Affect Australia?
May 29, 2013
By Sano Mag Staff
GM cotton fields
A worldwide march against Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the weekend has brought the issue of how GM foods affect our health to a head.

What has been particularly notable surrounding the event is just how many Australians are still unaware of who Monsanto are and what the health risks are of genetically modified foods.

So we at Sano Magazine have decided to lay down just what role Monsanto and GM foods have in Australia and on Australians' health.

History of Monsanto in Australia

The US conglomerate Monsanto originally began its operations in Australia in 1928 as a commodity chemicals business, expanding into agricultural products in the 1950s. In 2000, after a company merger and name change (to Pharmacia Corporation), Monsanto Company was formed first as a subsidiary for the company's agricultural business, and then as an independent company.

In 1970, Monsanto introduced agricultural herbicide Roundup. Monsanto is now heavily involved in the Australian cotton industry, grains industry, and horticultural industry. Monsanto's work in Australia includes researching, breeding and producing GM cotton seed and biotechnology products, the introduction of Roundup Ready canola technology, and its Seminis and De Ruiter vegetable seed range.

Australia Grows GM Canola and Cotton Crops

Currently, GM crops that are grown in Australia include canola and cotton. However, a number of other GM foods are available in Australia in imported packaged foods. Where the genetically modified foods are highly refined, made in bakeries, restaurants or takeaway stores, or from animals that are fed GM feed, they do not need to be labelled. GM labelling laws in Australian also allow companies to include up to 1% of GMOs in their products without having to label them, as long as it is "unintentional".

Genetically modified cotton has been produced commercially in Australia since 1996. The cotton grown in Australia is insect resistant and/or herbicide tolerant. Cotton seed oil from GM cotton is often used in cooking, while cottonseed meal is used to feed livestock.

Genetically modified canola has been around in Australia since 2003. Despite initial bans by the states in which the canola was grown, those bans were lifted by NSW and Victoria in 2008. WA also grows GM canola crops. Canola oil is used in margarine, dairy blends and in canned foods and snack foods. Canola meal is also used in stockfeed.

Australia Imports GM Soy, Corn, Rice, Potatoes and Sugar Beet

Imported GM foods in Australia include soybeans, corn, rice, potatoes and sugar beet. GM soybean products are used in numerous processed foods, including bread, chocolate, potato chips, pastries, margarine and mayonnaise, while the additive soy lecithin is used in a variety of spreads, cakes and confectionery.

GM corn products such as corn oil, cornflour and corn syrup are used in snack foods, fried foods and sweets, while GM potatoes are used in snack foods and GM sugar beet is used as sugar in some processed foods. Soybean meal and corn meal are used to feed pigs, cattle and poultry and in supplements for dairy cattle.

Field Trials for GM Pineapple, Papaya, Sugarcane, Wheat, Barley, Bananas, Corn and Rice are also underway in Australia

Meanwhile, field trials of insect resistant and herbicide tolerant pineapple, papaya, sugarcane, wheat and barley are underway in Australia. Gene technology research has also begun on bananas, corn and rice.

What are the Health Risks of GM foods?

It is important to know what effect GM foods have on your health. In 2011, Canadian scientists discovered that despite Monsanto's claims, Bt toxins (which are bacteria used in biological pesticides) found in GM products were actually present in human blood and foetal blood.

GM foods are particularly risky for people who have weak immune systems, autoimmune diseases or pre-existing allergies, as they are more susceptible to the Bt toxins. Genetically modified products can also lead to all three conditions in otherwise healthy people.

Studies have linked GM products to the following conditions:
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Various types of cancer
  • Allergies
  • Lou Gehrig's disease
"GM foods that are highly refined, made in bakeries, restaurants or takeaway stores, or from animals that are fed GM feed do not need to be labelled."