Are Australian food crops genetically modified?

People are concerned about the safety of GM foods and often ask us whether products such as soy are genetically modified. We looked into what products in Australia are GM or have GM ingredients and found that for those of us following a whole food plant-based diet there is little to worry about.

There are at least 80 different genetically modified crops grown worldwide. However, only three GM crops are currently grown in Australia.

GM cotton: Almost all Australian-grown cotton is genetically modified to resist pests and tolerate herbicides. Cotton seed oil enters the food supply as oils, spreads, processed foods, and livestock feed.

GM canola: About 20% of our canola crops are genetically modified to resist herbicides or produce more omega-3. The oil extracted from the seed is used in oils, spreads and processed foods. The residue is fed to livestock.

GM safflower: The GM variety produces more of the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid. It’s used in industrial processes and fed to livestock.

GM banana: Food Standards Australia New Zealand recently (April 2024) approved a GM banana developed at Queensland University of Technology. The QCAV-4 banana is a GM Cavendish banana with a gene from a wild banana variety, that gives it resistance to the fungal infection, Panama disease. There are no plans to immediately commercialise the QCAV-4 because Panama disease is under effective control in Australia.

Other GM crops: Experimental field tests for other GM crops are ongoing, but none have been approved for commercial production.

The regulations are more complex for imported and processed food. Food Standards Australia New Zealand require all GM foods and ingredients that contain novel DNA or novel protein to be labelled as ‘genetically modified’. Labelling is also required for GM foods with altered nutritional qualities (eg. Higher oleic acid content). Products exempt from GM labelling requirements include oils and ultraprocessed ingredients, that do not differ chemically from the equivalent non-GMO products. Animal products do not require a GM label when the animal has been given GM feed.

Fresh produce grown in Australia and New Zealand is 100% non-GMO. Our grains and legumes, including soy, are non-GMO. The only GMO-derived food sold in Australia are vegetable oils and ultraprocessed ingredients, which are not part of our whole foods, plant-based eating pattern.




Page created 21st June 2024
Last updated 21st June 2024