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Canola genetically modified to produce long chain fatty acids

(February 2018)

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has assessed and approved an application to permit food from a canola line that has been genetically modified to produce the omega 3 long chain fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the seeds. FSANZ's decision is currently with ministers responsible for food regulation.

The canola line was developed by CSIRO and Nuseed Pty Ltd.

DHA, which is mainly obtained from eating seafood and marine oils, plays a role in physiological functions including regulating inflammation and immune function, and cardiovascular function.

Read the assessment documents and approval reports

What products can the canola oil/seed be used in?

The applicant has stated that this canola line could provide an alternative source of DHA in products currently enriched with fish oil.

FSANZ is not proposing to permit the use of oil derived from DHA canola in infant formula products. This exclusion is based on a lack of data on the use of DHA canola oil in infant formula products, rather than any safety concern.

How did FSANZ assess the safety of the canola line?

FSANZ assesses GM foods in accordance with internationally established scientific principles and guidelines developed through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Our safety assessment included a nutrition risk assessment and dietary intake assessment. The nutrition assessment concluded that DHA intakes of up to 6 g/day do not pose a health risk. The dietary intake estimates for all population groups in both Australia and New Zealand (which used extremely conservative scenarios) were below the upper limit of 3 g/day.

FSANZ concluded there were no public health or safety issues relating to this DHA canola line.

Read more about how FSANZ assesses GM foods

Will food products containing this canola seed have to be labelled?

Yes, existing labelling requirements for GM foods would apply to food derived from DHA canola. This means that whole seeds, canola oil and meal from DHA canola would need to be labelled with the mandatory ‘genetically modified’ statement because they contain novel DNA or novel protein, or have an altered nutritional profile compared to conventional canola. The labelling information would also apply to unpackaged food products containing food derived from DHA canola as an ingredient.  

Food intended for immediate consumption that is prepared and sold from food premises such as restaurants and vending vehicles is exempt from GM food labelling requirements, but a consumer can seek information about the food from the food business. Information supplied by the food business must not be misleading or untruthful.

Manufacturers seeking to make nutrition content claims about the DHA content of their food product must meet the relevant claim conditions and requirements set out in the nutrition and health claims standard.

Will the GM canola be grown in Australia and New Zealand?

In Australia, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) oversees the development and environmental release of GM organisms. In New Zealand, similar functions are undertaken by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Nuseed made an application to the OGTR to allow the GM canola to be grown in Australia. It was approved on 13 February 2018. 




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