Australia presently does not have any legislation regarding Mutagenicity. This is contrary to advice provided to the OECD in a Joint Meeting on Germ Cell Mutagenicity held back in 1999. The Australian Government have been dormant on the issue surrounding chemicals which cause genetic mutation for the past 20 years. It is time for that to change.
Mutagencity vs Genotoxicity: what’s in a word?
Mutagenicity apparently according to Mirriam Webster online dictionary is, “the capacity to induce mutagens”…
That is a little bit different to what the EPA US in 1984 state mutagens as being; “heritable lesions leading to altered phenotypes“….
I am not a Doctor but they do sound very different. The lack of the word ‘heritable’ and ‘phenotype’ are concerning.
As we have already discovered, the designated Australian regulators, both political and scientific, are dropping the ball when it comes to protecting the Australian public from dangerous chemicals. After looking at the lack of regulation surrounding Cadmium and its far reaching use in Australian agriculture, the organiclifestyle.blog has found another area new and very concerning lack of appropriate action: Germ Cell Mutagenicity.
Recently, a US Judge ruled that Starbucks are required to label their coffee as “carcinogenic” due to the presence of a possible carcinogen called “Acrylamide”.
So, where does this leave Australians?
Back in 1999, the OECD Joint Meeting committee on chemicals requested feedback from Australia in regards to “Germ Cell Mutagens”. Australia omitted from replying. Australia did not even provide a Government Department whom would be considered responsible. EPA, CSIRO, Dept of Agriculture. Nothing! See “Detailed Review Document on Classification Systems for Germ Cell Mutagenicity in OECD Member Countries“pdf here OECD-joint-chemical-meeting-1999
There was a note in the above attached pdf report stating that, ” New Zealand is in the process of adopting a new bill which will replace legislation covering toxic substances… New Zealand is moving toward harmonization with Australia for assessment in many areas (i.e. therapeutics, food additives, pesticides)”. Neither of which have obviously occurred.
Once we had started looking into this ‘grey area’ in genetic science, reinforced by the lack of Australian Legislation, one which even the experts are still yet to appropriately agree on, the now seemingly ambiguous definition of ‘mutagen’ has been effectively converted to ‘genotoxin’ although the two are distinctly different.
The best definition:
Mutagenic: Heritable lesions which changes phenotype expression, US EPA 1984.
Genotoxic: a toxic agent that damages DNA molecules in genes.
Last year, as a result of our articles on cadmium and the largely unregulated industry use of “Super Rock Phosphates“, we have noticed some changes as far as cadmium management in a retrospective effort to try to make it appear to be a genuinely regulated industry. The amount of farmers and members of the general public, including politicians, damaged by the harmful levels of Cadmium is still not founded by scientific investigation. Nor is the actual level of contamination in a widespread areas across Australia.
Where does this leave us? Cadmium is a known carcinogen and are radioactive mutagens which cause cancer.
Currently, Australia has no ‘mutagenetic leglislation’ as promised back in 1999 to the OECD. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as a transnational agency, is heavily referred to by both the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) as there is no legislature to base their limited “Germ Cell” testing requirements. Tests predominately only appear to be looking at damage, or Toxicity, and not true heritable, phenotypical changes. If indeed “reproductive” analysis is required, it only references testing one generation or “offspring” of test subject; nothing further.
Although seemingly extensive, the wording used indicates limited data requirements for “phenotype” germ cell mutations and focuses solely on ‘damage’.
An Industry without Legislation
We have seen some speculative moves recently by several government departments. One that worries us beyond belief is the relocation of APVMA away from Canberra.
The Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Barnaby Joyce, has taken it as his mission in life to relocate the Pesticide and Veterinarian Medicine Agency to Armidale; a locale situated in Barnaby Joyce’s electorate. In doing so, he has effectively gutted the agency as over half of the currently employed are not relocating. To make matters worse, the APVMA website announced ‘rapid assessments’ with a distinct increase in approvals.
With the lack of legislature to adhere to, dwindling numbers at the regulator and hastened vetting process, it doesn’t look good for Australian farmers and consumers alike. Perhaps, the apparent lack of legislation also means that we are years away from receiving warnings about our coffee.
It is time to bring about a change in the way our political parties ignore their inherent responsibilities toward the public regarding chemicals and the effects that they have on the community.
Also, on closing, it would seem to be widespread industry accepted position that “all mutagens are considered genotoxic” but there is no mention on heritable factors in some cases, and therefore, no true value or measurement assigned to the amount of change on phenotypical gene expression.
Blanketing the term “mutagenic” under the broader term “genotoxic” is a dangerous precedent and one that everyone should be more aware of.
By Bryan Stralow, editor OrganicLifestyle.blog