by Chris Griffith
Published 11 March 1996 in The Courier-Mail
The editor of consumer publication Eco-Consumer, Dr Dick Copeman, said pig growth hormone (PST) was now used by pig farmers in every state.
"Australian consumers are 'guinea pigs' for the rest of the world as PST has been approved only in Australia," he said. "Yet no mechanisms exists to monitor the effects of PST-treated pork on humans."
Yesterday the Gene Technology Information Unit rejected any claim that the effects of eating hormone treated meet have been inadequately researched.
The unit's manager, Rosanne Ransley, said: "for anyone to suggest that any Australian regulatory authority does not fully research any product that is presented for assessment is nonsense ... and that applies to pork".
Consumer groups are calling for all hormone and genetically treated meat to be clearly labelled.
The Australian Consumers' Association will campaign on the slogan "the right to safe food" at World Consumer Rights Day on Friday.
Hormone treatment is one of two methods currently used or about to be used by Australian pig farmers. The treated pigs grow faster, eat less, and produce leaner meet.
The other method is genetic engineering. The South Australian company BresaGen has developed transgenic pigs containing an extra copy of their growth hormone gene.
Dr Copeman said transgenic pigs also contained a human-derived gene switch which triggered the release of growth hormone when pigs were fed zinc.
He said these pigs, if allowed to grow, could suffer similar effects to overly-tall humans with the disease acromegaly. Inflammation of bone and cartilage produced abnormal joints and difficulty in standing and moving around.
BresaGen's chief executive officer Dr John Smeaton yesterday confirmed his company was ready to sell transgenic pigs on the Australian market.
But he stressed there were no side effects, including allergies, that consumers could suffer.
He said the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee (GMAC) had given BresaGen a certificate saying the meat posed no harms to humans.
On the issue of hormone treated pigs, Dr Smeaton said "possibly thousands" had already been consumed in Australia.
However the president of the Queensland Pork Producers' Association, Terry Reed said "if anything, nothing" of the meat was sold on Queensland markets.
Queensland pig farmers had not endorsed the hormone's use, he said.
"We've stood well back from it," he said. "In fact one of the cooperatives has issued a statement to their suppliers saying they will not accept hormone treated meat."
Dr Copeman said pork producers and the small goods industry should reject any use of the hormone once and for all. "We welcome the commitment of some major retailers and processors not to sell hormone-treated pig meat products."
The state general manager of Retail Services at Coles, Greg Every, said his stores did not sell meat from hormone-treated pigs.
The state meat merchandise manager for Woolworths, Phil Morley, said the chain would not know if it were selling the meat.
"We buy the pigs post slaughter," he said. "It's not part of the specifications to ask .. we are doing nothing outside of industry standards."