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Contamination Testing Needed Urgently

01 May 2002

New Zealand must urgently introduce testing for all crops and seed imports which could be contaminated with GE, in light of the Mexican maize contamination crisis, Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

"It's an indictment on the Biosecurity Minister that nothing has been done to check for contamination of most types of imported seeds or planted crops, including maize and canola which have been the subject of big GE contamination scandals overseas," she said.

The Mexican Government confirmed last week that there was massive GE contamination of their maize crops, despite a ban on planting GE maize. In some places, up to 35 percent of maize contained transgenic DNA and contamination was found in 95 percent of sites tested.

"No-one can say for sure whether contaminated crops have been planted here or not. It's a disgrace."

"The then Minister of Biosecurity Marian Hobbs recognised the risks back in December 2000, but only one seed testing programme was put in place for this growing season - for sweet corn.

"Now I've learnt from a Parliamentary Question that this testing programme did find a shipment of sweet corn that was contaminated by GE, which was subsequently destroyed."

Ms Fitzsimons said she was deeply concerned that other types of contaminated seed could be slipping in.

"Unfortunately I have a sneaking suspicion that there are many in the biotech industry, and perhaps even some in Government, who would like to see our current GE-Free status destroyed by contamination.

"The Government's complete lack of action in this area shows how much they care about New Zealand being GE-Free - not a toss. That's why they're planning to lift the moratorium on commercial release next year and why they care so little about contaminated crops sneaking through our borders."

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