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MAF Turns Back Potentially GM Seed

1 May 2002

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry officials have turned back at the border more than one consignment of seed imports potentially contaminated with genetically modified material, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

He said that, contrary to assertions by Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Government did have in place mechanisms to prevent GM contamination of New Zealand while the two-year moratorium on release of GM material was in place.

"It is illegal to import GM seed into New Zealand. MAF are upholding that law and protecting New Zealand from GM contamination."

The government introduced a GM testing protocol for sweet corn in August last year, and MAF intends to introduce protocols on maize, pop corn, and canola later this year.

"Regardless of whether or not there is a specific testing protocol for GM seeds, MAF will investigate the suspected presence of any GM seeds as it would for any other case where there was evidence that importation would breach the law.

"For example, in October last year, a consignment of cotton seed from Australia intended for stock feed was stopped at the border because there were no assurances that the seeds did not contain GM seeds. About one-third of Australia's cotton crop is GM."

Mr Sutton said it was illegal to import GM organisms without approval, and this was clearly explained in the import health standard for seeds for sowing. Most importers took great care to act lawfully and to ensure they meet the import requirements.

He said MAF would publish a discussion document shortly, which proposes the new testing protocols for maize, pop corn, and canola. The maize and pop corn testing protocols are scheduled to start from August 1, 2002, and the canola testing protocol from 1 January 2003.

The discussion document will be open for public submissions till June 21, 2002.

It says that last year, only eight of the 16 species of GM crops approved for commercial planting overseas were grown. Four of them (soybean, maize, cotton, and canola/oilseed rape) made up 99 per cent of the area planted with GM crops.

Almost all GM crops (99 per cent by area) were grown in only four countries: the United States, Argentina, Canada, and China. Another nine countries (Australia, South Africa, Romania, Mexico, Bulgaria, Uruguay, Indonesia, Spain, and Germany) grew much smaller areas of GM crops.

"It is always possible that GM seeds could be smuggled or unintentionally brought into New Zealand through some other unauthorised source. New Zealand's existing biosecurity regulations provide a high level of protection against unauthorised plants and seeds."

Ends

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