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New Seed Testing Proposals Russian Roulette

New Seed Testing Proposals Russian Roulette - Greens

07 May 2002

Proposals to check only one-third of imported seed shipments likely to be contaminated by GE are far too lax, the Green Party said today.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) released a discussion document yesterday setting out new border controls for testing seeds for GE contamination, including a proposal to audit only one in three consignments.

"This season, every shipment of sweet corn seed was audited and one contaminated shipment was found and destroyed," said Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"If these new rules had been in place, there is a two-thirds chance that the seed would have slipped through and been planted. That's like playing Russian Roulette with our GE Free environment."

Ms Fitzsimons said she welcomed the discussion paper from MAF, and hoped that the public would participate in making sure the proposals were tightened up further and come into force before the next growing season.

"While it makes sense to focus mostly on countries who grow GE crops, the proposal to exclude other countries from any kind of auditing or testing is too weak.

"There should at least be random testing of corn, maize and canola seed coming from non-GE countries, to pick up any levels of contamination in their crops, or any cross-contamination during transport.

"In addition, we must make sure there are very good paper trails so that countries like the United States and Canada do not have an incentive to route seed exports through other countries, simply to avoid testing requirements."

Ms Fitzsimons said the testing protocols should cover every crop which is known to be GE somewhere in the world. This must include soybeans, even though New Zealand grows only relatively small quantities.

"I'm concerned that there is no proposal to check cotton-seed, despite the fact that a shipment from Australia, which grows GE cotton, was recently turned back because the company did not want to pay for testing."

Ends

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