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Government Upfront On Corn Seed

10 July 2002

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs today totally rejected allegations that the government had covered up a release of genetically modified corn seeds in 2000.

"There has been no coverup and there was no evidence of GM contamination in the corn seed," Marian Hobbs said. "For there to be a coverup there needs to be something to hide. There was nothing to hide.

"On December 19, 2000 I held a news conference in which I stated that seed importers had alerted the Environmental Risk Management Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to the possibility of some imported sweetcorn seed being contaminated. I also said at the time that officials would submit a report to the Royal Commission on this matter.

"After further analysis of the imported seed the government was advised that, while there might be minute traces of contaminated material, it could not be reliably detected and nor could it be determined that the contamination was genetic modification. Traces of contamination occur for any number of reasons. The fact that contamination was found was not evidence of GM content.

"It cannot be claimed therefore that GM material was released and there was no justification for removing plants or destroying the corn seed.

"This episode did alert the government to the fact that there were no recognised international testing standards. The government therefore moved quickly to develop new measures to guard against the inadvertent introduction of genetically modified seed. These standards were announced in June 2001 and took effect in August. For the government there are no acceptable levels of GM contamination.

"The decision to set standards for identifying whether there was any contamination was made on the basis of scientific advice and had nothing to do with meeting the concerns of any interest group.

"Nick Hager's conspiracy theories do not match the facts."


Ends

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