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'Cornfusion' strikes again

The Government’s announcement today that sweetcorn grown in New Zealand, on sale here and exported to Japan, might have been contaminated with GE organisms is of real concern, Green MP Sue Kedgley said.

“It raises the very real possibility that the seed was contaminated with GE in the NZ environment, because the imported seed has twice been tested GE-free before it was planted. If this sort of contamination can occur now, what will happen when we start growing GE crops commercially if the moratorium is lifted?”

Syngenta seed was tested to high standards as being GE-free on arrival in New Zealand, grown here and processed to make sweetcorn kernels in brine, then exported to Japan for use in pizza toppings. The toppings tested positive for GE.

“There is confusion over all aspects of the contamination - for instance, it could have come from another ingredient in the toppings. But we have to investigate whether it was contaminated here – possibly by pollen drift.

“This latest development puts in doubt the entire GE-free status of all food products grown in New Zealand,” Ms Kedgley said. “It is yet another indicator that the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) have not been doing their job properly.

“This is a potential threat to our export reputation. It is also a threat to consumer rights – as it calls into question whether other food products on New Zealand supermarket shelves are contaminated with GE.

“It raises the very real prospect that there have been low levels of GE contamination in New Zealand for some time. It is only because a Japanese pizza topping company tested its product to ensure it was GE-free, that this contamination showed up at all.

“It shows the impossibility of co-existence between GE and non-GE crops, and how far GE contamination can travel through the food chain.

“In the meantime, we must also introduce mandatory testing of New Zealand-grown seed corn so that growers can know what they are growing.” Ms Kedgley said the Green Party was pleased the Government had briefed it fully this time at the earliest opportunity.


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