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More rigorous GE testing regime needed in NZ

More rigorous GE testing regime needed in NZ

Confirmation from the Government today that Gisborne-grown sweet corn is GE-contaminated highlights the urgent need for a far more rigorous GE surveillance and testing regime in New Zealand, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

"Far from having the most stringent regulatory regime in the world as the Government routinely boasts, we have one that is woefully inadequate. At present, it is left up to private companies to test their own imported seed. This latest incident clearly shows the Government must introduce its own independent testing regime," Ms Kedgley said.

"Corn and similar products such as maize should also be tested while growing in New Zealand fields and before they pollinate. And we need a proper testing regime for processed foods in the food chain."

Ms Kedgley said she was alarmed at Marian Hobbs' defeatist reaction to the latest GE scare - that such GE contamination is inevitable and something we will have to live with. "While that is clearly the strategy of biotechnology companies, it is not a comment one would expect from a Minister for the Environment," Ms Kedgley said.

"This sort of fatalistic approach will threaten our exports, since most of our key markets, and particularly Europe with its stringent new GE labelling regime, want to be guaranteed GE-free food supplies. Even tiny amounts of GE contamination are unacceptable, as this incident has shown."

Government officials confirmed this afternoon that tests at the AgriQuality GMO Services laboratory in Melbourne indicated the presence of BT11, an insect-resistant variety of GE sweet corn. "The key lesson of this latest contamination is that it has brought home to us what will happen on a routine basis if we lift the GE moratorium. The whole incident is a warning to Government that it needs to extend the moratorium," Ms Kedgley said.

"The latest scare also highlights the need for New Zealand's GE labelling regime to be tightened, and made mandatory. At present much of the food containing GE corn products is unlabelled. Consumers should be able to tell from a label on products in the supermarket if they are buying one of the seven GE corn products approved for sale in New Zealand."

Ms Kedgley urged the Government to release a list of the brand names of all products on sale in New Zealand containing the seven varieties of GE corn approved for sale here. The Food Safety Authority today declined to release a list, saying it was for the companies to label their products.

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