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Govt says illegal GE corn isn't here

2 June 2005

Govt says illegal GE corn isn't here, but it hasn't looked

The Greens are demanding the Government follow Europe and Japan's lead and randomly test all corn imported from the US to help ensure it is not contaminated with the illegal GE corn Bt10.

The call follows Health Minister Annette King confirming in Parliament yesterday, in response to questions from Green Safe Food Spokesperson Sue Kedgley, that Bt10 corn has never been approved for human consumption in New Zealand and is therefore illegal, but that the Government is doing nothing to reduce the likelihood that it has contaminated our food supply.

Bt10 is an experimental corn developed by Syngenta and grown in the US. The company recently revealed that because of their own inexact testing system, it had inadvertently been selling this unapproved GE corn to US farmers who had then grown it and exported it around the world. US authorities recently fined Syngenta $375,000 for this blunder.

"The Government is not testing corn at the border or in retail outlets or even requiring certification from importers that this illegal corn is not present in imported shipments, as other countries are doing," Ms Kedgley said.

"Nor has it instituted a food recall, as it did in 2000 when there was a possibility that the unapproved GE Starlink corn may have infiltrated our food supply.

"The Government's response is to turn a blind eye to the whole issue and hope it will go away. Ms King's excuse for her total inaction on the issue was that they hadn't found any Bt10 grain or products in a recent survey of foodstuffs. But then she admitted that it wasn't one of the substances being tested for in that survey.

"How can you say there is no such illegal corn in New Zealand when the Government has never looked for it or tested for it? Ms King's head-in-the-sand approach is that 'we weren't looking for it, so we didn't find it, so it isn't here'.

"Both Europe and Japan are taking a precautionary approach to this experimental GE corn because the risk it poses to human health is still unknown. Why isn't New Zealand doing the same? Why has the Government done nothing - initiated no recall, introduced no testing - to protect New Zealand consumers from this illegal, potentially risky corn?

"Once again, the Government's response to this issue shows that it really has no interest in protecting the New Zealand consumer. Its concern is protecting corporate interests and our overseas exports.

ENDS

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