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MAF investigation into GM maize nears completion

Friday 28 May 2004

MAF investigation into GM maize nears completion

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has largely completed its investigation into the planting of the maize seed containing the very low level of GM presence.

“MAF originally identified 1,317 bags of maize seed which contained 0.05 percent GM presence, or less than 1 GM seed in 2,000 non-GM seeds. Since our initial investigations we can confirm that 357 of the 1,317 bags of maize seed containing this very low GM presence were sold and nearly all planted,” said MAF’s director of plant biosecurity, Richard Ivess.

“MAF has been able to trace all but one of these bags to Northland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay regions. Unplanted bags of seed have been seized,” Richard Ivess said.

“MAF’s role is to enforce the zero tolerance provisions of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. This means taking all practical steps to minimise the possibility of any GM maize surviving in the environment. This involves ensuring any maize seed is ‘de-vitalised’, which means removing the seeds’ ability to germinate and form a plant.

“Where maize plants are still in the ground, MAF has decided that the best course of action is to allow the normal harvesting and processing to occur, but with certain conditions. These conditions include written protocols for industry, separate storage of the harvest and finished product, post-harvest field inspections and follow-up visits.

“By taking advantage of existing industry infrastructure, MAF is using the fastest and most effective method to ensure the maize is harvested and de-vitalised.

“This will minimise the chance of any GM maize surviving in the New Zealand environment,” said Richard Ivess.

The 960 unsold bags of maize seed will be destroyed or re-exported, along with the bags of seed that have been sold and recovered.

“MAF has been working in close consultation with industry organisations, ERMA New Zealand, the Ministry for the Environment, other Government agencies and industry organisations to determine the best practicable steps for managing this issue.

“MAF has received the full co-operation of the seed importing company involved and from other grain merchants. Industry co-operation is crucial for the current response, on-going surveillance and maintenance of New Zealand’s zero tolerance policy for GM material in imported seed for sowing,” said Richard Ivess.


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