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Guarantees Do Not Guarantee GE Free Sweetcorn

PRESS RELEASE from GE FREE NEW ZEALAND - 17.7.01

MONEY BACK GUARANTEES DO NOT GUARANTEE GE FREE SWEETCORN

The Warehouse cannot guarantee their sweetcorn seeds are GE Free.

New Zealanders could soon be contaminating their own backgardens.

As insurance companies raised the issue of GE crop contamination and liability issues at their conference in Wellington yesterday, New Zealanders may have been unknowingly purchasing GE contaminated seeds from their favourite store the Warehouse.

Warehouse seeds are imported from an Illinois based seed company and are presumed GE Free, but apparently undergo no testing and come without any guarantee they are free from any GE contamination. Neither the seed company involved, nor the Warehouse, were prepared to supply or request written guarantees or evidence of testing from the supplier.

"We would like to contact this company to ascertain the GE status of these seeds and find out if they have been tested," said Susie Lees, secretary of GE Free NZ. "We have reports that no corn seed from the US can now be guaranteed free of some genetic contamination.With some cities and community boards already having declared their intention to be GE Free we do not wish to see genetic pollution occur as a result of lax regulations on imported seeds."

Recent reports from the US show that there has been more contamination of conventional crops than expected by 'Starlink' GE maize, a variety only approved for animal use because of a risk of allergic reactions to novel proteins.

A new protocol developed for imported maize seeds will not come into force until 1 August. Mandatory testing of seeds recently imported into the country has not been required to date. MAF, who will be ensuring testing takes place, referred GE Free NZ to the Environmental Risk Management Authority(ERMA). The growing of genetically engineered crops in New Zealand needs ERMA approval, if seed contamination is proven this could breach present law. Other seeds coming in from overseas eg. brassicas may also be contaminated, a protocol for the testing of other vegetable seeds will not be implemented until next year.

"As usual, it's a case of too little too late. The protocol, developed by the Ministry of Environment. will not ensure New Zealanders GE Free seeds this year, gardeners and other growers would be advised to check with seed companies or buy New Zealand produced seeds," said Susie.

The Royal Commission is about to report back to the government after a year long look at genetic modification, involving scientists from both camps giving evidence. Paid for by the public, it has been instigated to ensure routes are chosen based on current knowledge of the status of genetic engineering to benefit New Zealand. Our economy relies on our 'clean green image' especially in regard to our quality primary production, agricultural and tourism industries.

For Further information Susie Lees, Secretary, GE Free NZ 03 546 7966 The Warehouse 09 489 7000

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