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Summary actions to date on the suspect GM corn

Timeline - Summary actions to date on the suspect GM sweetcorn

Thursday 26 June 2003

- The Food Safety Assurance Manager of a company in the Gisborne region contacted MAF after receiving notification from their Japanese importers that their processed packaged corn kernels tested positive for the presence of genetic modification by a Japanese laboratory.

Friday 27 June 2003

- Mechanisms for securing the seed under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) and Biosecurity Acts were investigated and arrangements were made for a compliance order under HSNO to be issued to control seed over the weekend..

Monday 30 June 2003

- MAF was contacted by the Food Safety Assurance Manager of the company, who was extremely co-operative. Processing details were provided, location and source of the remaining seed lot was confirmed. The company also provided a GM freedom declaration and American testing results which showed no GM detected at a 0.01 percent operational limit of detection (10,000 kernel sample, MAF standard is 3,200).

- A copy of the report from the Japanese testing agency was also faxed and a translation began.

- MAF arranged for the seizure of remaining seed under Section 28A of the Biosecurity Act using a MAF Quarantine Service Inspector.

Tuesday 1 July

- Arrangements for the packaging, transport, pick-up and testing of suspect GM corn samples were made. Two samples of seed (2 x 3200 seeds) and two bags of processed corn were couriered to Auckland for dispatch to Genescan (AgriQuality) in Melbourne, Australia the next day. Note that the sample numbers exceed those considered sufficient to detect GM material based on MAF guidelines. (

- A translated copy of the report from the Japanese testing agency was obtained. The document states that GMO corn genes were detected by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and that the corn was confirmed as grown in New Zealand.

- MAF contacted the Food Safety Assurance Manager of the Company and discussed the laboratory report with them. Information contained in the report together with feedback obtained from Japan by the Company suggested that Japanese testing was on a mixed product with a range of unknown ingredients.

Wednesday 2 July

- Suspect GM corn samples were dispatched to Genescan (AgriQuality) in Melbourne, Australia. Samples include Zea mays seed and processed product that the New Zealand company linked with the suspect product in Japan.

- Contact was made with the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service to facilitate the rapid quarantine clearance of samples for testing at GeneScan in Melbourne.

- Preparations began on an audit of the company, organised for the weekend in conjunction with NZFSA

Thursday 3 July

- Samples of suspect GM corn seed and processed product arrived at AgriQuality GMO Services in Melbourne, Australia and testing began.

- MAF met with representatives from ERMA, NZFSA, MFE and DPMC to update, and to agree contingency requirements in the event that samples tested GMO positive.

- A quality assurance audit of the company was confirmed for Monday 7 July, and the company was very happy to host the audit team. The NZFSA and a member of MAF will conduct the audit and preparation of a question check list began.

- The exporter of the seeds, source of the suspect corn, contacted MAF and began co-operating with MAF to resolve this issue.

- MAF obtained information on the location, quantity and types of field plantings associated with this investigation as well as domestic and export production volumes from the corn production company.

- Information was received from the Gisborne company confirming a negative GM result from the independent Japanese testing agency. Note that this result was from bags of corn kernels in the original export consignment and not from the mixed ingredient bags tested by the original testing laboratory.

Friday 4 July

- Information was received from AgriQuality's GM testing facility in Melbourne. Results showed that although there was no GM material in the seed that was planted there was GM in the corn that was harvested from this crop.

- Further testing was organised and arrangements were made for the site to be contained.

- MAF briefs Ministers, officials and the New Zealand public.


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