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MAF should front up to GE contamination

4 June 2004

Soil & Health calls on MAF to front up to GE contamination

The Soil and Health Association of NZ is calling on the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to remove the secrecy surrounding the measures it is taking to remove GE contaminated maize plantings. Soil and Health Co-chair Steffan Browning, says there is no reason for MAF to conceal the specific locations where the GE contaminated seed has been grown.

Mr Browning, says MAF’s response to the contamination to date has failed to inspire confidence in its ability to contain this breach of biosecurity, and the public have a right to make their own assessment of risk from neighbouring crops, as well the adequacy of MAF’s clean up measures. Mr Browning said that responses to a letter from Soil & Health and MAF's own media releases last week raise more questions than answers. “MAF shows a poor understanding of cross pollination and regrowth risks. MAF appears to be leaving it to the maize growers to get it right, away from the communities gaze. How can MAF expect containment of this contamination with such a non inclusive approach?”

"The situation is still rectifiable if proper steps are taken. There is still the opportunity for MAF and the community to work together to ensure containment of low levels of GE contaminated maize. Neighbours, primary producers, and the community all share the risks of permanent contamination.

By cloaking its response in a veil of secrecy, MAF is preventing any outside assessment of its handling of the contamination. Yet Mr Browning says glaring inconsistencies exist between the disposal of unplanted imported GE contaminated seed and GE contaminated NZ grown seed that is being harvested for sale.

The law stipulates it should all be destroyed says Soil &Health, and Mr Browning questions whether MAF is even going to each of the contaminated sites. As long as the location remains secret there is no way of the public knowing. Soil and Health is sending an open letter to MAF with 17 specific questions as an Official Information Request, in an attempt to elicit a more useful and informative response.

ENDS

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