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MAF Cleanup Of GM Corn Contamination Questioned

GE FREE NORTHLAND In Food & Environment
PRESS RELEASE 4 June 2004

MAF CLEANUP OF GM CORN CONTAMINATION QUESTIONED

GE FREE NORTHLAND is calling on the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to make public the site specific location of any GM contaminated maize plantings.

While GE FREE NORTHLAND supports MAF’s stated aim of removing and destroying all GM contaminated maize seeds and plants, thus ensuring New Zealand’s Zero Tolerance Policy for GMOs in the environment is upheld, the content of MAF’s Press Releases (dated 28 May 2004) and correspondence received under the Official Information Act have raised concerns about the adequacy of MAF’s procedures to achieve this goal.

A spokeswoman for GE FREE NORHTLAND, Zelka Grammer has said that MAF’s policy of secrecy is unacceptable not only to GE FREE NORTHLAND but also to all primary producers, beekeepers, seed savers, regional environmental authorities and tangata whenua.

“The public have a right to make their own assessment of risk from neighboring crops to their own crops, seed and honey,” said Ms. Grammer. “They also need to have confidence that all possible biosecurity precautions and procedures have been undertaken by MAF.”

“We urge MAF to swiftly address legitimate concerns about flaws in their biosecurity procedures. The cleanup of all illegal GM contaminated maize, the release of all specific GE contaminated maize sites details and assurances that farmers will be adequately compensated are key issues which must be immediately addressed.”

GE FREE NORTHLAND has also stressed that MAF must ensure all neighbouring maize fields are checked for possible contamination by cross-pollination and that no maize is grown on the contaminated GM maize sites next season. They emphasized that checks for volunteer plants (plants arising from any seeds left on the site) must take place next spring.

“Farmers who have found any GM contaminated maize on their properties are the victims of transgenic pollution and the government should ensure that they are fully compensated for any financial loss and inconvenience. Those liable are US laboratory Biogenetics Services Ltd, Bayer CropScience - who holds the patent for the contaminating LibertyLink T25-,” said Ms. Grammer.

“MAF, whose flawed system of detection allowed the illegal GM seed to enter NZ in the first place, must also take full responsibility for their lack of action. Ideally, the company whose patented genes have contaminated imported maize seed should be held liable for the clean-up costs and any loss of sales as a result of the incident,” she said.

MAF has recently made some significant improvements to their biosecurity procedures for seed importation. “The implementation of these is essential to prevent any future similar mishaps,” said Ms. Grammer.

ENDS

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