NZ Rejects GM Seed
News: May, 2002
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry officials have turned back at the border more than one consignment of seed imports potentially
contaminated with genetically modified material, according to Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton. He said that, contrary to assertions by Greens
co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Government did have in place mechanisms to prevent GM contamination of New Zealand while the
two-year moratorium on release of GM material was in place.
"It is illegal to import GM seed into New Zealand. MAF are upholding that law and protecting New Zealand from GM contamination."
The government introduced a GM testing protocol for sweet corn in August last year, and MAF intends to introduce protocols on maize,
popcorn, and canola later this year.
"Regardless of whether or not there is a specific testing protocol for GM seeds, MAF will investigate the suspected presence of any GM
seeds as it would for any other case where there was evidence that importation would breach the law.
"For example, in October last year, a consignment of cotton seed from Australia intended for stock feed was stopped at the border because
there were no assurances that the seeds did not contain GM seeds. About one-third of Australia's cotton crop is GM."
Fitzsimons had asked the Environment Minister what the implications of the statements on behalf of the Mexican government about GM
contamination of maize were for New Zealand, particularly for the growing of GM and non-GM crops.
Pete Hodgson on behalf of the Minister for the Environment emphasised that there were no fresh fruit, vegetables or meat sold in New
Zealand that are genetically modified. "Furthermore, New Zealand does not import corn from Mexico and we have been testing sweetcorn
imports since August last year to ensure that no GM corn is accidentally introduced into New Zealand." Fitzsimmons had gone on to ask
"Given that the only seed entering New Zealand which has ever been tested for GE contamination has been sweetcorn, how can the
Minister be sure that the same process that has been going on in Mexico has not also been happening here with other kinds of seed?"
Sutton said it was illegal to import GM organisms without approval, and this was clearly explained in the import health standard for seeds
for sowing. Most importers took great care to act lawfully and to ensure they meet the import requirements.
He said MAF would publish a discussion document shortly, which proposes the new testing protocols for maize, popcorn, and canola.
The maize and popcorn testing protocols are scheduled to start from August 1, 2002, and the canola testing protocol from 1 January 2003.
The discussion document will be open for public submissions till June 21, 2002. It says that last year, only eight of the 16 species of GM crops
approved for commercial planting overseas were grown. Four of them (soyabean, maize, cotton, and canola/oilseed rape) made up 99 per
cent of the area planted with GM crops.
Almost all GM crops (99 per cent by area) were grown in only four countries: the United States, Argentina, Canada, and China. Another
nine countries (Australia, South Africa, Romania, Mexico, Bulgaria, Uruguay, Indonesia, Spain, and Germany) grew much smaller areas
of GM crops. "It is always possible that GM seeds could be smuggled or unintentionally brought into New Zealand through some other
unauthorised source. New Zealand's existing biosecurity regulations provide a high level of protection against unauthorised plants and seeds."
MAF Biosecurity Authority, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, PO Box 2526, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 4 474 4236
Fax: +64 4 498 9888