GM maize fields' assessment completed

3 September 2002

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) today announced that they had completed their joint assessments of sites at Pukekohe and Gisborne where suspected unauthorised GM maize had been grown and harvested earlier in the year. This maize was grown on contract to Australian seed company Pacific Seeds.

The three Gisborne sites were cultivated in the autumn. Although some maize stubble remains, no evidence was found of viable seed.

Eleven of the 13 Pukekohe fields contain maize stubble and some have evidence of uncovered viable seed, as wet weather since the June harvest has prevented cultivation. MAF and ERMA officials have requested the growers to stubble-mulch all uncultivated fields as soon as is practicable and then plough to incorporate the mulched material. This is to reduce the risk of seeds being carried off site and to hasten the destruction of any seeds remaining in the soil. Any maize plants growing from residual seed in the soil must either be destroyed by further cultivation or by spraying with an approved herbicide. The other two fields at Pukekohe were cultivated in the autumn and planted in grass. No evidence of viable seed was found at these sites.

MAF and ERMA officials are currently discussing a longer-term strategy to ensure that in the unlikely event that any plant seedlings emerge these will be destroyed.

All of the approximately 30 tonnes of seed from the contaminated maize crops has now been destroyed by incineration.

MAF has yet to receive all of the results from the maize samples it sent to overseas laboratories for testing. These results will be published later this month once the results have been received and considered by officials from MAF, ERMA, the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.

More detailed information on the current situation, including a briefing provided to Ministers on 13 August 2002, can be found on MAF's web site at: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/regs/imports/plants/gmo

Media contact:

Brett Sangster, MAF Director Corporate Communications

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