Independent review of GM maize incident released

Joint ERMA and MAF Release

18 December 2002

In August this year the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand) responded to an incident where unapproved GM maize was grown in New Zealand. Pacific Seeds Ltd notified MAF after routine post-harvest testing showed the presence of GM maize in seed produced in New Zealand on their behalf by contract growers at Gisborne and Pukekohe. The company had tested the parent seed before importing it into New Zealand in 2001, but the test did not find any GM material. None of the maize seed was grown for consumption and none of it entered the food chain.

MAF and ERMA New Zealand responded promptly by securing the seeds, which Pacific Seeds decided to incinerate. The sites where the maize was grown were also cleared to ensure the removal of any residual seeds and other material that may have been able to re-grow.

It is good practice to review the management of incidents like this, to see whether improvements can be made for the future. In this case the review was jointly commissioned by MAF and ERMA New Zealand, and carried out by Professor Don McGregor, an independent consultant. The final report is now publicly available.

The recommendations in the report cover the way that MAF and ERMA New Zealand work together, planning for similar incidents that may occur in the future, and changes to the legislative system to improve the clarity of how to handle these situations. The operational recommendations are constructive and positive. MAF and ERMA New Zealand are currently working through the recommendations and aim to have revised arrangements in place by early in 2003. Recommendations for legislative change will be considered among the other proposed legislative changes arising from the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.

MAF and ERMA New Zealand will work together on implementing these recommendations during 2003, taking account of any legislative changes agreed by the government.

A full copy of the report is available at www.ermanz.govt.nz and www.biosecurity.govt.nz/regs/imports/plants/gmo.

For further information:

Julie Watson, Manager Communications

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