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6 May 2002
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has released a discussion paper
looking at ways to ensure that genetically modified (GM) seeds are not released
into the New Zealand environment through seeds imported for sowing. No GM
crops are grown commercially in New Zealand and no GM seeds have been
approved for release into the environment.
The paper "Border control for genetically modified (GM) seeds"
proposes protocols to test imported Zea mays seeds (maize, sweet corn and
popcorn) and Brassica napus var. oleifera seeds (canola and
oilseed rape) for the presence of GM seeds.
The main proposals are:
MAF has drafted similar protocols for soybean (Glycine max) and
crook-neck squash/zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) and is seeking further
information to decide whether these are necessary.
MAF Director General, Murray Sherwin says that by implementing these
protocols, New Zealand would be one of the first countries to adopt a
regulation for systematically screening imported seeds for the presence of GM
"Many other countries are grappling with the issue of unauthorised GM
seeds but there is no consensus on an approach, nor are there standardised tests
or audit mechanisms."
"New Zealand has strict biosecurity controls for seed imports. Most
importers take care to ensure they meet these requirements and most seed
companies follow international standards for seed purity and can give a high
level of assurance that their seeds are not GM."
"However, even with one of the world's best biosecurity regimes,
nothing can provide 100 percent guarantees. DNA testing is extremely
sensitive but cannot confidently detect GM seeds below about 0.1 percent (one
seed in a thousand)," said Mr Sherwin.
MAF is seeking feedback about these proposals and would like to receive
comments from people who are interested in or affected by them. The deadline for
comments is close of business, Friday 28 June 2002. The discussion paper is
available from MAF directly, or at www.maf.govt.nz/gmseeds/.
For further information contact:
David Wansbrough tel: 04 470 2768 or Debra
Harrington mobile: 021 714 111