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Sunday 6 July
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and New Zealand Food Safety Authority
officials today provided an update on their investigations into a case of
possible GM contamination of sweet corn harvested in the Gisborne region earlier
this year. Officials from ERMA New Zealand have also been closely involved with
AgriQuality GMO Services laboratory in Melbourne has worked through the
weekend to determine the genetically modified organism and the concentration at
which it was present in the corn harvested.
"The laboratory results indicate the presence of Bt11, an
insect-resistant variety of sweet corn and the only commercially-available GM
sweet corn variety. Eleven of the most common types of GM constructs found in
varieties of corn were tested for. All of these tests showed negative
results," MAF Biosecurity group director Barry O'Neil said.
"Concentration of this GM organism is very low – less than 0.05
percent. This is less than five seeds in a sample of 10,000 seeds."
"Bt11 is one of the GM corn varieties that has been approved for
consumption in New Zealand by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and the
level of GM concentration is well below the Australia/New Zealand standard for
unintentional presence of 1 percent," Food Safety Authority director plant
and dairy products Tim Knox said.
"Information received from the company involved suggests that the corn
exported to Japan was a trial shipment and no product has been released for
consumption in Japan or in New Zealand.
"Given this information and the outcomes of the tests, it appears that
no further action will be required by the NZFSA," Tim Knox said.
"MAF is investigating several possible pathways for contamination. These
are the original seeds imported from the United States; the possibility of
cross-contamination from other crops grown adjacent to the sweet corn fields at
Gisborne; contamination during the harvesting and processing stages; and
possible contamination during laboratory testing," Barry O'Neil said.
"Because the level of contamination is so low, the import pathway cannot
be ruled out as a source. Tests of the imported seed line – both by the
importing company and by MAF – could have missed this contamination.
"The audit of the harvesting and processing systems will provide more
information on the possibility of contamination and on the exact status of all
"This audit will start on Monday once the specialists arrive. The
weekend's severe weather, resulting in road closures and the cancellation of
some flights to Gisborne disrupted their travel plans," Barry O'Neil
For further information contact:
Brett Sangster, MAF Director Corporate Communications 0-27-247 8777
Sharon Williams, NZFSA Communications Adviser 0-21-193 6405
Barry O'Neil, MAF Group Director Biosecurity 0-21-470 582
Tim Knox, NZFSA Director Dairy & Plant Products 0-21-403 990