Update of investigation into suspected GM contaminated corn

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 these investigations. 

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 material harvested.

"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 said.

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

  

 

Last Updated: 04 October 2010

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