Genetically modified seeds and nursery stock

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have had their genes or genetic material modified by 'in vitro' techniques. No genetically modified seeds or nursery stock have been approved for release into New Zealand, so we have strict import rules to ensure no unapproved GM material arrives in the country.

What is genetic modification?

Section 2 of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as any organism in which any of the genes or other genetic material:

  • have been modified by in vitro techniques, or
  • are inherited or otherwise derived from any other genes or genetic material that has been modified by in vitro techniques.

'In vitro techniques' refers to using test tubes, cell culture plate or other methods outside a living organism.

No GM seeds or nursery stock can enter NZ

It is illegal to import GM (genetically modified) seeds and nursery stock into New Zealand without approval from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). GMOs are classed as new organisms under the HSNO Act.

MPI is responsible for enforcing the HSNO Act at the border, through the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Consignments of specific seed and nursery stock species must be tested for the presence of genetically modified seeds at one of our approved laboratories before being imported. If the import health standard (IHS) says your species must be tested, then you need to arrange to have this done before your imported seeds or nursery stock arrive in New Zealand. The testing certification must accompany your consignment.

Download the Seeds for sowing import health standard [PDF, 2.3 MB]

Download the Nursery stock import health standard [PDF, 4.3 MB] 

Species that require a non-GM declaration

When specified by the IHS, a declaration signed by the exporter and importer must accompany the consignment declaring that it doesn't contain GM material.

This is a requirement for the following species.

Seeds for sowing

  • Arabidopsis thaliana (wall cress) – unless importing with an HSNO approval under option of 2.8.1 of the IHS
  • Cucurbita pepo (squash) – option of GM testing or providing a non-GM declaration
  • Linum usitatissimum (flaxseed/linseed) – option of GM testing or providing a non-GM declaration

Nursery stock

  • Solanum tuberosum (potato)

Species that require GM testing

Seeds for sowing

  • Brassica napus var. oleifera (oilseed rape/canola)
  • Glycine max (soybean)
  • Medicago sativa (lucerne/alfalfa)
  • Zea mays (sweet corn and maize)
  • Cucurbita pepo (squash) – option of GM testing or providing a non-GM declaration
  • Gossypium hirsutum (cotton)
  • Linum usitatissimum (flaxseed/linseed) – option of GM testing or providing a non-GM declaration
  • Petunia spp.

Nursery stock

  • Petunia spp

Laboratories for GMO testing

The laboratories in the following table are accredited by MPI to test for GMOs.

Laboratory Contact details Comments
DTS Food Assurance Laboratories

5/352 Macaulay Road
Melbourne, Australia
Phone: +61 3 8371 7600

 Currently unable to test Glycine max seeds
Eurofins GeneScan

2219 Lakeshore Drive
Suite 400
New Orleans, LA 70122
Phone: +1 504 297 4330

EUROFINS BIOLOGIE MOLECULAIRE FRANCE (formerly known as Eurofins Analytics France) Rue Pierre Adolphe Bobierre BP 42301
44323, Nantes, France
Phone: +33 2 51 83 21 00
Fax: +33 2 51 83 21 11
Currently unable to test Petunia either as seed or plants for planting
Intertek ScanBi Diagnostic AB Elevenborgsvägen 2
23053 Alnarp, Sweden
Phone: +46 40 69 28 001

In addition to the above laboratory approvals, the laboratories in the following table are recognised by MPI to test for GMOs on Petunia species.

Laboratory Contact details Comments
Lifeprint GmbH

Industriestraße 12
D-89257 Illertissen
Phone: +49 7303 951 95 18
Fax: +49 7303 95195-55

Only Petunia nursery stock

Am Kiel-Kanal 44
D-24106 Kiel
Phone: +49 (0) 431 380150
Fax: +49 (0) 431 3801511

Only Petunia nursery stock
Eurofins GeneScan GmbH

Engesserstr. 4,
D – 79108 Freiburg
Phone: +49 761 5038 – 100
Fax: +49 761 5038 – 211

Petunia nursery stock and Petunia non-pelleted seeds

Eurofins BioDiagnostics, Inc.

507 Highland Drive
River Falls, WI 54022
Phone: + 1 715-426-0246

 Only Petunia nursery stock

Download the standards for approving laboratories for GMO testing [PDF, 83 KB]

Specific seed and nursery stock testing requirements

The protocol for testing for GM plant material outlines the precautions seed importers must take to ensure their imports don't contain GM material. Precautions may include:

  • buying seeds and nursery stock produced under a quality assurance system – such as field isolation
  • testing for GM presence throughout the production chain.

Importers must take reasonable steps to make sure their goods comply with the HSNO Act, the Seeds for sowing IHS, and the Nursery stock IHS. Not complying with these protocols may mean your consignment isn't cleared for entry and your goods will be reshipped or destroyed at your cost.

Download Protocol for testing for the presence of genetically modified plant material [PDF, 810 KB]

GMOs — who does what?

MPI is responsible for enforcing the HSNO Act at the border and ensuring no unapproved GM material enters the country.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) handles applications for permission to import GMOs.

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) administers the HSNO Act.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email

Currently unable to test Petunia either as seed or plants for planting

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