03/02/2007

MAF Officials Subverted Rules Intended to Protect NZ

 

The independent report into MAF’s approval of GE-contaminated corn has revealed deliberate decisions were taken to delete regulations designed to keep GM contamination out of New Zealand.
The report by David Oughton reveals for the first time (page 3) that certain officials at an audit close-out meeting in March 2006 made a deliberate decision to STOP double checking documents as it was “deemed unnecessary" . Thus the requirement was deleted from the regulations.
The Report says the meeting actively rejected an Audit report which specifically raised the alarm and warned double-checks where not being done. Rather than applying the rules the officials cancelled them. The report states “the officer concerned,” (in the recent contamination incident), “participated in the decision to remove the safeguards.”( page 8).
David Oughton says the incident signals new rules are required as to exactly who makes key decisions at MAF.
MAF has welcomed the report but its response shows it plans months of delay in addressing obvious holes in bio-security, leaving New Zealand exposed to major risk, including sabotage.
GE Free NZ (in food and environment) believes greater accountability is needed to ensure MAF is genuinely committed to upholding the law, and it is not subverted or challenged because it makes work-practices harder, or because an individual MAF official believes GM contamination is inevitable and not to be worried about.
But it is also fair to say that there are some obvious actions required by government. MAF are being asked to work with one hand tied behind their back. They are being forced to allow imports from countries they know to have likely contamination because NZ has become reliant on specific types of imported seed.
With its limited remit the report does not identify the cross-ministerial actions that government needs to take to support MAF and Bio-security NZ in their duties.
Public funding is needed for clean-green natural seed-production industry in New Zealand
The Ministry of Economic development should support New Zealand growers to supply clean seed and develop this massive export-opportunity.
This is a matter of food-security and economic benefits from clean-green, organic exports.
‘The New Zealand government should be using public money to develop the seed industry in the National interest,’’ says Jon Carapiet spokesperson for GE Free NZ (in food and environment)
There is a clear argument for direct government investment or at least supporting companies to get behind the New Zealand Brand.
It is vital MAF officials are accountable for upholding standards like zero-tolerance for GE contamination which protects that Brand reputation: our economy is reliant on that.
ENDS.
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
SEE MAF.govt.nz for full report Or contact:
Helen KeyesPhone: 0-4-894 0161 or 0-29-894 0161
Email: helen.keyes@maf.govt.nz

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