GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 1st  April 2004

"Faulty testing of GE corn puts NZ maize under a cloud."

Flawed GE testing in the US, which may have allowed contaminated seed to slip into New Zealand, reveals the urgent need for new policies to prevent contamination in New Zealand.

With the prospect of Monsanto introducing GE wheat now causing worldwide concern, New Zealand should be working internationally to prevent further crops becoming contaminated. MAF's decision to suspend accreditation of US company Biogenetic Services Ltd (see below) was based on the fact that calibration equipment was faulty and their processes not up to scratch.

"We want a review of the import regulations on seed and greater international regulation. We also want MAF to be honest about whether any consignments have been found to be contaminated," says Jon Carapiet from GE free NZ in food and environment. “It is understood 40% of last year’s imports have come from the US via this testing service.”

"We doubt that MAF systems are robust enough at present. But the imperative of preserving GE-free production in New Zealand demands that MAF improve systems to prevent imports of contaminated seed," Mr. Carapiet says.

A MAF audit a couple of years ago identified many problems in the regulatory agency, and also showed up problems in the working relationship between MAF and ERMA. At present ERMA is responsible for setting controls and MAF for compliance. 

Concern that regulatory and enforcement agencies do not appear to be up to the job of preventing contamination has recently prompted Local Governments to further consider their duty to promote sustainable management and to push for higher standards under the RMA. An opinion of RMA lawyer Dr. Royden Somerville, QC, for Whangarei District Council released last week found this was legitimate, since the HSNO Act was originally developed to allow for this, and because ERMA are not bound by a genuinely precautionary approach. 

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

Tuesday 30 March 2004
MAF suspends US GM testing laboratory accreditation
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) today announced that it had suspended its accreditation of US GM testing laboratory Biogenetic Services Ltd. An audit of this laboratory identified a number of issues that must be resolved. MAF's acting director of plants biosecurity, Dr Veronica Herrera said today that MAF accredits international laboratories to test lines of seed that importers seek to bring into New Zealand.

"MAF's importation requirements specify that these laboratories use the best practicable measures and quality control systems to determine whether or not GM material is present," Veronica Herrera said. "We review all of our accredited labs to satisfy ourselves that they are meeting MAF's requirements. Such a review has resulted in Biogenetic Services having its MAF accreditation suspended.

"The laboratory was one of three international laboratories accredited by MAF to perform GM testing on seeds of different varieties of corn (Zea mays). "The laboratory has been
informed of MAF's decision to suspend its accreditation. As a precaution, MAF's Quarantine Service has been instructed to detain at the border all consignments of seed tested by this laboratory and hold these for possible further testing by MAF-approved facilities.

Seed importers will be advised of these measures. "New Zealand's policy is that if GM presence is identified, seeds for sowing cannot be imported," Veronica Herrera said.
"This laboratory has co-operated fully with MAF's investigations and is currently taking steps to ensure that it can be re-accredited as soon as possible. "MAF's last audit of Biogenetic Services was in October 2001. 
This facility has provided test certificates amounting to about 40 percent of corn consignments from the US since January 2003. Other imports from the US were tested by different MAF-accredited testing facilities,"Veronica Herrera said. Independently of this audit, MAF has accredited a new US testing laboratory, GeneScan USA Inc (New Orleans). This lab joins Agri Quality GMO Services (Melbourne) and Eurofins Scientific Analytic (France) as a MAF-approved GM testing facility.

Media contact:Brett Sangster, MAF Director Corporate Communications
Phone: 0-4-498 9882 or 0-27-247 8777
Email: brett.sangster@maf.govt.nzWeb: www.maf.govt.nz/mafnet/press/

Back to Press Release Directory