GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 16th  April 2005

NZ Urged to Follow US and Fine Biotech Firm

The New Zealand Government should follow the US government's lead and fine biotech firm Syngenta for illegally shipping unapproved GE corn for almost 4 years, including exports to New Zealand.

Despite international ramifications in the EU and Asian countries where the serious breakdown of regulation has caused alarm Food Authorities in Australia and New Zealand have so far been dismissive of the issue.

But the fact that the US authorities have fined Syngenta is a clear signal that our government should also impose penalties to motivate compliance.

If our authorities sweep the matter under the carpet as they are attempting to do, there is nothing to motivate industry to comply with the rules and the system will be exposed to further serious breaches.

"We have a situation where no action has been taken in New Zealand or Australia to identify where this corn has gone, recall it where found, or to independently test it for food safety," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

After Syngenta revealed it had sold Bt 10 GE corn by mistake for some four years, other countries have been working to track where it has gone and test what the health effects may be.

Despite official claims of "likely safety" because Bt 10 is "similar to Bt 11", the unapproved corn is understood to include an antibiotic-resistant marker gene that raises medical concerns about its use in food.

The failure by authorities in New Zealand to take this breakdown seriously casts a shadow over their commitment to the integrity of the regulatory system for GE foods. It is vital there are financial penalties imposed on companies that breach the rules and that authorities stop relying on the US government's deeply flawed procedures as they are doing in the case of Bt10.

Contact Jon Carapiet 021 0507681

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