GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 27th  July 2005

Govt should have as-of-right access to GE test results

The Green Party is extremely frustrated that several days after the Government was advised of a positive test for GE contamination it is not known what exactly it showed, Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

MAF have this afternoon announced that an investigation is under way into a GE-positive test result of maize held in the upper North Island.

“Food producers, growers and the public are left in limbo, feeling alarmed and helpless at the lack of any useful information,” Ms Fitzsimons says.

“Before we can determine whether this is a false alarm, a tiny level of trace contamination or a major scare we have to see this initial test result, but the Government does not have access, as of right, to the lab results and has to get the consent of the corn processor who ordered the test.

“The Select Committee inquiry into Corngate recommended unanimously that government regulators should have as-of-right access to all testing results directly from the lab, but the Government rejected this recommendation.

“All corn and maize seed coming into the country is now tested at one of three certified and audited overseas laboratories. That raises the question of whether this batch got through because of faulty lab procedures, as happened in 2004 when Biogenetic Services was decertified, or whether the level of contamination is below the margin of error in the test, which cannot be avoided.  There is also the possibility that seed from a previous contamination incident has re-grown and contaminated a whole batch.

“MAF has done the right thing in ordering a dozen or so further tests, securing the storage of the batch in question and beginning a trace-back to find where the seed was grown. However results from those tests will take at least two weeks to arrive.

“This incident, the sixth in the last three years since New Zealand started checking properly, underlines the arrogance of the multi-national seed companies who assume they don’t need to take precautions against seed contamination and that we will just have to live with it.

“It also underlines the Greens’ call for a proper liability regime where the losses for growers, merchants, processors, end users and the Government would be paid for by the company that owns the GE patent who profits from the distress of those who want their food to be GE-Free.”

If this positive test result is genuine, the risks to New Zealand farming include: the contaminated crop may have cross pollinated other fields; seed from the contaminated crop may be left behind in the field or have dropped from trucks or harvesters; other seed dried at the same time may have been contaminated too.

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