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2-Plants: GM sweet corn investigation in New Zealand completed

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TITLE:  GM Sweet Corn Investigation Completed
SOURCE: Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry, New Zealand, Media Release
DATE:   Aug 7, 2003

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GM Sweet Corn Investigation Completed

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry today announced that it had
completed its investigations into a sweet corn crop grown at Gisborne
earlier this year which was reported to contain some GM material
unapproved for growing in New Zealand.

The investigations were prompted by a New Zealand company alerting MAF of
test results conducted in Japan by a food service company that had
conducted routine testing of a proprietary topping mix. This mix
contained sweet corn sourced from New Zealand.

Testing completed at the AgriQuality GMO Services facility at Melbourne
identified the presence of a GM variety called Bt11 in product samples
but at very low levels - less than 0.1% or less than one seed in 1,000.
Corn product from three of the four fields investigated returned positive
tests for Bt11. Bt11 is a type of GM maize and sweet corn that has been
modified to be insect resistant and herbicide tolerant. Food Standards
Australia New Zealand has assessed this variety of corn as safe for human
consumption, although it is not currently grown or sold in New Zealand.

MAF's investigations as to the likely source of the GM material involved
analysis of seed lines planted in the four Gisborne fields in question;
examination of all sweet corn and maize crops grown within 300m of these
fields; and a review of the harvesting and processing systems used by the

MAF's analysis of products taken from surrounding sweet corn crops that
flowered at the same time as the crops in question has also produced
negative test results for the presence of GM. Similarly the review of the
company satisfied MAF's review team that it was highly unlikely that the
presence of the GM variety resulted from mixing during harvest or
processing of this crop. Testing by MAF and the seed producer on the seed
line grown on all the four fields was negative but the only known link
between the fields is the seed sown and therefore the possibility remains
that the imported seed was the source of the GM material.

A second variety of sweet corn was planted on one of the four fields in
question. Because of this, MAF secured seed from the same line from the
company and arranged for this to be tested. A positive test was obtained
from this seed, but the concentration is so small (less than 0.05% or
less than five seeds in 10,000) that the actual GM involved can not be

MAF placed compliance orders on the four fields under investigation. MAF
and ERMA have reviewed post-harvest management that was applied to these
fields and concluded that they are low risk. The compliance orders have
now been cancelled and the four fields approved for normal use. MAF's
investigations have extended to determining the extent of other plantings
of the same two imported sweet corn varieties in New Zealand last spring.
These plantings comprised 98 fields or 775ha. Some of these fields have,
subsequent to harvesting of the grain, have either been grazed or have
been planted in winter grasses.

Advice provided to MAF by specialist agronomists on all plantings of
these seeds indicates that there is an extremely low risk of residual
seed germinating to produce viable sweet corn plants, due to the crop
being harvested when the kernels were immature and the post-harvest
management systems involved. MAF is working with industry to identify all
the fields that were planted from affected lines and is working with ERMA
to ensure that these fields are managed appropriately.

As a precautionary measure, MAF has seized for destruction all remaining
seed from the original imported lines to ensure none can be planted.

In the light of these events MAF officials are now reviewing testing
procedures used for imported sweet corn and maize seeds. The protocol is
already very stringent and few changes are envisaged. Nonetheless,
options will be discussed with other government agencies and stakeholders.

A copy of the ministerial briefing document is available on MAF's web
site, together with other more specific details of the seed testing and
field appraisals.

All media enquiries to:

Brett Sangster, MAF Director Corporate Communications 0-4-498 9882 or 0-
27-247 8777 Email:


more information on this case at:

Investigation into the Detection of GM Sweet Corn Grown in Gisborne


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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