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3-Food: Update on GM sweet corn investigation in New Zealand

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TITLE:  Update on GM sweet corn investigation
SOURCE: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, New Zealand, Media Release
DATE:   Jul 9, 2003

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Update on GM sweet corn investigation

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry today announced that its
investigations into a GMO-contaminated sweet corn crop grown at Gisborne
earlier this year had produced a significant amount of information that
would require analysis over the next week.

Results obtained from the sweet corn crop so far show the presence of a
genetically-modified organism (GMO) called Bt11, which is present at less
than 0.05 percent. This is less than five seeds in a sample of 10,000
seeds and is well below the Australia/New Zealand standard of 1 percent
for the unintentional presence of GM material in approved non-viable
foods. Bt11 is one of the corn varieties approved by Food Standards
Australia New Zealand for consumption in New Zealand.

A suite of tests designed to discover other forms of GM contamination has
also produced negative results.

MAF investigators have completed their audit of the Gisborne company
involved. Information obtained from the audit is now being considered to
determine what, if any, further investigations of company records,
processes and systems are required. The company involved has been very
co-operative and supportive of MAF's audit requirements, and the audit
team has complimented company officials on the completeness of their records.

Field investigations are continuing. Of particularly interest to MAF is
finding whether there are any discernible differences between the sweet
corn crops produced from each of the four fields in question. Additional
samples of seed, and product harvested from each of these fields has been
identified and sent to Melbourne for testing. Field investigations are
also finalising details of other crops that were grown in proximity to
the four fields, particularly during the crops' flowering period. This
information will help determine whether cross-pollination or the original
seed consignment may have been a cause of the GM contamination.

MAF is investigating several possible pathways for contamination. These
are the original seeds from the United States; the possibility of cross-
pollination from other crops grown adjacent to the sweet corn fields at
Gisborne; contamination during the harvesting and processing stages; and
possible contamination during laboratory testing. Hopefully the
investigations will eliminate some of these pathways but it is possible,
given the extremely low level of GM contamination, that the exact cause
is never discovered.

All media enquiries to:

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


Media Questions and Answers

Wednesday 9 July 2003

1. How much sweet corn was grown?
A: About 22ha, in four fields.

2. Where is the sweet corn that was harvested?
A: Apart from about 10 tonnes sent to Japan as a trial shipment, the
balance is in a warehouse in Gisborne. This has been confirmed by the MAF
audit team.

3. Are there any discernible differences between the four fields in terms
of test results received so far?
A: This is currently an area of focus for MAF investigators. Seed and
product samples from each of the four fields are currently being tested
to see if there are any discernible differences.

4. Were there any sweet corn or maize crops grown in fields adjacent to
the four fields in question?
A: Yes. MAF investigators are currently determining the extent of these
plantings and seeking information from land holders and processing
companies regarding the varieties grown, planting dates, flowering dates
and whether samples of seed planted and product harvested are available.
The exact number of fields involved is not known at this time. If these
crops can be shown not to have been flowering at the same time as the
crops in question, then they can be immediately eliminated for further
investigation for cross-pollination risk.

5. What did the audit of the company reveal?
A: The audit revealed a highly professional and co-operative company with
robust and detailed records, processes and systems. It also produced a
considerable amount of information that is now being considered by MAF
investigators in conjunction with their investigations into products,
seeds and the fields in question.

6. Is MAF planning to test more seeds and products?
A: Testing has been arranged to determine whether there are any
discernible differences between seeds planted in and product harvested
from each of the four fields in question. Some testing may be required
from adjoining sweet corn or maize crops, if records indicate these may
have been flowering at the same time as the crops in question. This part
of the investigation will be very time consuming.

7. What tests has MAF concluded on sweet corn samples so far?
A: On 5 July 2003 AgriQuality GMO Services, Melbourne, reported after
qualitative tests on positive samples on 3 July, that less than 0.05
percent of the processed corn was genetically modified. The gene-specific
tests for the construct showed that the genetic modification involved
Bt11. Bt11 is an insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant construct which
is the only commercially available GM sweet corn. The sample tested
negative for the Maximiser (BT176), BtXtra (DBT418), Roundup Ready
(GA21), LibertyLink (T25), YieldGard (MON810), Roundup Ready (NK603),
StarLink, B16, MaxGard, SeedLink (MS3), YieldGard (MON801, 802 and 805),
Roundup Ready (MON 832, 831 and 809), and SeedLink (MS6) varieties of GM
corn. The sample also tested negative for the Roundup Ready GM soy
variety which is the most widely grown variety of GM soy.

8. When does MAF expect to conclude its investigations?
A: By the end of next week (18 July 2003) MAF expects to have obtained
sufficient information to conclude its investigations. It is possible,
given the extremely low level of GM contamination involved, that the
exact cause or pathway may never be determined.


please read two previous media releases at:


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
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