GENET archive


2-Plants: GE contamination of maize seeds discovered in New Zealand

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  MAF investigating GM maize consignment
SOURCE: New Zealand Herald
DATE:   27 Jul 2005

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MAF investigating GM maize consignment

A GM-positive test result of a maize consignment is being investigated by
the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

The maize consignment, stored in the upper North Island, was tested as
part of normal quality assurance processes and has been isolated while
further investigations are completed, the ministry said.

This includes sending independent samples to an overseas laboratory, and
results may take three weeks.

MAF eradication programmes manager Ian Gear said the investigation was
still in its early stages, and there was little that could be said until
those results were available.

He said: "The investigation relates to a consignment of 13,500 tonnes of
maize held at locations in the upper North Island. The problem we have is
that the sample comes from mixed seed lines and multiple growers.

"We have to take all positive samples seriously, and tracing those seed
lines and growers is a priority."

Mr Gear said the maize was destined for manufacture into food products,
and thus rendered non-viable.

The next maize crop is due to be planted in October or November, and the
nature of the New Zealand farming industry meant it was very unlikely
that farmers had held any of this year's crop to plant next season, MAF said.

Maize is unable to reproduce itself.

"We are mindful of the timing of this, but for MAF, this is business as
usual. This is the sixth occurrence of this type in the last three
years," Mr Gear added.

Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said: "We have had several of these
scares in the past few years, and officials are dealing with this one in
the same way as they have dealt with the others. It's very much business
as usual."

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Time to abandon zero tolerance of GM
SOURCE: New Zealand Life Sciences Network
DATE:   28 Jul 2005

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Time to abandon zero tolerance of GM

The discovery of GM presence in a maize consignment in the North Island
is another reminder that it is time the Government abandoned zero
tolerance, the Chairman of the Life Sciences Network, Dr William
Rolleston said today.

"Six episodes of GM in New Zealand crops proves that zero tolerance will
never make us GE free, yet every time GM is detected, even at extremely
low levels, MAF is obliged to divert valuable resources and swing an
expensive emergency response procedure into action.

"The associated hysteria from anti GM groups does more damage to our
country's trade image than the implementation of a scientifically
determined tolerance level. Meanwhile the rest of the world is moving
forward with the development of this valuable science, and more and more
farmers are switching to the benefits of genetic modification.

"In October 2004 the Local Government and Environment Select Committee
reported on "Corngate" and recommended in cases like this one "that where
the seed has been planted, then those crops (but not unused seed) should
be able to be grown, harvested, and consumed." The Government stated the
recommendation had merit and would consider it further.

"We expect the New Zealand Government will take a fair and practical
approach and not demand valuable produce be destroyed if it proves, as
expected, that any GM presence is of a variety approved for consumption.
This would be the first practical step towards abandoning zero tolerance
of GM, which continues to show that its approved use is safe", Dr
Rolleston concluded.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  Farmers frustrated by GM contamination
SOURCE: New Zealand Press Agency / New Zealand Herald
DATE:   28 Jul 2005

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Farmers frustrated by GM contamination

Farmers are "frustrated" by news that a big maize consignment has been
contaminated by genetically modified (GM) material, endangering export

Around 13,500 tonnes of maize -- all from one region -- may have to be
dumped, after routine testing revealed the presence of GM contamination.

This is believed to be the sixth such incident in the past three years.

Federated Farmers' spokesman Hugh Ritchie said while tests were supposed
to pick up GM seed in imported seed, no test was 100 per cent accurate.

"There's only a 0.05 per cent of something getting through but the
eventuality does exist," he told National Radio this morning.

He said it was "unlikely" that the incident was related to the last major
contamination 13 months ago, when nearly 4000 tonnes of corn grown in
Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Waikato and Northland was found to have traces of
GM material.

The problem facing growers was the maize industry relied on hybrid grain
lines and it was necessary to continually import new genetic material, he

"We can't test every single seed because then we would have no seed to
plant -- so we have to test small samples."

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) officials face a daunting task
in tracking down the source of the contamination, as the seed came from a
complex mix of seed lines and growers.

Mr Ritchie said "in hindsight", it would have worked better to test
consignments from individual properties before mixing them up.

However, testing in terms of imports and seed planted was already "very
rigorous" and had been strengthened since the last incident.

"You have to go with the processes in place and believe that that process
is giving farmers protection," he said.

"But having said that it's very frustrating because farmers and seed
producers are trying their utmost to provide seeds at zero tolerance."

He said it was hoped the seed would not have to be dumped, but its use
would have to be "very carefully monitored" so as not to put any markets
at risk.

MAF eradication programmes manager Ian Gear said it was expected to take
at least three weeks to complete the investigation into the contamination
because of the complexity of the situation.

                                  PART IV
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Suspected GM maize costly to trace
SOURCE: The New Zealand Herald, by Anne Beston
DATE:   29 Jul 2005

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Suspected GM maize costly to trace

The giant silo of potentially GM-contaminated maize that suddenly no one
wants is sitting at an Auckland food manufacturer's plant while an
investigation swings into action to trace its origins.

Agriculture supply company Wrightson contracted farmers to grow the grain
and is stuck with it, forced to take any financial hit if further tests
show it's genetically modified.

"Everyone has been shocked and stunned because (the positive test for GM)
was just so foreign to what we thought would happen," said spokeswoman
Annette Campbell.

The silo is one of five now under suspicion and sits at food manufacturer
Penford New Zealand Ltd's Onehunga site.

Its contract to buy the maize was now invalid, said national sales
manager Martin Brayshaw.

"We don't want it," he said.

"We would expect to receive GM-free corn. That's what we undertake to
supply to our customers."

Mr Brayshaw said the company carried out its own tests on the grain and
discovered the potential contamination. One 2kg sample had shown up as GM

The company had immediately been on the phone to customers, both here and
overseas, to assure them none of the grain had entered the food process.
It also alerted Wrightson and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
All three are now carrying out further testing, with MAF sending samples
to Melbourne-based AgricQuality GMO Services. Results won't be available
for at least two weeks.

Penford New Zealand is part of the Australasian arm of US-based food
giant Penford Corporation, supplying starches and sugars that go into
processed foods.

Between 10 and 20 farmers could have been involved in growing the 1000
tonnes of maize in the Penford silo, worth around $300,000, said Annette

Wrightson now had the massive job of trying to trace every potential seed
line that went into the silo and from there back to every individual
farmer who grew it. "It's pretty stressful. The track and trace problem
is initially going to be expensive. It's a huge task," she said.

The company was also carrying out further testing at the other four silos
scattered around the North Island containing maize that went through the
drying process at the same time as the potentially contaminated consignment.

Federated Farmers Maize Growers Committee member Colin MacKinnon said it
was critical New Zealand remained GM-free.


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