Frequently Asked Questions

Could didymo spread to lakes throughout New Zealand?

Yes. Although didymo prefers a river environment with clear water flowing over stable substrate at depths sufficient for light penetration to drive photosynthesis, blooms have been found in South Island Lakes. Lake Wakatipu, for example, contains visible didymo on some parts of the lake shore.

Is GM lucerne OK to eat?

GM lucerne/alfalfa was approved by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) in July 2005 for wide-scale cultivation. In the same year it was assessed and approved for human food in Canada and Mexico in 2005, and in 2006, Japan.

Although GM lucerne/alfalfa is intended primarily as an animal feed, its safety for human consumption has also been assessed in case some inadvertently enters the human food supply.

Food produced from Roundup-ready corn, soybean, canola and sugar beet, which all contain the same modified gene as GM lucerne, have already been approved as safe for consumption by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). FSANZ are currently conducting an initial assessment of GM lucerne as food, and if it is approved for human consumption, all products containing GM must be labelled as genetically modified in accordance with the Australia New Zealand Food Safety Code, Food Standard 1.5.2. This provides consumers with choice as to whether or not they purchase foods containing GM ingredients.

For any questions about food safety, please contact the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (offsite link to

New Zealand Food Safety Authority
68-86 Jervois Quay
PO Box 2835

If I see something I think is didymo, what should I do?

If you see something you suspect is didymo in an unaffected river, please report the location of the find to the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 809 966.

Is mail coming to New Zealand also checked?

Quarantine Officers, assisted by an X-ray machine and detector dog, inspect all parcels entering New Zealand at the International Mail Centre. There are regular interceptions of risk goods, which include fresh produce, seeds, plants and straw items. Recipients of restricted items are given the option of having goods treated and returned to them at their expense.

How are detector dogs trained?

The dogs respond either in a passive manner by simply sitting next to the baggage containing contraband, or in an active manner by retrieving the item. The dogs will then be rewarded for any correct responses. Response behaviour is trained through the use of operant conditioning - passive response detector dogs will be rewarded with food, active response dogs are rewarded with a toy and a game.

What are the tolerances for the other Additional Declaration pests for Taiwan?

The normal 600 unit phytosanitary inspection applies, with no detections of live pests in the sample.

Is atypical scrapie a rare condition?

Although atypical scrapie has been found in a number of European countries since it was identified in 1998, it has been found only at very low incidence rates.

Will spray be used to kill the fly?

A single fruit fly find does not mean there is an outbreak of the fly. If there is a population present, there will not be aerial spraying with insecticide. There are better methods to deal with fruit flies.

Will this change in the wood packaging standard change the role of accredited persons?

Yes it does change their role. Accredited persons should still be inspecting all wood packaging for pest such as insects and fungi but they must also record the ISPM 15 compliance status of the wood packaging on their container log sheets.

We recommend that non-compliant wood packaging be treated or destroyed.

How does varroa spread internationally?

There is an international trade in live bees. Queen bees are shipped world-wide, and are believed to be responsible for the spread of the mite to both North and South America, and Africa. New Zealand has not permitted bee imports for many years, but does export live bees.