Low level of GM detected in maize seed
11 May 2004
An audit of US-based GM testing laboratory Biogenetic Services Ltd (BGS) by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) identified that BGS was deficient in several audited areas, including the way it was interpreting and reporting testing results. Subsequent MAF-sponsored tests of BGS-certified seed consignments have revealed a very low level of GM in two of 15 consignments tested to date.
MAF has a zero tolerance for GM material in imported seed for sowing. MAF-accredited international laboratories undertake GM testing and MAF routinely audits them to ensure they meet New Zealand’s strict testing standards.
MAF’s director of plant biosecurity, Richard Ivess, said as a precaution MAF chose to retest 15 of 52 consignments of seed material shipped to New Zealand that had been tested by the BGS laboratory since January 2003. These 15 consignments represent about 80 percent of the volume of seeds in the 52 consignments involved.
Richard Ivess said today that test results supplied to MAF by AgriQuality GMO Services in Melbourne showed the presence of GM material at a very low level (less than one GM seed per 2,000 seeds) in two of the 15 consignments tested. The remaining 13 consignments returned negative results.
"The GM construct in one consignment has been identified as LibertyLink T25. Maize containing LibertyLink T25 is widely grown in the United States and Canada. While this GM construct has been approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand as safe for human consumption, MAF has been advised that that the type of maize in question is grown in New Zealand for stock feed and is not used for human foodstuffs," Richard Ivess said.
"One consignment remains totally in storage, as does the majority of the other consignment, all of which will be seized by MAF. MAF is working with the importer to determine where the remaining seed is and whether it has been planted or harvested. MAF will respond appropriately as soon as it has all this information.
"MAF is now endeavouring to re-test the remaining 37 seed consignments previously certified by BGS and shipped to New Zealand, which represent only 20 percent of the total. MAF will take appropriate action if any of these consignments are found to contain GM seeds.
"Since we were advised of the preliminary results on Wednesday 5 May 2004, we have been in consultation with ERMA New Zealand, the Ministry for the Environment, other Government agencies and industry organisations to determine the best practicable steps for managing this issue. These discussions continue.
"We have also discussed this matter with the seed importing company involved and have its full co-operation with our enquiries. MAF is continuing its standard response process, aiming to identify locations and response options,” Richard Ivess said.