FAQs related to Potato Compliance Programme - Registered Packing and/or Storage Facilities - SGS
All poles, posts or rounds imported into New Zealand will be inspected on arrival in New Zealand for pests, evidence of pest infestation, or for unwanted organic contamination such as soil or bark.
Poles, posts or rounds found to be contaminated with pests or soil or bark will need to be treated (if you want the items to enter New Zealand), re-shipped (sent back) or destroyed (incinerated). The treatment will depend on the contaminant found (e.g. fumigation for insects or bark, heat treatment for fungi).
Poles, posts or rounds from Pines trees (genus Pinus) that are being imported from areas not considered by Biosecurity New Zealand to be free of Fusarium circinatum (Pine pitch canker), must be heat treated to a core temperature of 70oC for 4 hours.
All treatment or destruction costs will need to be met by the importer.
If you want to be sure of avoiding difficulties on arriving in NZ, make sure that all poles, posts or rounds you bring into New Zealand are either free of pests, bark and soil (dirt), or have been certified treated by one of the methods described in the import health standard.
From this initial find, 15 exotic new-to-New Zealand weed varieties have been isolated and contained. Work is still ongoing in formally identifying the weed species and analysing any potential risk they may pose to New Zealand's environment or primary industries. Preliminary thoughts are that most of the weeds are tropical species and it is questionable how well they will do in New Zealand conditions. This said, however, prudent measures are underway to attempt to contain and destroy as much contaminated product as possible.
MAFBNZ are aware that the same coco peat has been distributed to other nurseries in the North Island and to some retail outlets in bagged product. The wider nursery industry is helping to trace those shipments and advise recipients of actions they can take to reduce any risk they may pose. We are also working to address the initial source of the infestation. Immediate measures to treat imported coco peat at the border are being implemented as an interim measure while work is underway to tighten import requirements.
No. The source of the contamination has been traced to two contaminated consignments of coco peat (coir or coconut husk fibre), imported from Sri Lanka in October 2007. Only one company received this contaminated material and we are working with them to trace this product through their customer database.
MAFBNZ was made aware on 15 February 2008 that suspect, new-to-New Zealand weeds were present within potting mix in a Waikato nursery. From this initial find 15 new-to-New Zealand weed varieties have been isolated and contained - work is going on in formally identifying the weed species and analysing any potential risk these may pose to New Zealand's environment or primary industry.
This raw material (which comes in compressed brickette form) is derived from the inner seed surrounds of coconuts. It is used as an ingredient to make potting mix products used in the nursery and garden industry.
Briefly, our advice is to hold and separate out any plants that have been potted during the 17 October and 12 December 2007 time frame. Check and manually weed potted plants - destroy weeds by incineration, deep bury or place in a plastic bag, seal and send to the landfill as part of your household rubbish collection. We recommend the weeded plants are then treated with a pre-emergence herbicide. If you have unused product still on your property call MAF's 0800 number - 0800 80 99 66 for instructions on disposal.
MAF is the enforcement agency for the HSNO Act. MAF approves containment facilities for working with new organisms and genetically modified organisms to MAF/ERMA New Zealand standards, and checks facility operator compliance with HSNO approvals and their controls. MAF also provides assurances through import health standard requirements that unapproved organisms are not imported into New Zealand.
There is no evidence of a risk to human health or the environment. The variety of GM maize detected in the large seed lot is widely grown in the United States and Canada. It is approved for human consumption in many countries, including New Zealand, although no one has ever applied to the Environmental Risk Management Authority to grow it here. Furthermore, it is present in low levels – fewer than 50 plants out of every 100,000.
The question of compensation is currently being worked through by MAF, the grain industry and Treasury. Until this analysis is complete, no determination on compensation is possible.
The New Zealand GM testing regime is one of the strictest in the world.
MAF requires proof of testing for GM before seed can be cleared at the border for entry into New Zealand, and if there is any indication of GM content the seed is not allowed in. A consignment that has been tested offshore in a MAF-accredited laboratory, according to the method in our import protocol, will not be tested again unless there are genuine grounds to suspect that GM seeds are present. This means that seed from non-GM as well as GM producing countries are required to be certified GM-negative before it is allowed into the country.
With more and more GM crops being grown and traded around the world, there will be more opportunities for GM seeds to be present in seed supplies. On the other hand, the systems to separate GM and non-GM crops are likely to improve, driven both by commercial pressures and demands from governments for assurances.
It is very likely that there will continue to be incidents like this one, where GM seeds are present unintentionally at concentrations near the limit of detection. However, with appropriate actions and ongoing assurance systems, it should be possible to keep these incidents to a minimum.
No. None of the GM corn has entered the food chain and there is no cross-pollination risk.
No, any effects would be negligible. Corn is a highly domesticated plant that cannot survive without human intervention. It will not readily grow in uncultivated sites or where it has competition from other forms of vegetation. Corn plants do not become weeds, even in parts of the country where maize is grown intensively, and none of the genetic modifications detected would change that situation. It would be extremely unusual to see a maize plant growing away from a cultivated or recently harvested field. Corn is not related to any native or other plants in New Zealand and does not hybridize with them. Corn is wind-pollinated rather than insect-pollinated so honey bees do not usually visit corn plants. Given the low concentration of GM seeds found, the amount of GM pollen would have been so small that it is extremely unlikely that it would could have affected honey bees or be detectable in any honey or other bee products.
It is difficult to predict long-term effects. It is difficult to detect very small concentrations of GM seeds in consignments of non-GM seeds. This uncertainty may reduce the willingness of seed companies to operate in the New Zealand market, which could significantly affect our supply of seeds and ultimately, the competitiveness of some important agricultural industries. On the other hand, many people argue that New Zealand would benefit from maintaining its status as a non-GM producer, and that the opportunities from non-GM production will outweigh any costs.
Yes, it is possible. No testing system is perfect - there is always a chance that GM seeds may not be detected, especially at very low levels of concentration.
New Zealand imports approximately 750 million sweet corn and maize seeds each year. The only way to guarantee that no GM seeds are entering New Zealand is to test (and therefore destroy) every single seed.
Maize/sweet corn seeds and oilseed rape seeds are the most likely to inadvertently contain GM seeds. Four crops make up more than 99% of the world's commercial GM crops: soybean, maize, cotton, and oilseed rape. New Zealand does not grow cotton and grows only very small amounts of soybeans. Relatively large quantities of maize/sweet corn and oilseed rape seeds are imported into New Zealand, including from countries that grow GM varieties of those crops.
Firstly, it would have serious negative effects in several agricultural industries, including dairying, and would seriously damage and possibly destroy those industries that rely on imported seeds. Secondly, it would still not provide a guarantee to stop all GM seeds.
Many of New Zealand's agricultural industries rely on imported seeds - the price and quality of seeds affects their competitiveness. For example, maize is grown for food and is also an important stock feed in the dairy, pig and poultry industries. Many of the best quality seeds come from countries that grow GM crops, because they are also the world's major seed producers. Banning seeds from those countries would limit access to seeds with desirable characteristics (such as even ripening) and would raise the price of seeds because there are few alternative sources. New Zealand only allows maize seeds to be imported from fourteen countries (Australia, Canada, Chile, the USA and ten European countries). Most comes from the USA and Chile with smaller amounts from Australia and Europe. The USA and Canada both grow large areas of GM maize. Chile allows GM maize (usually imported from the northern hemisphere) to be grown for seed exports. France and Germany grow very small areas of GM maize and are conducting trials of GM maize. The other European countries are not major maize producers.
New Zealand farmers use both locally produced and imported seeds. For pasture seeds such as ryegrasses and clovers, we are world-leaders - breeding and producing our own seeds and exporting about $60-70 million worth of them around the globe. But for maize and many vegetable crops, the best seeds come from large and expensive breeding programs in the major agricultural producing countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Because of our size and climate, New Zealand cannot produce seeds that match the quality and value of those imported seeds. There are other reasons as well: some crops lose their vigour after several generations so new varieties must be imported from time to time, and many of the best seeds are hybrids that do not breed true - the next generation is unlikely to have the qualities that make the variety desirable. New Zealand farmers realise that to be internationally competitive, it is essential that they can participate in the seed breeding and multiplication industry, which must import seeds.
MAF is consulting with corn growing experts to ensure appropriate measures are applied to the fields in question.
MAF will include additional controls in the harvest process to minimise the probability of the formation of a self-sustaining population of GM Zea mays. Protocols covering these controls will be written and distributed to growers.
MAF will also perform follow-up visits to sites.
If it is determined that it is contaminated this seed will be destroyed or re-exported.
There is no cross-pollination risk because the crops have only just germinated.
The documentation that accompanied these consignments only indicated the presence of promoter or terminator sequences, not a specific construct. MAF’s investigations will seek to identify the nature of any GM constructs.
Please see the media release - Sweet corn investigation update 1
All planted corn has only recently been planted and germinated. MAF has secured all unplanted seeds.
It is unlikely, but possible, that consignments of lucerne seed could contain very low levels of GM seed. In the USA, the proximity of GM crops to non-GM crops is not regulated. For example, lucerne is pollinated by bees. Bees could carry pollen from GM fields to non GM fields. Also mixing of small amounts of GM seed could occur via harvesting equipment, seed cleaning plants, and seed storage facilities.
The seed sample will be tested using a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) test called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which detects specific DNA sequences unique to the genetic modification. The GM lucerne varieties contain the herbicide tolerant gene (CP4 EPSPS) and a promoter gene (FMV) from the Figwort Mosaic Virus, which conventional varieties do not have. A positive result for either of these genes indicates the presence of GM in the seed sample.
The three MAF-approved testing laboratories supply a test that will detect Round-up Ready GM lucerne, by specifically targeting a part of its gene construct which is virtually identical with the construct in other glyphosate-tolerant crops. If any GM lucerne is detected during testing, MAF will deny the consignment of seed entry into New Zealand. The laboratories will monitor the test’s effectiveness as part of normal validation procedures.
To date, only the US has approved the commercial production of GM lucerne. However, seeds are traded world-wide. Seed from this year’s harvest in the US may be sold to other countries and the ensuing seed crop may enter New Zealand next year. Furthermore, New Zealand growers decide which countries they source seed from according to the end use for their products. The lucerne and alfalfa breeding industry in the US is large, and provides growers with access to specialised varieties.
Implementation of a testing protocol can provide assurances that imports do not contain GM seeds, while still allowing trade to continue. Banning all imports of lucerne and alfalfa seed would not be justified, given that a GM test is available.