Importing Genetically Modified Organisms
Genetically modified organisms (or GMOs) are organisms that have had their genetic makeup changed or modified by molecular techniques.
- Specific Requirements for Seed
- Testing Protocols
- Laboratories for Genetically Modified Organism Testing
- New Zealand Government Policy on Genetic Modification
- Genetic Modification and the Law
- High Profile Issues
- Commercialised GMO Reports
Testing for the presence of genetically modified seed is required for specific species and varieties of the following genera: Brassica, Glycine, Medicago and Zea. Testing protocols for these genera can be found below.
Further information on importing seeds for sowing or processing can be found at:
The following laboratories are accredited by MPI for the testing of genetically modified organisms:
|Testing Facility||Approved species for testing|
|DTS Food Laboratories
New Orleans, USA
|ScanBi Diagnostic AB
The standard for approving laboratories for GMO testing (79 KB).
In 2001, a Royal Commission on Genetic Modification was established to investigate and report on issues surrounding genetic modification in New Zealand. It recommended that New Zealand should proceed with caution while at the same time ensuring that any opportunities from genetic modification are preserved.
This recommendation forms the basis of the Government’s policy on genetic modification. Several government agencies work together to implement this:
- MPI and Genetically Modified Organisms
- Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)
EPA considers the benefits and risks of introducing new organisms (including GM organisms). This is done under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (the HSNO Act 1996).
The HSNO Act contains minimum standards which must be met before any release of a new organism can be considered. EPA assesses applications on a case by case basis. Currently no genetically modified organisms have been approved for introduction into New Zealand.
The most likely type of application in the short to medium term will involve monitoring GM organisms to see how they perform outside the laboratory situation. None of the GM crops currently available commercially have been developed especially for New Zealand conditions so any broad acre commercial growing of GM crops looks to be some years away.
- MPI Food Safety Authority
MPI Food Safety has the role of ensuring foods containing GM are labeled in accordance with the standard in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
Currently only some processed foods may have imported genetically modified food in their ingredients. As of February 2004, GM ingredients approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand are derived from GM crops such as corn, canola, cotton, soybean, potatoes and sugarbeet.
No fresh fruit, vegetables or meat sold in New Zealand are genetically modified.
No GM seeds have been approved for release into the New Zealand environment. The law does not permit unapproved GM grains or seeds to be knowingly imported or planted. If GM seeds are detected prior to import, the consignment will not be allowed into New Zealand.
There are strict penalties under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (1996) for introducing new organisms (including GM organisms) into New Zealand without approval.
Imported seeds are important for many New Zealand agricultural industries - the price and quality of seeds affects the competitiveness of these industries. 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, which are the world's major grain producers.
Banning seeds from these countries would limit access to these seeds and would probably raise the price of seeds, which would negatively affect these industries that rely on imported seeds. Banning seeds would also have serious negative effects on several agricultural industries, including dairying, but could still not provide a 100% guarantee to stop all GM seeds.
GM material in food products for sale in New Zealand must be assessed and approved for use via Standard 1.5.2 of the Food Standards Code.
There are over 20 approved GM foods. Less than half are varieties of corn.
Food that contains GM DNA or protein, or has altered characteristics must be labeled as 'genetically modified'.
Exemptions to the labeling requirements include:
- GM food which contains no GM DNA or new protein and has no other altered characteristics
- flavours present in the food in a concentration no more than 0.1%
- a genetically modified food is unintentionally present in a quantity of no more than 1%.
Unpackaged GM food must be displayed with GM information unless it intended for immediate consumption such as in restaurants or catering.
GE free claims are subject to the Fair Trading Act 1986, which is enforced by the Commerce Commission under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The Fair Trading Act prohibits the making of false or misleading representation in trade, and under the Act the term "GM free" has been interpreted as being absolute - the product cannot in anyway result from a GM process or contain any GM material.
The following media releases relate to the importation of GM sweet corn in October and November 2006.
- GM import standards to be reviewed - 11 December 2006
- Sweet Corn Investigation - Update 2 - 11 December 2006
- Sweet Corn Investigation - Update 1 - 5 December 2006
- MAF Investigates GM Sweet Corn importation - 1 December 2006
There is additional information for sweet corn and maize.
- Zea mays breeding in New Zealand: Analysis of the probability of perpetuating transgenes in breeding material (516 KB) – May 2004
- A review of the Handling of the GM Maize Incident at Gisborne and Pukekohe (116 KB) (McGregor Report) – Aug – Oct 2002
- MAF Biosecurity and ERMA New Zealand Response to the Recommendations of the McGregor Report (20 KB)
- Grading Processes for Sweet Corn Seed
- Border Control for Genetically Modified (GM) Seeds (68 KB) – May 2002
- Global Status of Commercialised GM Plants (1302 KB) - 1 July 2008 - 31 December 2009
- Current Status of Commercialised GM Crops (575 KB) - 1 July 2007 - June 2008
- Current Commercialised GM Crops (150 KB) – 1 July 2007
- The Current Status of Commercialised GM Crops (175 KB) – 1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007
- The Current Status of Commercialised GM Crops (138 KB) – 1 Jan 2006 – 30 June 2006
Page last updated: 10 October 2012