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Investigation of suspected GM contaminated corn underway

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry officials today announced that they are investigating a case of possible GM contamination of sweet corn grown in the Gisborne region earlier this year.

The investigation also involves officials from the NZ Food Safety Authority, ERMA New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment.

MAF Biosecurity group director Barry O’Neil said the investigations were prompted by a New Zealand company alerting MAF of test results conducted in Japan by a pizza manufacturing company that had conducted routine testing of a proprietary topping mix. This mix contained sweet corn sourced from New Zealand.

“Upon receiving this information MAF, with the full co-operation of the company, immediately moved to secure seed and product samples and arrange independent testing through AgriQuality’s GM testing facility in Melbourne,” Barry O’Neil said.

“Results received so far indicate no GM material in the seed that was planted but indicate the presence of GM material in the harvested crop. Follow-up tests are underway to confirm these results and to identify the exact nature of the GM material involved.

“MAF investigators are working closely with the New Zealand company to ascertain the extent of plantings of this corn variety; the nature of other crops, particularly corn varieties grown adjacent to these; and the quantities and final destination of the sweet corn that was harvested,” Barry O’Neil said.

“The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is awaiting test results that will confirm the variety and level of GM material contained in the corn. Based on information currently available, it seems likely the GM variety contained in this corn has been approved for human consumption in New Zealand. However if it is not an approved GM variety, further action will be taken,” NZFSA Director of Dairy and Plant Products Tim Knox said.

“MAF is taking this investigation very seriously and is working closely with ERMA New Zealand officials,” Barry O’Neil said.

“There is still much we do not know about this particular event. Our investigations currently underway should help answer many of the questions we currently have. We will provide regular updates as we receive the results of tests currently being conducted and determine the extent of any risks that may arise.

“We have briefed Ministers and officials from the relevant Government agencies. MAF values the high level of co-operation it is receiving from the sweet corn exporter involved,” he said.

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