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Update on GM sweet corn investigation

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry today announced that its investigations into a GMO-contaminated sweet corn crop grown at Gisborne earlier this year had produced a significant amount of information that would require analysis over the next week.

Results obtained from the sweet corn crop so far show the presence of a genetically-modified organism (GMO) called Bt11, which is present at less than 0.05 percent. This is less than five seeds in a sample of 10,000 seeds and is well below the Australia/New Zealand standard of 1 percent for the unintentional presence of GM material in approved non-viable foods. Bt11 is one of the corn varieties approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand for consumption in New Zealand.

A suite of tests designed to discover other forms of GM contamination has also produced negative results.

MAF investigators have completed their audit of the Gisborne company involved. Information obtained from the audit is now being considered to determine what, if any, further investigations of company records, processes and systems are required. The company involved has been very co-operative and supportive of MAF’s audit requirements, and the audit team has complimented company officials on the completeness of their records.

Field investigations are continuing. Of particularly interest to MAF is finding whether there are any discernible differences between the sweet corn crops produced from each of the four fields in question. Additional samples of seed, and product harvested from each of these fields has been identified and sent to Melbourne for testing. Field investigations are also finalising details of other crops that were grown in proximity to the four fields, particularly during the crops’ flowering period. This information will help determine whether cross-pollination or the original seed consignment may have been a cause of the GM contamination.

MAF is investigating several possible pathways for contamination. These are the original seeds from the United States; the possibility of cross-pollination from other crops grown adjacent to the sweet corn fields at Gisborne; contamination during the harvesting and processing stages; and possible contamination during laboratory testing. Hopefully the investigations will eliminate some of these pathways but it is possible, given the extremely low level of GM contamination, that the exact cause is never discovered.

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