ERMA (Environmental Risk Management Authority)

The independent review of ERMA clearly showed numerous flaws in ERMA. In our view, this illustrates that ERMA is incapable of protecting our unique environment and the public health.

Help us by opposing any new GE field trial applications or applications for GE release with written submissions
(don't forget to make clear that you wish to speak to your submission).

Check their website or check our updates for info on any new applications for risky experiments (some funded with your tax dollars!) here in NZ.

MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry)

MAF has admitted that they have neither the funding nor the expertise to monitor GE outside the strict containment of the laboratory, and yet this is the role that they have been given.

We have serious misgivings as to the ability of MAF to carry out its role in monitoring and attempting to contain GE organisms. Recently, due to MAF’s inadequate biosecurity protocols for seed importation into NZ, there was another illegal GMO biosecurity breach (GM contaminated maize). As opposed to “ponying up” and acknowledging their mistakes (and vowing to do better) MAF tried to hide their contribution to the problem and even lobbied for our Zero Tolerance Policy (on unintended GM presence in imported seeds) to be dropped. Fortunately, MAF was not able to pull this off and were forced to pull their Cabinet paper.


MAF and Corson Grain seems rather over-eager to see NZ's Zero Tolerance Policy (for adventitious GM contamination in imported seed) abandoned (see RURAL NEWS, l3 July 04).

Could it be that MAF and Corson Grain are trying to portray GM contamination in NZ as "inevitable" when refinement of the existing biosecurity protocols for seed importation could do the job?

The managing director of Corson Grain, John Corson, recently advocated abandoning Zero Tolerance following the detection of 0.05 percent illegal GE content in his imported seed.

However, as with any illegal action (say Foot and Mouth), a breach of the law does not require the law to be abandoned. Especially when in this particular case, very basic (and rectifiable)procedural errors were made by the US testing laboratory and MAF.

Instead of hinting at weakening NZ's Zero Tolerance Policy, MAF should focus on the unnecessary errors made by the US testing lab (Biogenetics Services) which then resulted in GM contaminated seed slipping into seed consignments sent to NZ (thanks to MAF still not having a clear written contract stipulating the way low level results should be interpreted and reported, despite previous experience with "Corngate" and Pacific Seeds).

BGS detected low levels of GM maize contamination but did not see fit to report it.

Last month MAF finally tightened the protocols around testing of the crops (seeds) most likely to be GE contaminated: sweet corn and maize, soy beans, and canola. Only one kind of test can now be used, and there has been clarification of the way low-level results should be interpreted and reported.

Seed companies have access to the technology to check for GE content, and the taxpayer should not be paying for the mistakes of those companies. It seems only fair that liability for GE contamination should remain with the companies which imported or used GE seed.

Removal of our Zero Tolerance standard would involve knowingly accepting routine and randomly-distributed contamination. This could damage New Zealand's image as a supplier of pure and high quality foods and could include pharmaceutical contamination or GE varieties illegal to sell for human consumption like Starlink* corn (that has cost millions of dollars in product recalls in the US).

Pharmaceutical GE crops are being grown right now outdoors in the US, despite a number of contamination incidents and growing concerns from many eminent scientists and the food industry.(see NEW SCIENTIST, "GM crop mishaps unite friends and foes "18 November 02).

What are the potential consequences of contamination from these? Some of the maize grown in NZ is used for human food- corn chips, starch etc.

If genes find their way from pharm crops into food crops, we could wind up with drug-laced corn flakes or taco shells.

One sector of the industry should not have the right to impose unacceptable risks, costs and liabilities on to others.

The real questions that need to be answered by MAF and Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton are:

Why isn't MAF expending more effort into improving the process?

What has MAF done?

Now is the time to improve and refine existing biosecurity systems designed to protect NZ from biological incursions, not weaken them.

Biosecurity resources are currently very stretched. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to lift the moratorium until such time as NZ's biosecurity capacity has increased to a level where it can adequately address current problems, let alone take on new responsibilities.

Regarding "Coexistence"-  MAF's claim that they can keep GE and nonGE primary production seperate (something the Americans have failed miserably at - for example the Starlink corn debacle that cost millions of dollars and massive product recalls) would be a joke if it wasn't so serious.

MAF's performance (despite “good intentions” and some dedicated staff) re: the Varroa bee mite, the Painted Apple Moth, Guava Moth and other stuffups hardly inspires confidence that they could possibly "contain" and monitor GE organisms (vectors for dispersal include pollen and seeds via insects, wind, soils, and farm machinery).

see (article): "GE Monitoring Slack, MAF says":

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry oversees facilities where GE experiments are done. However, MAF biosecurity authority director, Barry O' Neill said it could not monitor the effects of GE, either in containment, or after commercial release.  Nobody was monitoring such effects.  Even if MAF had more funds, it lacked the skills to monitor effects of GE, he said.
(Evening Post,
5 August 2000)

Let MAF know you're not impressed, email:
Richard Ivess (Director, Plant Biosecurity)  email:    ivessr@maf.govt.nz
Graeme King  email: kingg@maf.govt.nz
Peter Kettle  email:    kettlep@maf.govt.nz
David Wansbrough   email: WansbroughD@maf.govt.nz

More background on GE maize contamination Gisborne:

Gisborne Herald 9/10/2002  Page 3 - Officials fail to quell GE worries

MAF and Environment Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand) officials failed to quell local concerns about GE at a public meeting in Gisborne last night. Genetically engineered corn was grown in this district in field trials as far back as the 1990s, a crowd of more than 60 people were told.

There had been three approved trials in Gisborne with GM corn in the 1990s which consisted of less than a few hundred square metres in each case.

The trials were held at Corson Grain's research areas but Mr Hannah did not know where those areas were. That angered some people in the crowd and he said he would provide the location to the Gisborne Environment Centre which arranged the public meeting.

The government officials said in the recent incident three local fields had been planted with imported seed. Male and female lines were grown on a 12-hectare plot while two separate plots totalling .5 hectares were planted with one of the lines only. Sampling of the hybrid seeds found that GM was present in a concentration of less than 1 in 2000 seeds which was estimated to consist of 319 plants in the hybrid field and nine in the female inbred field.

The seed crops were later destroyed by Pacific Seeds under MAF supervision while MAF and ERMA were to monitor the fields until March, 2003.

Donald Hannah of ERMA, said according to research "virtually nothing" would happen to grazing animals or birds as they would digest and break up any genetically modified DNA. Laboratory researchers found that soil contamination by mulched DNA "was very, very rare where they had tried to do it". "We think there has not been a transfer of genetic material from those plants into that soil of any significant amount."

At the end of the night a wide cross-section of the community including farmers, bee keepers, environmentalists, members of the public, a Gisborne District Councillor and a District Health board member asked questions and all seem unimpressed. "It defies belief that we are playing with chemical balances that have been five billion years of evolution in the making," said one man. "And you put out a document that actually justifies that. It's beyond comprehension."

Mr Hannah said scientists were trying to "drive those effects" to enhance knowledge of what was going on. Scientists were "monitoring" and wanted to know if there was a problem and if there was, do something about it. "It will be too late," a woman called out from the crowd.

A man asked if anyone in any ministry had survived as a dissenting voice. Stephen Vaughan, of the Ministry for the Environment, said "all of us from time to time".

At the time of the recent Gisborne plantings "people within government" were looking ahead and asking what were the consequences for the country if other countries grew more GM crops. There were politicians and other government departments who wanted to make more money for New Zealand or advance science. "Those people had said that is the way we think the world should be. We had all been in that position of saying 'just a minute'. "

One person said he couldn't understand the point of GM corn as overseas markets didn't want such products. David Wainsbrough of MAF said the Government was interested in finding out if there was any benefit in GE technology. If New Zealand wanted any such benefits the country would have to have their own technology. Farmers were also aware of consumer demand.

"It is not always as clear-cut as it's reported." Europe was conducting GM trials while Japan was importing GM soya bean oil. The Government wanted a system where benefits and risks could be assessed so opportunities would not be missed out on.

Related links:

GE maize contamination Gisborne and Pukekohe-
Jeanette Fitzsimmons Press Release "New Zealanders should not pay for GE stuffups"
4 October 2002)http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR5649.html


"Lobbyist says seed companies must be liable for GE contamination"

New Zealand taxpayers should not have to pay for the mistakes of seed companies that import crop seed contaminated with engineered genes, says a critic of genetic engineering outside the laboratory.

"Liability for genetic engineering (GE) contamination must remain with those who import or use GE seed and not be passed on to the taxpayer," said Sustainability Council of NZ executive director Simon Terry.

"Liability must follow the 'polluter pays' principle. Otherwise the agents that have the ability to reduce the risk don't have the incentive to get it right," he said.



Corn crop seized in new GE scare (NZ Herald, 9 August 2002)


Biotechnology, including Genetic Modification

Testing for GM seeds



There is an unacceptable level of exemptions to the mandatory labeling of GE ingredients in this country and Australia (including GE oils, sweeteners, food additives, meat fed solely or partially on GE grain etc) undermining consumer choice and preventing traceability in the event of adverse effects.

Protect yourself and exercise your "right to know" by using the Greenpeace Truefood Guide (ring 0 800 223343 to obtain a copy) and "Purse Power" cards (available from MADGE).

We note that there have been no long term toxicological tests of GE ingredients to ensure safety/ protect the public health and that the BMA and other medical authorities continue to warn of the dangers of allowing inadequately tested and labelled GE foods in food supplies internationally (invisible to the naked eye).

The number of exemptions to the mandatory labelling regime in NZ (including takeaway bars and so forth) render the GE labelling regime in this country meaningless.

As you may know, the EU recently put in place a much stricter labelling regime (the most strict labelling regime in the world).

In the EU system, no GE product will be allowed unlabelled into the EU market. All GE food and food ingredients, including highly processed derivatives such as sugar, refined oil and starch, produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), will have to be clearly labelled. And for the first time, GE feed is labelled in the EU.

The EU regulations also include food ingredients derived form GE but no longer containing detectable DNA or protein.

At the very least GE labelling should give people and primary producers the choice to not eat or use GE derived ingredients. New Zealand's current legislation fails to do that, because it does not include all foods derived from GM technology.

Late last year the Minister of Health Annette King stated that New Zealand and Australia needed to be aligned with the European Union on standards for genetically engineered food.

Pressure Annette King and Food Standards Australia NZ to ensure that the mandatory GE labelling regime in this country (and Australia)is  reviewed and improved so that it is a truly comprehensive and strict labelling regime (thus protecting consumer choice and the public health) and of at least equal robustness as the EU labelling regime.

Help us by opposing any new applications for GE foodstuffs to be approved for use in the national food supply. A typical application would be Monsanto applying for a new variety of GE corn (or soy) to be allowed (unlabelled) in processed foods in NZ.

Level 4
108 The Terrace
Ph:  +64 4 473 9942
Fax: +64 4 473 9855

PO Box 10559
The Terrace, Wellington 6036
New Zealand

email: info@foodstandards.govt.nz




The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is supposed to

§         Protect and promotes public health and safety

§         Facilitate access to markets for New Zealand food and food related products

Please find below the website address of a new Safe Food newsletter that MP Sue Kedgley of the Greens will be producing from time to time to update interested New Zealanders about issues relating to the food they eat. If you would like to be on the mailing list, please contact the Wellington Office by phone (04-381-4640) or email: suekedgley@paradise.net.nz. 


Despite the establishment of a new Food Safety Agency in July this year, there are many food safety issues of real concern to consumers that are not being addressed by Government.

One of the reasons for this is that New Zealand has lost control over many decisions that are made about our food to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority - recently renamed the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

FSANZ is an Australian organisation, staffed by Australians, set up under Australian law, which reports to the Australian Minister of Health. (There is a tiny information office in Wellington).

New Zealand joined the organisation in the mid-90's, and has the status of an Australian state - namely one vote out of 10 on the key decision-making body of the agency. No surprises therefore that FSANZ would vote to allow irradiated tropical fruit from Australia to be imported into New Zealand!

Another problem is that the new Food Safety Agency in New Zealand is not an independent body. Although it is headed by a dynamic official who has tried to take on board consumer concerns (Andrew McKenzie), it is nevertheless located within MAF and so there is always a risk that it will be focussed on protecting overseas exports rather than domestic consumers. This focus is demonstrated in the article below on illegal residues found in domestic meat.

The issues I raise below are positive proof of why, if we are to restore consumer confidence in the food we eat, we need to follow Europe and set up the new food agency as a genuinely independent body. The Australia New Zealand treaty also needs to be renegotiated so that we are represented on FSANZ with the status of a sovereign state, rather than that of an Australian state.

Safe and happy eating,
Sue Kedgley

See also:
GE FOOD FACTS COME HOME TO ROOST (Media release  9 September 2003)

KING MUST REVEAL GE BABY FOOD PRODUCTS (Media release  4 September 2003)


Other useful contacts regarding GE food:

Consumer Institute
Chief Executive David Russell  
Email:     chiefexec@consumer.org.nz  
Tel 04 384 7963  Fax 04 385 8752

Ministry of Health

Toll free line:  0 800 938 839

Ministry of Consumer Affairs
Email:  mcainfo@mca.govt.nz


(5 August 2002, Forum North, Whangarei)

On the 5th of August, a GE SYMPOSIUM was held in Whangarei, involving all Northland Mayors and councils.  Organised by Far North District Council, the symposium attracted up to around l00 people at a time to the Forum North exhibition hall (despite work constraints for many interested members of the public).  Notable (by his absence) was Mayor Craig Brown, despite the convenient location (in the same building as his office!)

GE FREE NORTHLAND worked hard lobbying the FNDC and other councils, to ensure the Invited speaker list was fair and equitable, balancing anti and pro-GE groups and government agencies.

Speakers for GE FREE NORTHLAND included lawyer Rick Palmer (on the serious liability issues) and Northland businesswoman Suzanne Hall (Living Nature). Their concerns were admirably supported by soil scientist Dr. Neil MacGregor (of Massey University), Hally Toia (of Northland Conservation Board), Dr. Peter Maddison (of Forest & Bird), Suzie MacIntyre (of Far North Organic Growers), Northland iwi (speakers Peter Harrison and Waitai Petera) and Kaye Baxter of Koanga Gardens.

Other speakers included Sir Paul Reeves (Chairperson of the soon to be formed Bioethics Council), Steve Vaughan from the Ministry for the Environment, Murray Jagger from Livestock Improvement Corporation, CEO Peter Silcock from VegFed and the NZ Fruit Growers Federation, and lastlyDr. David Saul from Auckland University.

For a brief period during the GE SYMPOSIUM, a group of women from the local branch of MAdGE (Mothers Against GE) silently held up hot pink placards proclaiming "GE- WE DON'T BUY IT".

Stalls by GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment), Physicians & Scientists for Responsible Genetics, the GE FREE REGISTER, MAdGE and MFE were extremely popular, many taking away piles of GE-free literature.

Information was also available from the recently formed Sustainability Council (Chairperson ex-Federated Farmers President Sir Peter Elworthy) which detailed the economic argument as to why commercial release of GE in this country made no sense.  A period of 5 years was advocated as a sensible time frame in which to learn more about GE and carefully scrutinise what was taking place overseas in terms of the absence of market for GE foodstuffs.

The risks of transgenic pollution were impressed upon the Mayors and attending councillors, as well as the complete lack of liability to protect innocent third parties.

GE FREE NORTHLAND will follow up with Far North, Kaipara and Whangarei District Councils, lobbying for them to either declare the region a GE FREE ZONE or make a variation to the District Plan(s) classing GE as a Prohibited Activity.


**UPDATE**  Whangarei District Council

SUSTAINABILITY COUNCIL OF NZ speaker to arrive in Whangarei lst of October 2003

Thanks to everyone who made a submission to the Whangarei District Council draft annual plan this year (asking that $l0,000 be budgeted this year to investigate the risks of GE to the District).

About 40 submissions were made expressing concerns about GENETIC ENGINEERING, and a number of submittors  (including GE FREE NORTHLAND) presented to full council.

As a result, the WDC has put in place a work programme that includes inviting (and paying for) a speaker from the Sustainability Council of NZ (either Sir Peter Elworthy, or Chief Executive Simon Terry) to travel to  Whangarei to speak to the Mayor and full council on the morning of lst October 2003. The public is welcome to attend. In addition, the WDC has commissioned the Sustainability Council to write a report on economic impacts of GE and the liability issue.

 Ring 4322155 for more info.