NZ needs a clean seed industry

The report by David Oughton from his inquiry into the importation of genetically engineered corn seeds in late 2006, shows institutional corruption and calls into question the ethics of at least some individuals involved in border surveillance according to the Soil & Health Association spokesperson Steffan Browning.

The continued GE incursions also show the need for an urgent expansion of New Zealand’s seed growing industry, a ban on imports of seed from countries and companies that consistently supply contaminated seed.

That a MAF Quarantine Service officer who participated in the earlier decision to remove the requirements for double checks in approving risky seed imports, was also the officer that then ignored positive GE tests and allowed the GE contaminated sweet corn into New Zealand fields, has a very bad smell about it, according to Mr Browning.

The fact that of 90 consignments in 2006, 30 had incomplete computer records shows that staff involved were not taking the issue seriously and maybe some positions need reviewing, as much as systems need improving. This goes right to the top however, said Mr Browning, and the culture of indifference comes from many levels of government that have an arrogant and cavalier attitude to the wishes of New Zealanders and to the risks of Genetic Engineering. New Zealand’s zero tolerance to GE contamination must be defended effectively.

The Oughton report points out a need for improved border control systems focused on the dominant risk seed species; Brassica napus var . oleifera (oil seed rape), Glycine max (soy bean), Zea mays (corn/maize), Medicago sativa (lucerne/alfalfa).

Soil & Health agrees and sees a further method of precaution in a total ban on importation on those species from the US and other countries producing such GE seed.

Some giant seed companies are also consistently the suppliers of contaminated seed and should be penalised for supplying shonky product. Syngenta was the supplier of all the contaminated seed in this recent event, and is the subject of legal proceedings in several countries.

One independent US seed grower with New Zealand interests, has told me that he would prefer to see a New Zealand seed industry developed as GE Free, to allow varieties to be grown on in confidence in New Zealand and be marketed to an eager world, said Mr Browning. The niche market for New Zealand is clean and green and the commercial opportunities are superior to risky seed importation.

Contrary to some seed importers claims, the advantages of new imported varieties do not match the combined benefits of a New Zealand seed industry and clean product for rapidly growing lucrative and discerning markets. Soil & Health promotes Organic 2020 which fits well with the international growth in organics and has no place for GE contamination.

Soil & Health wants staff changes in border control, improved checking systems, a ban on risky imports and strong government encouragement for the New Zealand seed industry.

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