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GM seeds may have entered NZ: MPI

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/06/2017

Genetically modified flower seeds may have been brought into New Zealand without authorisation, the Ministry of Primary Industries says.

The ministry is investigating petunia seeds from one importer following an overseas recall of the flower in Europe, the United States and Australia.

But MPI plants, food and environment director Peter Thomson says there is no risk to the New Zealand environment and only a "negligible" biosecurity risk.

"Given that it's winter, it is unlikely there are many plants currently in circulation and the risk of these plants becoming established is negligible," he said.

"However, New Zealand has strict controls around genetically modified organisms. It is illegal to import, develop, field test or release a genetically modified organism without approval."

The seeds - under the names African Sunset, Trilogy Red (or Diva Red) and Trilogy Deep Purple (Diva Deep Purple) - would be taken off the market and any existing stock would have to be destroyed, he said.

Anyone who has purchased them is advised to "remove the plants from their garden and dispose of them in their domestic rubbish".

"We ask that the public not dispose of plant material or seeds in compost or green waste," Mr Thomson said.

There was no evidence to suggest the GM seeds were brought into country deliberately, he said.

"As soon as [the importer] became aware of the possibility, they contacted MPI. We applaud them for that," he said.

The ministry would be introducing new border controls requiring all petunia seeds to be certified GM-free.

"This is a global situation, many other countries are dealing with the same issue and MPI is working closely with our overseas counterparts," Mr Thomson said.

"It seems that no authorities anywhere in the world were aware that these varieties of petunia contained or were bred with GM plant material."

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