“Government is shown to have again acted too late in the face of a clear exposure to GM contamination” said Sustainability Council Executive Director, Simon Terry.

“It was only 8 days ago that government set in place biosecurity measures for maize seed imports. Yet GM maize has been a commercial crop in the US for over five years and seed from the US was last year the dominant source of supply to New Zealand.”

“Government moved too slowly to get a robust regime in place for sweetcorn after the November 2000 corn contamination incident. An interim regime was tightened only as of last week.”

“The potential for contamination from maize seed was just as strong at the time of that first incident two years ago and yet no action was taken to protect against GM maize contamination until last week” said Mr Terry. “Maize seed was left completely untested in the meantime”.

The new regime for maize and sweetcorn has raised the sample size considerably to (3200 seeds) from that used under the interim regime. It is understood that the voluntary testing of the seed used to grow the crop that will be destroyed used a sample size of only 1400 seeds.

“The higher sample size for the regime now in place should provide much better protection. However, we may well need to undertake additional random testing for a period until we can be sure this new system is adequate.”

“If at any stage it is found that testing regimes are not providing the required level of protection, then the fallback option is to strongly discourage seed imports from the four countries that account for 99% of all GM crop production. This would cover only seeds that have GM equivalents.”

“Such measures should include making the importer strictly liable for any damages resulting from contamination” he said.

“Government got the communication right this time. But the failure to act two years ago has left us with what looks like a contaminated crop now.