Wellington, June 9, 2017
The Ministry of Primary Industries has notified nurseries and plant producers that genetically modified petunias might have been illegally imported into New Zealand. They have sent seed stock to testing laboratories to see if the seeds are genetically modified.
The notification to nurseries followed confirmation by the Australian Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) that petunias growing in Australia were illegal and had been ordered to be destroyed.
GE-Free New Zealand President Claire Bleakley said that if this biosecurity threat is proven, then the importers must be held responsible for the costs and any damage caused by this breach.
Petunias originated in South America and are closely related to many highly sought after staple foods in the potato family (Solanceae), including tamarillo, tomatoes, nightshades, tobacco, cape gooseberries, potatoes and peppers.
“There is increasing concern at the loss of biosecurity staff who control the borders and are tasked with protecting our industries and economy from dangerous incursions, GE-Free NZ spokesman Jon Carapiet said.
In the last few years, there has been the incursion of myrtle rust, varroa, pea weevil, didymo and now there is a possible incursion of GE petunias, he added.
“Our border controls are failing. Some importers are being cavalier and are not abiding by the law, putting New Zealand at significant risk. Consumers at home and abroad want produce grown in New Zealand to be GE Free. It would be devastating if a GE incursion hit our potato or tomato growing industries,” Mr Carapiet said.