Cottonseed find a worry for farmers

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012

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Biosecurity inspectors at Bluff stopped a possible incursion when a consignment of imported cottonseed meal – certified as crushed – was found to contain whole seeds.

It is understood the consignment arrived last week.

Cottonseed meal is the byproduct of genetically modified cotton. Under current law, the importation of viable genetically modified seed is not permitted. Zero tolerance is applied.

Federated Farmers vice-president Dr William Rolleston said it was not a biosecurity breach, though he said it was concerning that it seemed to be Australian authorities who had let them down.

The import health standard required oilseed meal imported as animal feed to be crushed before shipment.

This is to ensure it contains no viable seeds.

Dr Rolleston said the greater concern was that viable exotic weed species could hitchhike across the Tasman within this consignment.

"From a scientific standpoint there isn't much of a risk as cotton wouldn't thrive in Southland."

It was more worrying that varieties of rye grass and the African thistle could be imported, he said. "We need to make sure the system in place is as robust as possible."

Inspectors from the Primary Industries Ministry picked up the discrepancy between the paperwork and the shipment. The shipment was seen by a federation member, he said.

He understood the consignment is being held in a ministry-approved transitional facility.

Federated Farmers was requesting the ministry ask hard questions of its Australian certifiers.

"New Zealand biosecurity requirements are fairly clear and we have asked the MPI to raise this as a matter of urgency with their Australian counterparts . . . Failure pre-border is concerning and MPI needs to ensure that we can all have confidence in each and every level of biosecurity protection."

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