GM petunias

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In May 2017, northern hemisphere growers and authorities became aware that many petunias characterized by the orange colour of the flowers had been produced by means of genetic engineering.   Additionally, this GM material had found its way into other varieties. 

Several of these GM varieties have been grown in New Zealand, and in June MPI instigated a biosecurity incursion response.

While the varieties pose no threat to human health or the environment, they are however GM by definition, and now that they have been identified as such, it is an offence to knowingly grow them. 

Following investigations into the origin of these varieties, MPI and overseas authorities, accept that growers were completely unaware that they include GM material.  The response action worked to have growers to voluntarily recall and surrender stock was undertaken. 

MPI have also reviewed the import health standard for all petunias and require GMO testing prior to import.

13 April 2018

MPI have recently added Lifeprint as a recognised laboratory for the testing of GMO's on petunia species. This is good news for nurseries, making sourcing petunia nursery stock easier. This great result has been achieved through the hard work of NZPPI on behalf of its members and industry.

14 December 2017

GMO Petunia Testing Laboratory Recognition

Planton GmbH in Kiel, Germany is the first testing laboratory to be recognised under new MPI protocols following NZPPI’s breakthrough work with MPI to simplify the process while maintaining confidence in a laboratory’s competency.

Prior requirements for MPI recognition of laboratories testing petunia varieties were based upon a laboratory supplying extensive data on testing protocols, audits and accreditations. The new protocols simplify the process and are based upon the laboratory certifying they meet the following minimum requirements:

  1. That the laboratory is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025: 2005 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories, or a similar quality management system;
  2. That the laboratory is using validated PCR tests to screen for the following: CaMV 35S promoter, NOS promoter and NPTII gene;
  3. That the laboratory participates in inter-laboratory or proficiency testing schemes to routinely check the reliability of their testing results against other test service providers.  

NZPPI members who require assistance with importing petunia nursery stock or seed can contact John Liddle (john@nzppi.co.nz)

Update - 3 September 2017

  1. MPI's incursion response has completed its 2017 activity and are satisfied that no GM varieties are currently under production in New Zealand. It also concluded those that were sold to gardeners in prior years pose no threat to the environment or food chain, and even the perennial varieties are short lived in New Zealand conditions.  They will keep a watching brief on varietal testing developments overseas and follow up any newly identified GM varieties against the NZ variety list we've built with producers.  MPI have been complementary of the support and cooperation provided by both NZPPI and producers.
  2. Consultation on proposed changes to the Petunia Import Health Standard has recently completed.  All imports must be accompanied by a GMO test certificate from an MPI approved laboratory, of which there are just four - located in Melbourne, New Orleans, Nates (Frances) and Alnarp (Sweden).
  3. NZPPI worked with MPI on the pre-consultation draft.  Efforts to have MPI accept "whole of life" certification for a harvested seed batch were not successful; MPI were not convinced that pollen contamination (from potentially GM varieties) could be completely ruled out.  Up to fifty seed lots can however be bulked for a single test, and imports that arrive without a certificate can be held in bond while testing is undertaken. 
  4. Vegetative varieties are more straight forward.  While they still need a GMO certificate, this can be based upon a one-time single test for the variety at point of origin – example, a breeder’s nuclear stock.

Update - 20 July 2017

NZPPI is working with MPI and growers on two fronts.

  • The first started with the recall of impacted varieties so that none are on the market this spring.   Growers have responded well to calls to make us and MPI aware of impacted varieties they’ve unknowingly grown in the past.  Now that they are aware of the issue, they’ve destroyed any seed or propagation stock.  We’ve a high level of confidence that all varieties that will be sold in New Zealand will be GM-free.

    The list of impacted varieties continues to change, and we and growers are also helping MPI compile a database of all petunia in the NZ market to aid a rapid response to the identification of newly impacted varieties overseas and the determination of whether they are in New Zealand.

  • The second is with MPI’s plant imports team and their work in reviewing the import health standard for petunia seed and nursery stock.  Currently imports are subject to emergency measures enacted in June, requiring all petunia imports to be accompanied by a GM test certificate.  Work with MPI, importers, breeders and seed producers seeks a practicable solution that will give MPI the assurance it needs while enabling an efficient import pathway

If you import petunia seed, tissue or nursery stock and you’re not on our GM Petunia mailing list, please contact John Liddle, john@nzppi.co.nz.

8 June 2017

MPI have sought NZPPI's assistance in undertaking a recall of several genetically modified (GM) petunias, and identifying others that may be in New Zealand. See letter from MPI.

If you grow the named varieties, contact MPI (info@mpi.govt.nz, and please copy me in, john@nzppi.co.nz). MPI will then advise action to be taken; essentially to surrender and destroy any stock.

While MPI have identified just three varieties known to be in New Zealand, overseas authorities have identified others - see variety list. If you grow any of these, please also contact MPI, and copy me in so we can build a database of varieties and growers.

If you grow petunias under licence, you can also help by seeking data from your supplier on the genetic status of all petunia varieties – both seed and vegetative varieties.

MPI, and overseas authorities, accept that growers were completely unaware that these varieties include GM material and no action other than asking growers to voluntarily recall and surrender stock is planned. These varieties however are GM by definition, and now that they have been identified as such, it is an offence to knowingly grow them.

We implore you to act promptly please, noting that the recall is "voluntary" to the extent that industry is being given the opportunity to act decisively and avoid a formal biosecurity response direction.

MPI have issued a media statement this morning. It will no doubt raise concerns in the community, and we are preparing industry communications and key messages. MPI are also revising the import health standard for petunias. All Petunia species imported as plants or seeds will require a GM certificate stating they are GM free before being allowed to enter New Zealand. NZPPI will be working on this too with MPI, suppliers and members.

NZPPI is partnering with MPI in this work, and as your industry body, we’re here to help you too. Please contact John Liddle - 021 370 168, john@nzppi.co.nz, if you need more information or help.

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MPI's Webpage - include updated variety list - near bottom of page

MPI's letter to NZPPI and Growers

MPI's List of confirmed GM petunia varieties found in other countries

MPI's advice for retailers


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