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The serious biosecurity threat posed by the importation of palm kernel has been revealed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in response to written questions from the Green Party.
The MAF biosecurity information provides evidence that palm kernel imports are regularly being fumigated with the toxic Methyl Bromide because biosecurity import standards are not being met. The released information further shows that live insects, toxic fungi, and plant material are being found in palm kernel imports.
“Not only does palm kernel destroy rainforests and damage New Zealand grain and maize farmers, it has now been proven to be a serious biosecurity threat,” said Kevin Hague, Green Party Biosecurity Spokesperson today.
“It is extremely worrying that palm kernel imports are being fumigated with methyl bromide. It means this toxic chemical is being introduced into the food chain.”
The use of Methyl Bromide is associated with serious health risks and it depletes the ozone layer. The information released by MAF shows that it has been released directly into the atmosphere on all but one occasion. This is despite it being good practice to require Methyl Bromide to be captured when it is used for fumigation.
“If the authorities insist on using Methyl Bromide, at the very least they should ensure that it is not released into the atmosphere."
Today, Greenpeace protestors are blocking an Indonesian shipment of palm kernel from entering Tauranga Port, and are calling for the Prime Minister to halt imports of the product because of its devastating contribution to climate change.
Palm kernel plantations are responsible for the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia and make a direct contribution to climate change.
The Farmer’s Weekly magazine reported last month that New Zealand grain farmers have been hit by a ‘perfect storm’ with ‘a large carryover of maize, wheat and barley from last season’. This is due to unsustainable imported feeds like palm kernel being used instead of locally-grown supplementary feeds.
“The unnecessary importation of rainforest destroying palm kernel is undermining New Zealand’s grain and maize industries.
“For the sake of New Zealand farmers, and overseas tropical rainforests, Fonterra needs to stop importing palm kernel now,” Mr Hague.
For further information
Kevin Hague speech on Biosecurity Amendment Bill - First reading 9 September 2009
“Grain growers hit by perfect storm” Farmer’s Weekly (17 Aug 2009):(http://www.nzfarmersweekly.co.nz/article/7867.html)
Methyl Bromide Hazard Summary United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2000