Federated Farmers is requesting that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) ask hard questions of its Australian certifiers, after a consignment of imported cotton seed meal certified as crushed, was found by MPI inspectors in Bluff to contain whole seeds.
“Can I stress this was not a biosecurity breach,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers vice-president and the Federation’s biosecurity spokesperson.
“It was caught at the border and I wish to thank the vigilance of the MPI and the Federated Farmers member who brought this to our attention.
“The import health standard requires oilseed meal imported as animal feed to be crushed before shipment. This is to ensure it contains no viable seeds. It must also be certified by the National Plant Protection Agency of the exporting country too.
“Biosecurity protection occurs at many levels and in this case, an important step has failed. It is concerning that it seems to be the Australian authorities who have let us down.
“Cottonseed meal is the by-product of genetically modified cotton. Under current law, the importation of viable genetically modified seed is not permitted and zero tolerance is applied.
“While these regulations remain, all seed which could contain genetically modified seed must be crushed or otherwise to render it non-viable. I have seen no evidence this cotton seed is a known threat to our environment.
“Of greater concern is the possibility that viable exotic weed species could hitchhike across the Tasman within this consignment.
“We are thankful MPI inspectors did pick up the discrepancy between the paperwork and the shipment. That this shipment was observed by one of our members highlights how important biosecurity is to farmers.
“According to the MPI, the consignment is being held in a MPI-approved transitional facility.
“Federated Farmers is concerned that whole-seeds that should never have reached our border, did. 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,” Dr Rolleston concluded.