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Vanuatu Ban GM Seed Imports From the Relief Effort

Submitted by Ethan on April 21, 2015 - 7:11pm

Originally Aired: Dateline Pacific, Thursday 16 April 2015

The Vanuatu government has placed a blanket ban on genetically modified seeds being brought into the country as part of the relief effort after cyclone Pam.


The Vanuatu government has placed a blanket ban on genetically modified seeds being brought into the country as part of the relief effort after cyclone Pam.

The Category 5 cyclone which hit the country on the 13th of March destroyed more than 90 percent of food gardens in the mostly subsistence farming country and the need for seeds has been identified as a priority for the relief effort.

The Director of Biosecurity Timothy Tumukon told Koroi Hawkins the country has traditionally imported normal and hybrid seeds but his ministry draws the line when it comes to genetically modified material.

TIMOTHY TUMUKON: We are seeing seeds coming in almost every day of the week. These are coming in, but the large consignments that have come in I think there has been two large consignments so far. But small parcels of seeds that are coming as carry on passenger package coming in everyday. A lot of these seeds that people are wanting to bring in to help their families or relatives or friends that live in Vanuatu. So they have purchased these seeds from seed companies or outlets in either Australia or New Zealand and they bring them in.

KOROI HAWKINS: And what is the concern with these type of seeds and what kind of seed plants or what kind of vegetables or fruits are they?

TT: Our concerns are mainly on the biosecurity, quarantine issues mainly from those two sources, mainly with genetically modified seeds if there is any. So the precautionary measures that we are applying is that no GM seeds should be brought into Vanuatu. Either from Australia or New Zealand or any other sources or countries for that matter.

KH: And you mentioned some bulk shipments have come in. Where have they come in from? And are they already being distributed?

TT: There has been a bulk shipment of up to a tonne of seeds that has come in from New Caledonia purchased by the New Caledonian government. And we have worked very closely with them to say. To tell them that those seeds have to be GM free seeds. And they have adhered to that even to the extent of providing certification from the companies that produce or package those seeds. The commercial companies and so we have got their assurance that these seeds are not GM seeds that they have come in through New Caledonia.

KH: And how important are seeds to the recovery effort in Vanuatu?

TT: Seeds are a vital component of the whole recovery process in terms of immediate impact that it will have on peoples lives. Especially quick growing vegetable seeds. Where those who have been affected need to replenish their gardens with vegetables. So that at least they have vegetables on their table. And we have seen that crops have been virtually wiped out in most of these areas and so seeds are very very critical that they become part of the whole recovery process. 

Originally Published: Radio New Zealand

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