Syngenta declines to front Corngate inquiry
Dominion Post, August 27, 2003
A multinational company that politicians hope could provide the answer to whether Corngate seeds were contaminated is refusing to front up to an inquiry.
Syngenta managing director Peter Gerner said from Melbourne yesterday it was impossible to gather all the experts needed to attend the parliamentary inquiry so he had sent written answers instead.
Nor would he let Melbourne laboratory Genescan give evidence about its tests on the corn, saying that was inappropriate.
Syngenta imported the corn in October 2000 and while Genescan reported initial results positive for GM, it did not complete the tests or report a final result.
MPs want to know why.
Committee chairwoman and Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons and National MP Nick Smith said they had hoped Syngenta could provide crucial answers.
Mr Gerner said testing had stopped because of equipment failure at Genescan which meant the company could not get the final tests done in time for New Zealand to decide what to do with the corn in late December 2000.
He said everything "relevant" to the inquiry was sent to the committee.
But Dr Smith said Syngenta's "stonewalling" was astounding given that it sent about four representatives to New Zealand in late 2000 - shortly before decisions were made to release the corn.
He said no laboratory would stop doing tests without being instructed to do so by their client and he "strongly suspected Genescan was told not to complete the tests".
Ms Fitzsimons said the company's behaviour had hampered the inquiry, enormously delayed the hearings and left MPs listening to people trying to interpret a situation directly involving Syngenta.
The inquiry follows allegations by author Nicky Hager in his book Seeds of Distrust that Prime Minister Helen Clark and key ministers knew there had been an accidental release of GM corn but kept quiet under pressure from big business.
Thousands of plants were harvested before Dr Hager exposed the scare in July last year.
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