Genetically modified petunias

MPI is taking action after an overseas recall on unauthorised genetically modified (GM) petunias. Find out about what we're doing in New Zealand.

Seeds sent for testing

Several varieties of GM petunias have been reported in Europe, USA, and Australia, and are being recalled by regulatory authorities in those countries. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has identified potentially affected seeds from one importer in New Zealand. In May 2017, we sent the seeds for testing to an MPI-approved laboratory overseas.

Results from the tests came back positive for genetically modified material in the 'African Sunset' variety.  We feel there are sufficient parallels with what's going on elsewhere in the world for us to take pre-emptive action on other varieties which have tested positive overseas and are known to be in New Zealand.

Strict controls in place for GM organisms

The biosecurity risk from these seeds is negligible and there is no risk to people or the environment. However, New Zealand has strict controls around genetically modified organisms (new organism). It is illegal to import, develop, field test, or release a genetically modified organism without approval.

Approval is required from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996. MPI is an enforcement agency for new organisms.

What we're doing

MPI has introduced emergency measures for petunia as seeds for sowing and plants for planting on the 9th June 2017. Both IHSs 155.02.05: Seeds for sowing [PDF, 2 MB] and 155.02.06: Importation of Nursery Stock [PDF, 4.4 MB] were amended under urgency requiring that all petunia species are now required to present a GMO certificate stating that each lot/variety have been tested for GMO and found free from prior to be imported into New Zealand. Also, all petunia tissue culture are now required to apply for a permit for import. Further information can be found in the IHSs.

MPI is working with industry to trace and destroy all seed stock and unsold plants in New Zealand.

We have made it clear to businesses holding the suspected GM petunia varieties that they must not be sold. While these plants and seeds do not present a risk, they do not have regulatory approval. This means it is an offence to knowingly plant or otherwise propagate them. Any existing stock will be destroyed

This is a global situation. Many other countries are dealing with the same issue and MPI is working closely with our overseas counterparts.

Affected varieties

The varieties identified as GM and are known to have been imported into New Zealand are marketed under the names:

  • African Sunset (an orange flowered variety)
  • Crazytunia Cherry Cheesecake
  • Crazytunia Sparky Improved
  • Crazytunia Star Jubilee
  • Hells Bells
  • Hells Fruit Punch
  • Hells Glow (aka Hells Magenta Glow)
  • Peppy Red
  • Raspberry Blast
  • Mini Blast
  • Potunia Dark Red
  • Potunia Plus Red
  • Sanguna Salmon
  • Trilogy Red (also known as Diva Red)
  • Trilogy Deep Purple (also known as Diva Deep Purple).

A number of other varieties around the world are also known to be GM – check the list.

Advice for home gardeners

It is unlikely there are any plants in circulation and the risk of these plants becoming established is negligible. Petunias are often grown as annuals, so they complete their life cycle in one year. They also do not set seed efficiently, so their ability to grow in the wild, shed seeds, and spread is negligible.

If you may have bought any of the petunia varieties, you should:

  • remove the plants from your garden
  • dispose of them in your domestic or household rubbish.

Any seed or unplanted seedlings can be disposed of the same way.  MPI recommends you don't dispose of plant material or seeds in compost or green waste.


Who to contact


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