It became politically important due to the New Zealand Green Party stance on GE crops. The ruling Labour Party policy regarding GE research was brought into the argument allowing Corngate to become an election issue as the book, Seeds of Distrust was released a few months prior to the 2002 Parliamentary elections.
A select committee, including members of the Green Party, was formed to investigate the matter. Green Party statements claim the committee was "obstructed" by Syngenta refusing to release test results. The final report, released in late 2004, was divided along party lines.
The scandal was further intensified when news anchor John Campbell interviewed NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark about the issue. It ended with Clark labelling Campbell a 'little creep' due to what she considered the ambush style of the interview.
The name comes from the Watergate scandal in U.S. Politics. It has become popular in New Zealand journalism to suffix any politically or significantly embarrassing event with "-gate", such as "Paintergate" or "Powdergate", in keeping with the US journalistic licence that led to the term of "Monicagate".