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2-plants: Hawaiian farmers warn Thai farmers about genetically engineeredpapaya: Don't do it!

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Greenpeace press release
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Hawaiian farmers warn Thai farmers about genetically engineered papaya:
Don't do it!
Thu 03 July 2003, Bangkok, THAILAND

A delegation of Hawaiian farmers today met with Thai farmers and community
organisations warning Thailand against growing genetically engineered (GE)
papaya. In an event organised by Greenpeace, the Hawaiian farmers pointed
out that although the previous introduction of GE papaya had been
disastrous both economically and environmentally, old promotional arguments
are now used in Thailand without sharing the negative evidence.

When GE papaya was introduced 5 years ago they claimed it was a 'solution'
to the papaya ringspot virus problem. But instead it has caused serious
environmental and economic problems for farmers," said Melanie Bondera, a
sustainable agriculture farmer and member of the Hawaii Genetic Engineering
Action Network (HIGEAN) on Big Island, Hawaii.

The rejection of GE papaya in overseas markets has been devastating for
Hawaiian farmers. The selling price of GE papaya has fallen to 30-40
percent below production costs, and the price that farmers get for their GE
papaya is 600 percent lower than the price for organic papaya.

Farmers have also discovered that 'SunUp' GE papaya is more easily infected
by new plant fungi and diseases like 'blackspot' fungus. This discovery
came 5 years after GE papaya was approved for commercial growing. Now
farmers must spray toxic chemical fungicides on their SunUp papaya plants
every 10 days.

Bondera described the anger and frustration of organic farmers who were
forced to cut down all of their papaya plants because of contamination by
GE papaya. GE papaya seed has contaminated seed supplies and cross-
pollination of non-GE plants is widespread.

"Tests have shown that GE contamination is widespread. Genetic pollution is
a clear violation of farmers' rights to choose what they grow and how they
grow it," she added.

While GE papaya was proving a disaster in Hawaii, the same US scientists
and companies worked with Thailand's Department of Agriculture and the
Department of Science & Technology to develop GE papaya in Thailand. Backed
by the global GE industry giant, Monsanto, which holds several patents on
GE papaya, open-air field trials of GE papaya were carried out in several
locations throughout Thailand. Now these corporate-sponsored scientists say
that GE papaya is 'safe' and is ready for commercial growing by farmers.

"The developers of GE papaya are saying that it's ready for commercial
release in Thailand. But the message from Hawaii is very clear: GE papaya
is an ecological disaster," said Varoonvarn Svansopakul, Genetic
Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The consequences of growing GE papaya in Thailand are feared to be even
more serious Hawaii. Not only is green papaya eaten as a daily staple food,
it is also grown everywhere - in farmers' fields, schoolyards and backyard

"That means the kind of GE contamination seen in Hawaii will be multiplied
a hundred- fold, and there's no way that seed contamination or
cross-pollination can be prevented," Varoonvarn added.

These concerns were reinforced by Dr.Janet Cotter, Greenpeace scientist in
the United Kingdom. Speaking at today's public event, Dr Cotter presented
the findings of a scientific report on the potential ecological and health
risks of GE papaya.

"Even those scientists who developed GE papaya recognise that GE
contamination of non-GE papaya is inevitable. Once it's out there, it's out
of control," said Dr Cotter. "The fact is that GE is a crude and imprecise
technology, subject to unexpected and unpredictable effects. In the case of
GE papaya scientists aren't even sure why it has resistance to the ringspot
virus, or whether this creates new ecological risks. This includes the risk
of new strains of the virus that would have a lasting impact on the

Also addressing Thai farmers and community organisations was Jon Biloon, a
farmer with 30 years' experience of sustainable agricultural farming in Big
Island, Hawaii.
Biloon argues that GE papaya is unnecessary.

"There are practical solutions to ringspot virus that are friendly to the
environment and better for farmers. This makes GE papaya totally
unnecessary," Biloon said. Biloon has developed an organic system to deal
with ringspot virus and is organising training workshops and helping other
farmers to introduce ecologically sustainable methods for managing plant
diseases like ringspot.

"The message that the Hawaiian farmers bring to us today is clear: we must
not allow GE papaya to be released into the environment. It's not too late.
We must act now to say no to GE papaya," Varoonvarn concluded.

Related documents and reports

Genetically engineered papaya - unkown plant

Precaution Before Profits - GE field trials put our environment, food and
fields at risk.

Patented papaya - Extending control over food & fields

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The scent of GE papaya.

Brazil's golden opportunity: staying GE-free

The ingredients are hidden, but the companies can't hide

GE industry breaking farmers backs