Greenpeace urges HK Government to withdraw the misleading remark

Food safety of GE papaya still a question

Press release - 2006-03-15
Greenpeace today issued a letter to the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Chow Yat-ngok and demanded the government to withdraw the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department’s (AFCD’s) misleading remark on genetically engineered (GE) papaya.

Greenpeace food safety patrol activists help an organic farmer to remove all GE papaya trees and other contaminated papayas from his organic farm.

Oriental Daily News reported today that commenting on the GE papaya incident in Hong Kong, AFCD told the citizens not to worry or panic if they have eaten these papayas.  AFCD further claimed that the anti-ringspot virus GE papaya had been developed in USA since 1990s and that no evidence showed that these papaya have negative impact on human health.

Greenpeace was shocked by AFCD's remark and immediately issued a letter to the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Chow Yat-ngok.  Greenpeace states that the GE papaya trees Greenpeace found and cleared in Yuen Long are unknown species and the inserted gene is also not known.  This species has not passed any long term food safety assessments.  The papaya fruits are totally different in appearance from the Hawaiian papaya.  Even for Hawaiian papayas, they are banned in many regions like Japan and Europe because of food safety reasons.

"Health, Welfare and Food Bureau, as a governmental body responsible for food safety and human health, should not allow its subsidiaries to make people believe that the food is safe by using irrelevant examples and without thorough investigation.  This is misleading and irresponsible,"said Fung Ka-keung, Greenpeace food and agriculture campaigner.

Fung demands that the Government withdraws such misleading remark and apologise to the public.

AFCD's remark completely violates the precautionary principle of Biosafety Protocol.  The Protocol states clearly that the objective is in accordance with Principle 15 of Rio Declaration on Environment and Development: "In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation."  When AFCD used "no evidence" as an excuse to let people trust GE papaya, the Government actually encourages further contamination of unsafe GE papaya in the market and more pollution.

The two serious GE contamination scandals exposed by Greenpeace within the past few days sufficiently prove that there is an urgent need to implement a strict GE regulatory system.  Greenpeace urges the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau to implement strict regulatory and mandatory labelling system in accrodnace with the Biosafety Protocol.