Meet Pat and Jay. Do they look like criminals who should be
locked away for five years?
Jay has a Phd in Ecology from the University of Gorgia. Pat is a
journalist and yoga instructor.
Their story is about papaya.
Papayais grown in almost every backyard and is a staple food in
some parts of Southeast Asia. It is a vital part ofthe Thai kitchen
and features in famous Thai dishes such as Som Tam, aspicy papaya
salad. Large numbers of people in Thailand grow the fruit, and
were worried when the Thai governmentbegan to experiment with
genetically engineered (GE) strains.
After a long trail, Pat and Jay have been acquitted on all
A huge thank you to all the people who sent messages of
support and asked for their freedom
Hawaiian papaya disaster
Their worry was well founded.
Commercial plantings of GE papaya in Hawaii had been disastrous for
organic papaya growers. The selling price of GE papaya fell to
30-40 percent belowproduction costs, and the price that farmers got
for their GE papaya in2003 was 600 percent lower than the price for
organic papaya. Japanscreens to ensure no GE papaya enters the
market, and it is illegal inmany countries.
The government approved experimental plantings at a number of
research stations regardless.
Greenpeace discovers contamination
On24 June 2004, we received test results showing that the fruit
of apapaya tree on a local farmer's land had been genetically
The GE papaya tree was 12 months old and had been grown from
papayaseeds purchased from the government research station at Khon
Kaen inJune 2003. Sale of GE seeds is illegal in Thailand.
In July of 2004, Pat and Jay took this storypublic when they
acted as spokespersons for Greenpeace activists whosealed off GE
papaya in experimental fields attheKhon Kaen research station --
the source of GE papaya contamination inthe region. The activists,
dressed in protective suits, removedGE papaya fruit from trees and
secured them in hazardous materialcontainers.
Pat and Jay call for destruction of test field
Patand Jay appeared on television and in print demanding that
thegovernment complete the process begun by the activists and
immediatelydestroy all papaya trees, fruit, seedlings, and seeds in
the researchstation to prevent further contamination. The story
became one of the biggest scandals in Thailand.
They were charged with theft, trespassing and destruction of
Nocharges were made against the officials at the research
station, whothreatened to rob papaya farmers of their livelihoods
by contaminatingtheir crop, whose seeds trespassed into the fields
of farmers whodidn't want them, and whose error led to the
contamination of papayawhich then had to be destroyed.
Almost two months after Greenpeace took action against the
contamination, the governmentacknowledged that a plantation 4 kms
from the research station had beencontaminated, and destroyed the
Greenpeace was proven right.
The government collected samples from 2,345 plantations in 35
They admitted that 24 plantations had been contaminated.
Government destroys test field
On September 15th, 2004, the government destroyed the GE papaya
in the research station's experimental field.
Thus, they fulfilled their civic duty by completing the job that
the Greenpeace team had begun.
Insteadof getting to the bottom of who precisely was responsible
for thecontamination, the very department that was responsible for
thecontamination decided to take legal action against Pat and
Shutting down opposition
These charges are not about the events of July 27th, 2004:
they're about preventing future events of this nature.
This story is about putting a chill on further protest against
GE crops in Thailand.
It's about making examples of a journalist and an ecology
professor who dared to speak up, and throw them in jail for it.
At stake is the entire nature of civil society in one of the
most developed countries of Southeast Asia.
Give to our fight against GE