Greenpeace Thai activists seal off the GE papaya at the Khon Kaen agricultural research station of the Department of Agriculture.
In 2004, Greenpeace revealed the DOA GE papaya field trials in
their Khon Khan research station was the source of widespread
genetic contamination and that the department had illegally
distributed GE contaminated seeds to 2,669 farmers in 37
The DOA refused to act and clean up the GE contamination so the
activists decontaminated one of the sites themselves, the very job
that the DOA should have been doing.
Instead of praising the efforts of the activists in cleaning up
the contamination, DOA officials sued the Greenpeace activists, Ms
Patwajee Srisuwan, a Greenpeace campaigner, and Dr Jiragorn
Gajaseni, former Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia,
hoping to intimidate and silence them.
On the final day of testimony, Melanie Bondera, a papaya farmer
from the Big Island of Hawaii, told the court about experiences of
massive GE papaya contamination in her home state and its
widespread effects. She told the court of the loss of income after
GE papaya was released and the continued economic and environmental
threats GE posed to Hawaii.
"To us farmers, GE papaya brought more negative impacts than
positive. Farmers could not grow the same crops if GE organisms are
found in their farm, and therefore lose their livelihood. Also
farmers in Hawaii weren't able to export their papayas to Japan
anymore," said Melanie.
Hawaii, the only place in the world where GE papaya has been
grown commercially, has now damaged its export markets and organic
and conventional growers have suffered due to GE contamination.
Hawaii exports were flourishing until the introduction of GE papaya
in 1998. Most of the countries importing papaya from Hawaii
including the EU, Japan, and China have rejected GE crops and
foods. Once GE contamination started in Hawaii, the doors quickly
closed on Hawaii's papaya exports.
Whilst Thailand has an existing ban on the planting and sale of
genetically engineered crops, this ban has been under constant
assault from the agro-chemical industry, which is trying to make GE
inroads into Thailand's lucrative non-GE agriculture market.
"Genetic pollution caused by GE organisms has irreversible
effects on the environment, therefore we must stop the widening GE
papaya contamination in our country. The Constitution empowers
every Thai citizen the right to protect our environment," said
It has been over a year since the criminal charges of theft,
trespassing and destruction of property were lodged against the
Greenpeace activists. The GE court trial ended on the 30 May with a
verdict on the court case expected towards the end of this
A Greenpeace South East Asia report "Contamination by
Genetically Engineered Papaya in Thailand" gives an overview of the
GE papaya scandal.
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