European and Asian consumers may already be eating GE contaminated papaya from Thailand

Press release - 7 July, 2005
Greenpeace activists today dumped thousands of papayas at the offices of Thailand's Department of Agriculture in a protest against the government's utter disregard for consumer and environmental protection from threats caused by the spread of illegal genetically engineered (GE) papaya in Thailand. The threat also concerns many European countries that import papaya from Thailand; it is possible that GE contaminated papaya is already on European markets.

Greenpeace activists dump thousands of papayas at the offices of Thailand's Department of Agriculture in Bangkok, protesting against the government's disregard for protection of consumers and the environment against threats caused by the spread of illegal genetically engineered (GE) papaya in Thailand. The threat also concerns consumers in many European and Asian countries that import papaya from Thailand, such as the Netherlands, Germany, France, UK, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Georgia, China, Japan and Hong Kong.

"The Thai government's lies and total disregard for the GE papayacontamination problem is directly putting Thai papaya exporters andconsumers of papaya around the world at risk. We demand that thegovernment seriously and properly decontaminate Thai papaya farmsbefore the GE papaya reaches the global food chain. It won't be longuntil EU reacts negatively against the entry of Thai papaya," saidPatwajee Srisuwan of Greenpeace in Southeast Asia.

Greenpeace SoutheastAsia today released new laboratory tests confirming more GE papayacontamination in the northeastern provinces of Kalasin, Mahasarakhamand Chaiyaphum. Last month the group released evidence of GE papayacontamination in the Northern and Eastern regions of Thailand.Government papers also indicate that GE contaminated papaya seeds mayhave been sold to 2,600 farmers in 34 Thai provinces (1).

Consumers inThailand and in countries that import Thai papayas are now at risk ofconsuming GE contaminated papaya, which has also been found to containantibiotic (tetracycline) resistant genes that contradict the FAO/WHOCodex standards as well as strict legislations of the European Union onGMOs in food.

In 2004, Thailand exported BHT 2.86 billion (57.3 millionEuros) worth of fresh and prepared or preserved fruits to Europe andAsia, a large amount of which includes papaya and cocktails with papayaas part of the ingredients, based on figures from the Thai CustomsDepartment. The main destinations for Thailand's fresh papaya and mixedfruit products are the Netherlands, Germany, France, UK, Belgium,Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Georgia, China, Japan and Hong Kong.

TheEU does not allow the import of GE papaya and Thailand-based companiessuch as Dole, Malee and Universal Food Co. (UFC), which have largepapaya-related exports to the EU, stand to lose financially from thisGE papaya fiasco. Last year the German government launched aninvestigation on papayas from Thailand, after the GE papayacontamination scandal broke.

Dole, the world's largest producer andmarketer of fresh fruits and vegetables, sources papaya from Thailandfor its operations in the EU (2). Malee exports to the Netherlands,Spain, and Switzerland, while UFC produces fruit products for largefood suppliers like Sainsbury's, Safeway, Libby, QP Corp., Sun Queen,Rykoff-Sextion and El Dorado (3).

In July 2004, Greenpeace SoutheastAsia activists sealed off a government-run GE papaya experimentalstation after scientific evidence confirmed it was the source ofcontamination of one of Thailand's staple food. The Thai government rana campaign to discredit Greenpeace and consistently lied to public bydeclaring they have already decontaminated Thai papaya farms. Recentfindings of widespread GE papaya contamination in the country provethem otherwise, however.

Other contacts: Patwajee Srisuwan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering campaigner, +661 3815367Ua-phan Chamnan-ua, Greenpeace Southeast Asia media officer, +661 9282426

Notes: Notes to editor:(1) The problem of contamination is widespread. The latest Dept of Agriculture documents say that last year the government collected 8,912 samples of papaya and found GE papaya contamination in 329 samples which came from 85 farms. The DOA destroyed only 83 of the said farms. (2) Source: www.customs.go.th The Royal Thai Customs department reports that in 2004 prepared or preserved fruit exports totaled around BHT 2.9 billion last year. Breakdown of exports: BHT 113 million for papaya in airtight containers, BHT 24 million for fresh papaya, and BHT 2.86 million for mixed fruits.(3) A statement from Dole said the company sources its papayas from Southern Thailand.(4) Sources: www.malee.co.th , www.ufc.co.th