Global Alarm Over GE Papaya Grows as Hawaii Market Spirals Downward

Press release - 25 May, 2006
Several local farmers and native Hawaiian activists joined Greenpeace experts today in decontaminating an organic farm in Hawaii that has been tainted with genetically engineered (GE) papaya from nearby commercial farms. The farm was sealed off with signs reading, 'GE Papaya Restricted Area' as volunteers in hazmat suits removed trees, fruits and seeds from the scene.

Greenpeace volunteers remove genetically modified contaminated fruit from a Puna farm on Big Island Hawaii.

Several local farmers and native Hawaiian activists joined Greenpeaceexperts today in decontaminating an organic farm in Hawaii that hasbeen tainted with genetically engineered (GE) papaya from nearbycommercial farms. The farm was sealed off with signs reading, 'GEPapaya Restricted Area' as volunteers in hazmat suits removed trees,fruits and seeds from the scene.

According to evidence released today by Greenpeace, GE papaya profitshave dwindled significantly as a growing number of global marketsreject the crop. Organic farmers in Hawaii are especially alarmed, asthe state is considered a contamination hot spot with the most GE fieldtrials per square mile in the world and the only place where GE papayais grown commercially.

"These US corporations tried to force feed GE papaya on the world andthe world isn't biting," said Local Hawaii Farmer, Melanie Bondera."Organic crops can get three times what GE papaya can get on themarket, but not if there's a possibility it's contaminated. The GEindustry came to us promising big money but instead they are ruiningour crops and robbing us of our profits."

Greenpeace has been at the forefront of decontamination efforts aroundthe world, assisting farmers concerned about genetic engineeringtainting and stopping illegal distribution of GE papaya in countriessuch as Japan and Thailand that have put a ban on these crops.Currently a court case is underway in Thailand where South East Asiacampaigner Patwajee Srisuwan and the former Executive Director Dr.Jiragon Gajaseni are facing up to six years in prison for exposing aThai government agency's role in the illegal distribution of GEcontaminated papaya.

"The Thai Government has attempted to lift the genetic engineering banunder pressure from the US government and the agro-chemical industry.However, Thais oppose GE crops because we don't want to lose the marketfor our farm crops, like what happened to Hawaiian papayas, as well asour status as the world's kitchen," said Patwajee Srisuwan.

Papaya has been grown in tropical regions for centuries and Hawaiiexports markets were flourishing until the introduction of geneticallyengineered papaya in 1998. Most of the countries importing papaya fromHawaii including the EU, Japan, and China have an aversion to GE cropsand foods. Doors started closing on Hawaii's exports and prices wentinto free fall.

Organic and conventional farmers have also suffered losses, as it isdifficult to guarantee the GE-free status of their crops due tocontamination from neighbouring commercial GE farms. Greenpeace iscalling on governments and industry to protect its farmers andconsumers from the food safety and environmental risks posed bygenetically engineered foods.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which usesnon-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmentalproblems, and to drive solutions essential to a green and peacefulfuture.

VVPR info: Hawaii - Carol Gregory Greenpeace USA communications officerMob: + 1 202 4138 531Thailand - Arthur Jones Dionio Greenpeace South East Asia Regional media campaigner Mob: + 66 1 710 9605Amsterdam - Suzette Jackson Greenpeace International communications officerMob: + 31 6 4619 7324Images and from today's activity contact Melissa Molyneux Greenpeace USAMob: + 202-319-2429 (office); + 609-713-9660Greenpeace International report 'The Failure of GE Papaya in Hawaii'