Greenpeace Thai activists seal off the GE papaya at the Khon Kaen agricultural research station of the Department of Agriculture.
Greenpeace activists dressed in protective suits began removing
the GE papaya fruit from the trees and securing them in hazardous
material containers inside the field trial site. Greenpeace
demanded that the government complete this process and immediately
destroy all papaya trees, fruit, seedlings, and seeds in the Khon
Kaen research station to prevent further contamination.
"This is potentially one of the worst cases of genetic
contamination of a major food crop in Asia as this station is one
of the largest suppliers of papaya seeds in the country," said
Varoonvarn Svangsopakul, Genetic Engineering campaigner of
Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "We have suspected that the field trials
of GE Khak Dam and Khak Nuan papaya varieties (1) posed a risk of
contamination. This is the hard evidence we needed to prove that GE
contamination has broken in Thailand."
Independent laboratory tests (2) have shown that packages of
papaya seeds being sold by the Department of Agriculture's own
research station contain GMO seeds. The experimental field,
surrounded only by barbed wire and banana trees, was identified by
Greenpeace as the source of GMO seeds.
"The purpose of the ban on field trials imposed in 2001 was to
prevent GE contamination (3. But we now have proof that not only
has this ban failed, but the Department of Agriculture itself has
committed a crime that threatens an essential food with widespread
contamination," said Svangsopakul.
Last year, Greenpeace warned the Thai public of the
environmental and health risks posed by GMO papaya and called on
the government to stop all planting of GMO papaya anywhere in the
"Since the GE papaya contains a gene from the ringspot virus,
there is a risk that when it is infected with other viruses it can
produce new virus strains," said Dr Janet Cotter, a Greenpeace
scientist based in the United Kingdom. "In terms of human health
risks, the build-up of antibiotic resistance is also a
"We've been calling for an end to this genetic experiment on the
grounds that GMOs are uncontrollable. There can no longer be any
doubt that this is true. And the government must take action to
stop this experiment now," said Jiragorn Gajaseni, Executive
Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "The government must act now
to impose a total ban on GE field trials, including those in
government restricted areas and experimental stations, and must
launch an investigation into this environmental crime."
Notes: 1)Khak Dam and Khak Nuan are local papaya varieties of Thailand and are considered a staple food crop. Ten years ago, the Department of Agriculture researchers took these local papaya varieties to Cornell University in the US to developed genetically engineered versions. See Greenpeace briefing; http://www.greenpeace.org/international_en/multimedia/download/1/290394/0/papaya_unknown_plant.pdf2)Tests were conducted by GeneScan (HongKong) Ltd, www.genescan.com3)In July 2001 the Thai government imposed a ban on GE field trials in response to public outrage concerning the widespread contamination caused by Bt Cotton field trials in Thailand4)Greenpeace released the briefing paper "Precaution Before Profits: GE field trials put our environment, food and fields at risk", in June 2003.