Greenpeace decontaminates GMO-tainted Thai papaya farm

Feature story - May 19, 2006
Farmers around the country continue to suffer from GMO papaya contamination. The Thai government must provide assistance to farmers in terms of decontaminating their farms and compensating them.

Greenpeace volunteers today helped a farmer in the province of Rayong (200 Kms east of Bangkok) clear and decontaminate his 100-square metre farm found to be contaminated by genetically engineered papaya.

Greenpeace volunteers today helped a farmer in the province of Rayong (200 Kms east of Bangkok) clear and decontaminate his 100-square metre farm found to be contaminated by genetically engineered papaya.

Greenpeace volunteers today helped a farmer in the province of Rayong (200 kms east of Bangkok) clear and decontaminate his 100-square metre farm found to be contaminated by genetically engineered papaya.

Greenpeace also launched the new report "Contamination by Genetically Engineered Papaya in Thailand" which gives a vivid picture of how the Department of Agriculture (DOA) - tasked to enforce a quarantine on the banned GMO papaya - ironically caused the GMO contamination of Thai papaya farms, and how it undermined every effort to limit the damage of GMO contamination. The report also outlined environmental and health risks posed by GMO papaya.

"Farmers around the country continue to suffer from GMO papaya contamination. The government must provide assistance to farmers in terms of decontaminating their farms and compensating them," said Patwajee Srisuwan, Genetic Engineering campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

In July 2004, Greenpeace revealed that DOA's Khon Kaen research station, which conducted field trials of GMO papaya, distributed GMO-contaminated papaya seeds and seedlings to the public. Investigations conducted separately by Greenpeace, the National Human Rights Commission and farmer groups found GMO-contaminated farms in the provinces of Rayong, Kamphaeng Phet, Kalasin, Chaiyaphum, Mahasarakham and Ubonratchathani.

Instead of acting on the contamination case, however, DOA officials sued Greenpeace activists in hopes of intimidating them.  It was only after concerted demand from the National Human Rights Commission, Greenpeace and farmer groups that the DOA was forced to publicly reveal documents indicating that its Khon Kaen station had distributed GMO-contaminated seeds to 2,669 farmers in 37 provinces.   

This prompted the Ministry of Agriculture to force DOA to destroy its field trial along with contaminated papaya farms and compensate farmers. New findings by Greenpeace, however, indicate that farmers in Rayong, Kalasin and Chaiyaphum did not get any help from the DOA in decontaminating their farms nor did they get any compensation. Instead, the DOA lobbied to scrap the GMO ban in the country.

"The government must put an end to all field trials in the country because they're the cause of GMO contamination in our farms. It is not possible for GMOs to co-exist with natural crops. A neutral agency must also be created to formulate and enforce a national biosafety law, based on precautionary principle, and with the interest of the Thai people and the environment as its priority," said Patwajee.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future. Its mission includes the protection of Thai farms and consumers from the onslaught of GMOs which do not have proper assessment for either human food safety or environmental risks.

Ms Patwajee Srisuwan, a Greenpeace campaigner, and Dr Jiragorn Gajaseni, former Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, are currently facing criminal charges due the their role in exposing the GMO contamination of papaya farms in Thailand. The historic GMO court trial moves next week at the Bangkok Criminal Court.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Patwajee Srisuwan, Genetic Engineering campaigner, +661 381 5367, Ua-phan Chamnan-ua, Media officer, +661 928 2426 Photo and video available upon request.  Full copy of the "Contamination by Genetically Engineered Papaya in Thailand" report can be downloaded from www.greenpeace.or.th

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