Commercialization of GE papaya means loss of export markets

Feature story - June 6, 2006
The Hawaiian experience with GE papaya has been a total disaster that should serve as a warning to the Philipines should genetically-engineered (GE) papaya be commercialized in the country.

A Greenpeace volunteer wearing a papaya costume illustrating the uncontrollable threat of GE contamination on conventional papaya plants.

The Philippines stands to lose its papaya export markets should genetically-engineered (GE) papaya be commercialized in the country. This was the message of Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo during the press launch of the report The failure of GE papaya in Hawaii in Quezon City today.

According to the report, the ringspot virus-resistant GE papaya introduced in Hawaii in 1998 has been a commercial failure and has propelled the island's papaya industry towards collapse. Hawaii is the only area in the world where GE papaya is commercialized, and fewer papayas are harvested there now than at any time in more than a generation. Last May 26, Hawaiian farmers decontaminated an organic farm tainted with GE papaya from nearby commercial farms, highlighting the losses that non-GE papaya farmers have also suffered because of the introduction of the GE plant.

"The report illustrates that the Hawaiian experience with GE papaya has been a total disaster," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo, "It is an experience we should not replicate if we want to protect our papaya markets and our farmers."

The Philippines ranks as among the world's top exporters of papaya. In 2003, it ranked as the 14th major papaya producer, exporting 1,467 metric tons of the fresh fruit, valued at US$ 1,843,195. In the same year, 92.95% of total Philippine papaya exports went to Japan(1). The country has since been the primary papaya exporter to Japan, a market Hawaii has lost because of GE contamination.

Meanwhile, however, the developers of GE papaya have made overtures to introduce the problematic GE papaya in the Philippines. Two strains of GE papaya-delayed-ripening and ringspot virus resistant papaya-are currently undergoing contained testing in the Philippines under the approval of the National Committee on Biosaftey. This bodes ill for the industry.

"If GE papaya is commercialized in the country, our farmers will not only be faced with the immediate loss of major export markets which reject genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)," explained Ocampo, "the added uncontrollable threat of GE contamination on conventional papaya plants will be a serious problem that will hound farmers for years and years to come(2)."

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to drive solutions essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace has been at the forefront of decontamination efforts around the world, assisting farmers in Thailand, Hawaii and Philippines to rid their farms of GMOs which do not have proper assessment for either human food safety or environmental risks.

The failure of GE papaya in Hawaii is available online at:

http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/FailureGEPapayainHawaii.pdf

For more information:

Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE campaigner, +63 917 897 6416

Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Media Campaigner, +63 2 434 7034 loc 104, +63 916 374 4969

(1)Philippine Department of Agriculture website http://www.da.gov.ph/agribiz/commodityfactsheet_papaya.html (2)Aside from Hawaii, GE papaya contamination is also a problem in Thailand. In 2004 a research station conducting open field testing of GE papaya plants illegally distributed GMO-contaminated seeds to 2,669 farmers in 37 provinces. Two years later, Thailand, where papaya is a diet staple, continues to be under threat by contamination, even while GE papaya is not yet commercialized in the country.

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