Lack of transparency clouds gov’t response to GMO contamination

Feature story - October 15, 2008
Greenpeace today organized a round table discussion to reflect on society’s doubts and the ambiguity of the government’s methods in tackling Thailand’s GMO papaya contamination case. Law experts, academics and NGO representatives cited cases of GMO contamination at the seminar entitled, “Lessons from the GMO Papaya Contamination in Thailand”.

Greenpeace today organized a round table discussion to reflect on society’s doubts and the ambiguity of the government’s methods in tackling Thailand’s GMO papaya contamination case. Law experts, academics and NGO representatives cited cases of GMO contamination at the seminar entitled, “Lessons from the GMO Papaya Contamination in Thailand”.

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 slammed the Department of Agriculture (DOA) for failing to reveal all information that can help ascertain the extent of contamination and steps that led to the said scandal four years ago. Greenpeace affirmed that it would take the case to the appeals court to force the government to reveal all documents related to GMO papaya contamination.

"Environmental justice must be served. The DOA and other responsible organizations have not publicly released all the information about the illegal release of GMO papaya into Thai farms.  They have also not provided a clear explanation about the risks posed by GMO papaya and where contaminated seeds have been released. Instead, they have kept promoting the GMO propaganda despite public rejection," said Natwipha Ewasakul, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

In 2004, Greenpeace exposed the role of the DOA in the illegal release of GMO papaya to 2,600 farmers all over the country and contamination of Thai papaya farms. The DOA sued Greenpeace activists in efforts to silence the organization but the judge acquitted the activists.   

Greenpeace countersued at the Administrative Court hoping for a verdict to force the DOA to thoroughly decontaminate Thai papaya farms. Last July, the court acquitted DOA but Greenpeace immediately appealed.

"We want the DOA to show its responsibility by decontaminating all affected papaya farms. They must do it with utmost transparency to assure Thai people that GMO papaya no longer contaminates our country," Natwipha asserted.

"Environmental justice must be served. The DOA and other responsible organizations have not publicly released all the information about the illegal release of GMO papaya into Thai farms. They have also not provided a clear explanation about the risks posed by GMO papaya and where contaminated seeds have been released. Instead, they have kept promoting the GMO propaganda despite public rejection."

Natwipha Ewasakul

Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner

Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Greenpeace has been campaigning for a GMO-free Thailand. GMO is an outdated and unproven technology which poses risks to the environment and human health. GMOs  are not scientifically proven safe for human consumption. Furthermore, GMO is a weapon used by giant multinationals, who own the patents, in their attempt to dominate Thai agriculture and trap farmers into dependence to their patented seeds and corresponding chemical inputs. This will eventually alter the culture and way of life of Thai farmers.

Last year, the DOA has signed an MOU with Cornell University and its multinational patent holders to share monetary benefits from GMO papaya.

"The patents of these corporations undermine farmers' rights and alter the fundament cycles of agriculture, especially the practice of keeping seeds for planting. In Thailand, GMO papaya is not only a threat to the economy but also destroys the society and culture of the papaya-planting communities all over the country. Therefore, Thai people should keep an eye on DOA's attempts to release GMOs and help protect Thailand's future from the risks of GMOs," said Natwipha.

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