Greenpeace appeals after court acquits Dept of Agriculture in GMO liability case

Feature story - July 31, 2008
Greenpeace today announced that they will lodge an appeal after the Administrative Court’s acquittal of the Department of Agriculture in Thailand’s first GMO liability lawsuit. The environment group also renewed its call for the protection of the Thai papaya from the threat of GMOs.

Greenpeace volunteers hold papaya with American flag which is meant to be a symbol that GE papaya is patented by American people in front of the administrative Court. Greenpeace today lodged an appeal after the administrative Court's acquittal of the Department of Agriculture in Thailand's first GMO liability lawsuit. The environment group aloso renewed its call for the protection of the Thai papaya from the threat of GMOs.

"We strongly believe that the Department of Agriculture is guilty of negligence for causing serious GMO contamination of the Thai papaya species," said Natwipha Ewasakul, Greenpeace Campaigner for Sustainable Agriculture. "The DOA's acquittal despite its failure to submit comprehensive data on the steps taken to contain GMO contamination, from field trials held five years ago, clearly indicated the general lack of access of government authorities to information about both experimental and commercially available genetically engineered crops. GMO polluters must pay for the damage they wreak on farmers, on our food and the environment. Otherwise we are risking the very sovereignty of our food crops."

In 2006, Greenpeace sued the DOA for negligence in its field trials of GMO papayas that resulted in large-scale contamination of neighboring papaya farms.

Prior to this lawsuit, Greenpeace had uncovered in 2004 that the DOA's experimental GMO papaya plantation in Khon Kaen, situated in a plot with barbed-wire fence, has contaminated other papaya plantations.  Patents on this GMO papaya plantation were largely held by Cornell University in New York and Monsanto Corporation, the world's largest agro-chemical company.  The GMO papayas contained antibiotic resistant genes that violate the standards of the World Health Organization and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO/WHO Codex).

A series of papaya tests separately conducted by Greenpeace and the National Human Rights Committee showed that GMO papaya contaminated fields as far as the provinces of Rayong, Kamphaeng Phet, Kalasin, Chaiyaphum, Mahasarakham and Ubonratchathani. Greenpeace also revealed an official memorandum dated November 2004 which stated that 329 papaya samples from 85 farms were found to be genetically engineered.  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.

"The fact that the DOA was forced to carry out efforts to decontaminate fields of GMO papaya  already proves that the agency committed an infraction after it deliberately distributed GMO papaya seeds to local farmers despite a ban on open trials and releases. We believe that the responsible parties should be held liable for an act that continues to pose serious hazards to Thai agriculture," Natwipha added.

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