Planting GE-free papayas for World Environment Day

Feature story - June 3, 2006
Farmers from Thailand and Hawaii were joined by Greenpeace volunteers today in planting 60 organic papaya trees to mark World Environment Day.

Hawaiin organic farmer, Jon Biloon (centre) shows photos of his papaya and vegetable plantation back home to an enthusiastic group of Thai organic farmers in Suphanburi.

Organic papaya seedlings.

A very healthy organic papaya in one of the farms in Suphanburi shows how Thai farmers are able to perfect a natural way of farming.

Visitors gather vegetables at an organic farm in Suphanburi. Through a combination of fruit trees, papaya, vegetables and spices Thai farmers are able to perfect the natural way of farming. Farmers from Thailand and Hawaii were joined by Greenpeace volunteers in planting 60 organic papaya trees to mark World Environment Day.

Visitors gather vegetables at an organic farm in Suphanburi.

The planting of organic papaya in Suphanburi, one of the richest agricultural lands in the Kingdom, signifies efforts by Thai farmers to keep their farms free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and a small gesture to follow His Majesty's self-sufficient economic philosophy.

"The attempt by corporations to take control of our food and agriculture through GMOs runs in total contradiction of the self-sufficient economy followed by many Thai farmers, which preserves our social well-being, culture, tradition and environment against short-term profits and greed being practiced by the biotechnology industry," said Patwajee Srisuwan of Greenpeace.

Papaya is one of the most important crops for people in the tropics like Hawaiians and Thais. While Hawaiians eat it as a ripe fruit, Thais use green papayas for their favourite somtam (spicy papaya salad). For centuries, both grew papayas in farms, in spaces around houses and backyards.

But the fate of papayas in Hawaii and Thailand turned bad upon the arrival of GMO papaya. In Thailand, farmers and environmentalists try to cope with an ongoing contamination by GMO papaya, and the apparent inaction by the government (1). It is worse in Hawaii where production and sales of papaya nosedived since the introduction of GMO papaya because Japan, China and Europe have closed their doors against GMO papayas. Furthermore, growers of natural papayas are also facing threats on their livelihood because their farms are being contaminated too (2).

As the negative impacts of GMO papayas ravage farms in Hawaii and Thailand, farmers turn their back from GMOs and move towards natural innovations to papaya farming. In Suphanburi, Hawaiian farmers and members of Suphanburi Organic Producers Club took turns in showing their successful methods in organic and natural integrated farming.

Payong Srithong, chairman of Suphanburi Organic Producers Club, said "scientists who made the GMO papaya like to claim that there's no way to prevent the papaya ringspot virus. But the truth is that organic farming solves the ringspot virus problem and we've been doing this all along. The problem of papaya ringspot virus comes from mono-cropping. Organic farming and integrated farming allows us to use other crops to scare away insects. The planting of non_GMO papayas today is on a cooperative land which our association will look after. We'll keep records of our progress to show through this pilot plantation that organic farming can cure diseases without the need for GMOs."

On World Environment Day, farmers in Thailand and Hawaii are seeing the reality clearly: that self-sufficient farms and environments free of GMOs are worth cultivating.

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 ended on the 30 May with a verdict on the court case expected towards the end of this year.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Patwajee Srisuwan, Genetic Engineering campaigner, +661 381 5367

Ua-phan Chamnan-ua, Media officer, +661 928 2426

1)see Contamination by Genetically Engineered Papaya in Thailand at www.greenpeace.or.th 2)see The Failure of GE Papaya in Hawaii at www.greenpeace.or.th

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