EXCERPT: Surawit Wannakrairoj, assistant professor in biotechnology for crop improvement at Kasetsart University, said cross breeding between GM and ordinary plants was the worst fear in terms of environmental protection. This was because the end results of such developments were not yet clear.
Test seems to show GM papaya rampant
Contamination, cross breeding suspected
Bangkok Post, 2 June 2005
An independent test has found a sample of what was thought to be an ordinary papaya plant from a farm in Kamphaeng Phet province was actually genetically modified, raising suspicions it was genetically contaminated or crossbred with the GM variety, international environmental group Greenpeace said yesterday.
The test, conducted by Hong Kong-based laboratory GeneScan, confirmed that the seeds of the Florida variety of papaya collected from a farm in Sai Ngam district contained GM genes, said Patwajee Srisuwan, genetic engineering campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
She said samples of the leaves and the flesh of its fruit showed no GM genes, leading to suspicions the papaya might have been genetically contaminated or cross bred with GM papaya grown nearby.
"If it was originally a GM variety, both its leaves and the flesh of its fruit should show positive results,'' Ms Patwajee said.
In late April, Greenpeace collected samples as part of its follow-up of the examination on the government's action against the alleged spread of GM papaya.
Kamphaeng Phet is one of the main papaya-producing provinces supplying produce to factories in the North, Greenpeace said, adding that some farmers there obtained GM papaya seeds from the Agriculture Department's research station in Khon Kaen province.
Greenpeace sent samples of the Khaekdam Tha Phra variety grown in the station and nearby farms to the Hong Kong lab last year which confirmed they were genetically modified. Environmental advocates later demanded the department investigate the spread of the GM variety as the station had sold papaya seeds to over 2,600 farmers in several provinces.
Thailand has not yet allowed open field trials and commercial production and sales of GM crops.
The department later collected 8,912 samples from farms allegedly growing the papaya obtained from its Khon Kaen station. It found that 329 samples from 85 farms were genetically modified.
The department did not inform the public of the result, so the organisation, along with other independent organisations such as the National Human Rights Commission, launched their own probes into the case, including the latest sample submission to the lab for tests.
Greenpeace also sent samples of Khaekdam Tha Phra papaya from farms in Rayong's Klaeng district, three samples of which were found to be GM.
Ms Patwajee said the new findings showed clearly the failure of the department's attempts to manage GM crops as they were able to spread from its research station, and the department was not able to destroyed all the plants.
She said Greenpeace would submit its findings to the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry and the National Human Rights Commission.
Surawit Wannakrairoj, assistant professor in biotechnology for crop improvement at Kasetsart University, said cross breeding between GM and ordinary plants was the worst fear in terms of environmental protection.
This was because the end results of such developments were not yet clear. That was why the country should come up with a clear policy on GM production before pushing ahead with it, he said.
Check out the new online register of contamnination: http://www.gmcontaminationregister.org