"The Thai government's lies and total disregard for the GE papaya contamination problem is directly putting Thai papaya exporters and consumers of papaya around the world at risk."
Jul 7, 2005
Bangkok, 7 July 2005 - Greenpeace activists today dumped thousands of papayas at the offices of Thailand's Department of Agriculture in a protest against the government's utter disregard for consumer and environmental protection from threats caused by the spread of illegal genetically engineered (GE) papaya in Thailand. The threat also concerns many European countries that import papaya from Thailand; it is possible that GE contaminated papaya is already on European markets.
"The Thai government's lies and total disregard for the GE papaya contamination problem is directly putting Thai papaya exporters and consumers of papaya around the world at risk. We demand that the government seriously and properly decontaminate Thai papaya farms before the GE papaya reaches the global food chain. It won't be long until EU reacts negatively against the entry of Thai papaya," said Patwajee Srisuwan of Greenpeace in Southeast Asia.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia today released new laboratory tests confirming more GE papaya contamination in the northeastern provinces of Kalasin, Mahasarakham and Chaiyaphum. Last month the group released evidence of GE papaya contamination in the Northern and Eastern regions of Thailand. Government papers also indicate that GE contaminated papaya seeds may have been sold to 2,600 farmers in 34 Thai provinces (1).
Consumers in Thailand and in countries that import Thai papayas are now at risk of consuming GE contaminated papaya, which has also been found to contain antibiotic (tetracycline) resistant genes that contradict the FAO/WHO Codex standards as well as strict legislations of the European Union on GMOs in food.
In 2004, Thailand exported BHT 2.86 billion (57.3 million Euros) worth of fresh and prepared or preserved fruits to Europe and Asia, a large amount of which includes papaya and cocktails with papaya as part of the ingredients, based on figures from the Thai Customs Department. The main destinations for Thailand's fresh papaya and mixed fruit products are the Netherlands, Germany, France, UK, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Georgia, China, Japan and Hong Kong.
The EU does not allow the import of GE papaya and Thailand-based companies such as Dole, Malee and Universal Food Co. (UFC), which have large papaya-related exports to the EU, stand to lose financially from this GE papaya fiasco. Last year the German government launched an investigation on papayas from Thailand, after the GE papaya contamination scandal broke.
ole, the world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruits and vegetables, sources papaya from Thailand for its operations in the EU (2). Malee exports to the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, while UFC produces fruit products for large food suppliers like Sainsbury's, Safeway, Libby, QP Corp., Sun Queen, Rykoff-Sextion and El Dorado (3).
In July 2004, Greenpeace Southeast Asia activists sealed off a government-run GE papaya experimental station after scientific evidence confirmed it was the source of contamination of one of Thailand's staple food. The Thai government ran a campaign to discredit Greenpeace and consistently lied to public by declaring they have already decontaminated Thai papaya farms. Recent findings of widespread GE papaya contamination in the country prove them otherwise, however.
For more information:
Patwajee Srisuwan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering campaigner, +661 3815367
Ua-phan Chamnan-ua, Greenpeace Southeast Asia media officer, +661 9282426
Notes to editor:
(1) The problem of contamination is widespread. The latest Dept of Agriculture documents say that last year the government collected 8,912 samples of papaya and found GE papaya contamination in 329 samples which came from 85 farms. The DOA destroyed only 83 of the said farms.
(2) Source: www.customs.go.th
The Royal Thai Customs department reports that in 2004 prepared or preserved fruit exports totaled around BHT 2.9 billion last year. Breakdown of exports: BHT 113 million for papaya in airtight containers, BHT 24 million for fresh papaya, and BHT 2.86 million for mixed fruits.
(3) A statement from Dole said the company sources its papayas from Southern Thailand.
(4) Sources: www.malee.co.th , www.ufc.co.th