WASHINGTON - July 30 - Greenpeace today revealed that genetically engineered (GE) papaya has been grown for at least 12 months on a farm in the province of Khon Kaen in a widening GE contamination scandal and violation of the country's GE ban. The revelation is part of the environmental group's ongoing investigation of GE papaya seeds illegally sold by the agricultural research station of the Department of Agriculture (DOA) in the said province.
Independent laboratory test results dated 24 June 2004 (1) show that the fruit of a papaya tree on a local farmer's land is GE. The GE papaya tree is 12 months old and is grown from papaya seeds purchased from the research station in June 2003.
"Test results from random sampling show that GE papaya trees on this particular farm have been grown for at least 12 months. The government must take action to investigate the extent of this contamination and prevent it from spreading. All farmers who have purchased papaya seeds from the research station have a right to know whether GE papaya trees are growing on their land and whether their families are already eating GE papaya. Farmers such as this one is a victim of the environmental crime committed by the Department of Agriculture, " said Jiragorn Gajaseni, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Greenpeace reiterated its demand that the DOA's research station, one of the largest papaya seed suppliers in the country, immediately stop the sale of papaya seeds and seedlings and that all papaya seeds, seedlings, trees and fruit on the research station be destroyed in order to prevent further contamination.
"We're urge the government to stop this experiment now. The government must impose a total ban on GE field trials, including those in government restricted areas and experimental stations," he added.
On Tuesday, Greenpeace activists sealed off an experimental field of GE papaya at the DOA's research station in Khon Kaen after finding evidence that it is the source of genetic contamination of one of Asia's most important food crops. Despite very clear evidence of contamination, the DOA did not do anything to contain this contamination. It announced it was filing legal charges against Greenpeace instead of investigating the risks posed by GMO papaya contamination to Thai citizens and the environment.
"Here is evidence showing that for at least a year packets of papaya seeds sold by the research station contained GMO seeds, and now these trees are bearing fruit and farmers are eating them. The extent of the damage is unknown. What is clear is that the government must act to protect the Thai public," said Patwajee Srisuwan, Genetic Engineering Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Notes to Editor:
1) Tests were conducted by GeneScan (HongKong) Ltd, www.genescan.com