1.GOVERNMENT ADMISSION: GM papaya confirmed in NE

The Nation, Sep 15, 2004

Ministry says it will immediately destroy all crops found to be contaminated

The Agriculture Ministry yesterday admitted it
had found genetically modified (GM) papaya on a
farm in Khon Kaen and vowed to destroy the
produce of any farm where GMO (genetically
modified organism) contaminated fruit is

Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said the
ministry had found that of 239 analysed samples,
one was a GM papaya.

The ministry took a total of 600 samples of
papaya each from 2,600 farmers who had bought
seedlings from the Agricultural Research and
Development Office, Region 3.

Somsak said the Agriculture Office had destroyed
the papaya on the farm and imposed a control zone
within a 450metre radius of the GMO contamination
to prevent its possible spread.

He added that the ministry had set up a working
committee comprising lawyers and specialists to
detect GMOs and would take action against farmers
within the control zone who sell GM fruit.

The committee will also find out how the papaya
of the ministry's research arm had become GMO

The farmer whose papaya tested positive was
identified as Samorn Nakkong, from Tambon Tha
Phra, Muang district, who had bought 260 papaya
seedlings from the Agricultural Research and
Development Office, four kilometres from his
home, in July. The office has yet to identify the
papaya breed Khaek Dam or Khaek Nual which is
GMOcontaminated.Agriculture Ministry permanent
secretary Banpot Hongthong said he ordered the
Agriculture Department's centre in Khon Kaen to
stop its GMO experiment after the contamination
was found. Papaya on contaminated farms would "be
destroyed immediately", he said.

"The ministry is sincere and is open about the
contamination. We reveal the information and
solve the problem immediately. That openness will
show importers of papaya that the government does
not support GM plants," he added.

He said the ministry would also punish the
officials responsible for the GMO contamination
pending the findings of the panel. Biothai
director Withoon Lianchamroon said the best way
to solve the contamination problem was for the
government to pay compensation to all 2,600
farmers and destroy all the papaya on their
farms, because the cost of GMO testing Bt1,600
per sample was prohibitive.

Withoon called on the government to scrap the GMO
experiment of Kasetsart University, but
Agriculture Department directorgeneral Chakan
Saengraksawong said the experiments of both
Kasetsart and Mahidol universities would continue.

Lab tests by the environmental organisation
Greenpeace and the Human Rights Commission have
independently found GMO papaya on two other farms.

Thai law forbids the public sale of GM seeds and
requires products containing more than five per
cent of a genetically modified ingredient to be labelled.

Greenpeace in July accused the government of
illegally selling GM papaya seeds after the
environmental group raided a state-owned farm and
conducted its own tests.

Withoon said that consumer protection groups and
his office would take samples of papaya from
seven more provinces. The results will be known
in two weeks.

GM WATCH daily