THAILAND: Clean-up Operation Likely For GM Papaya

THAILAND: Clean-up Operation Likely For GM Papaya
Bangkok Post, 14 Sep 2004

First Concrete Action Since Denial Of Spread

Clean-up operations will be organised to tackle possible contamination of plantations in the country by genetically-modified (GM) papayas, the Agriculture Department said yesterday.

The procedure has three stages - eradication of all papaya trees in affected plantations, imposition of 400-metre quarantine zones and investigations into how the contamination occurred, said department chief Chakan Saengraksawong.

The steps are similar to existing plant disease outbreak control measures, he said, and will be set up under the Plant Quarantine Act, which prohibits planting of 89 transgenic crops, including papaya, outside the government's research station due to the potential impact on human health and the environment.

The is the agency's first concrete action since environmental group Greenpeace said it found transgenic papayas, developed by the department's Khon Kaen horticultural research station, in a local farmer's plantation late last month.

Greenpeace alleged the department had illegally distributed genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - papaya seeds - to farmers, a claim denied by the department.
Mr Chakan said the department had randomly tested 300 papaya samples collected from 2,600 farmers who bought papaya seeds from the station last year.

"If a papaya sample tests positive for GMOs, a clean-up will go ahead. Within quarantine zones, all papaya trees will be tested and destroyed if they contain GMOs,'' he said.

Mr Chakan also called on the National Human Rights Commission to release test results on the native papayas from the Khon Kaen plantations so the department could quickly destroy the transgenic papayas if the native stock is affected.

Last week, the commission collected 15 papaya samples from local farmers in Khon Kaen to verify Greenpeace's claim of the spread of transgenic papaya seeds from the department's research station.

A source at the commission said tests, conducted by Mahidol University's laboratory, had found one papaya sample containing GMOs.
However, the result needs to be confirmed by the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology before Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is informed tomorrow, the source added.