The failure of GM papaya in Hawaii (26/6/2006)

GE Papaya in Hawaii
26 June 2006

Dear Friends and colleagues,

RE: GE Papaya in Hawaii

We wish to bring to your attention a new report by Greenpeace which concludes that GE papaya introduced in Hawaii since 1998 has been a failure and the prospects for the industry are dim, thus contradicting claims of its success by the GE industry and other GE promoters.

Quoting from statistics from the US Department of Agriculture, the report says that a decade ago in 1995, the gross value of Hawaii’s fresh papaya crop was over US$22 million but today, it has declined by more than half. In 1997, before ringspot virus-resistant GE papaya were sold, farmers received an average of $1.23 per kilogram. In 1998, that figure crashed to $0.89 when traditional buyers of Hawaiian papayas, such as Japan and Canada, rejected the GE fruit. As prices declined, so has production and the area cultivated over the years.

The failures in Hawaii are especially important because GE papaya is being heavily promoted in other countries, especially in Southeast Asia. It is hoped that lessons can be drawn from the Hawaiian experience so that history will not repeat itself in these countries.

The summary of the report is reproduced below. The full document can be downloaded online at: http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/FailureGEPapayainHawaii.pdf

With best wishes,
Chee Yoke Heong
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister,
10400 Penang,
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.biosafety-info.net and www.twnside.org.sg


Greenpeace International, May 2006


The ringspot virus-resistant genetically engineered (GE) papaya introduced in Hawaii in 1998 has been a commercial failure that has propelled the Islands' papaya industry towards collapse.

Fewer papayas are harvested in Hawaii now than at any time in more than a generation, fewer also than during the years when the outbreak of papaya ringspot virus was at its worst. The gross value of Hawaii's fresh papaya crop was higher in 1997, the last year of non-GE production, than it has been in each and every year since.

Since 1998, US citizens have doubled their average consumption of fresh papayas. Yet in Hawaii, the total area of papayas harvested is now less than 600 hectares, a decline of 28% since the GE papaya was introduced. Ten and twenty years ago, nearly twice the amount of acreage was harvested. On average, farmers now receive 35% less per kilogram for their fruit than they did before the GE papaya was released.

Despite these grim statistics from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the genetic engineering industry and its allies insist that the GE papaya has been a success. The American Farm Bureau says that it is "a dramatic success for biotechnology" [1] that, Monsanto proclaims, "is credited with saving Hawaii's papaya industry." [2] In reality, genetic engineering has not saved an industry - it has accelerated the decline of Hawaiian papayas. While other market factors have to be taken into account as well, the introduction of GE papaya poses a significant and unique market disadvantage and certainly hasn't saved the Hawaiian industry. Arguably, the only real beneficiaries of the GE papaya in Hawaii are a few large companies in a concentrated industry that frequently relies on tenant farmers who don't own the land that they work.

For organic farmers, GE papayas have been a source of problems. The burden of defending against contamination from GE papaya pollen has been unfairly foisted upon those who seek to produce papayas most sustainably.

The truth about the failures in Hawaii is especially important because of the pressure that the US is exerting on other countries, especially in Southeast Asia, to permit GE papaya on their land. GE papaya promoters such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the genetic engineering industry association the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) claim that it has been a success and, based upon that dubious assertion, they urge countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia to open their farms to the genetically engineered fruit.

Yet the 'success' of the GE papaya is largely a fiction dreamed up and promoted by its inventors and by a few large Hawaiian Papaya businesses that have trapped themselves in a cycle of genetic engineering use. If they do not succeed in convincing Asian countries to plant and eat the GE papaya, then the Hawaiian industry will likely continue to spiral downward - a collapse being caused by its own self-inflicted GE experiment. This is due to almost universal consumer and market rejection, with a clear preference for non-GE and organic papaya. There is also, sensibly, no regulatory approval for GE papaya import to key markets, e.g. Japan & the 25 countries of the EU.

Hawaii's papaya industry has a product that consumers do not want and also has strong competition from papaya producing countries in South East Asia or Latin America.

Mexican papaya, for example, is more widely consumed in mainland USA than the Hawaiian one.


Truelsen, J. 2003. Biotechnology saves Hawaii papaya industry. American Farm Bureau News, 26 May 2003.

Monsanto. Monsanto Hawaii: Agricultural Biotech in the Islands.
accessed 17 January 2006.

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