|GM papaya problems - Malaysia and Thailand (23/11/2005)|
1.SAM/CAP object on Malaysian GM Papaya
1.CAP And SAM Object To Inclusion of Genetic Engineering In International Symposium On Papaya
The Consumers' Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) are concerned that the International Symposium on Papaya being held in Genting Highlands from November 22nd to 24th would be an avenue for biotechnology industries to promote transgenic papaya.
The symposium is jointly organized by the Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute (MARDI), International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), International Service for the Acquisition of Agricultural Biotechnology Applications (ISAAA) and the International Tropical Fruits Network (TFNet).
With the participation of the Papaya Biotechnology Network of South East Asia which is coordinated by ISAAA, the symposium would be an opportunity for the biotech industry to promote genetic engineering. ISAAA facilitates the partnership between Syngenta, Monsanto and five countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) on the development of genetically engineered papaya with the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV)-resistant and delayed ripening traits. Research findings in biotechnology applications in papaya is purported to be presented at this symposium.
We are very concerned that genetic engineering (GE) is being promoted and used as a solution to address disease problems of papaya and improving the fruit. This is because genetic engineering carries many risks and hazards, which potentially result in adverse health, environmental and socio-economic impacts. GE contamination is difficult to contain or avoid. There is already widespread contamination by GE papaya in Hawaii.
Conventional varieties of papaya grown in Hawaii have tested positive for transgenic seeds, whilst contamination was also detected in the stock of non-GE seeds being sold commercially by the University of Hawaii. Closer to home, there has already been contamination from an experimental field trial of transgenic papaya in Thailand.
One of the concerns of GE food is the risk of allergic reactions. A recent scientific paper shows that the papaya ringspot virus coat protein is one of a number of transgenic proteins that had sequence similarity with known allergenic proteins. To our knowledge, no research has been done to further investigate the implications of this, and the long-term effects to humans are unknown.
2.Patents rested with Cornell 'from outset'
The papaya was developed by the university and Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry researchers to combat the ringspot virus, which devastated papaya plantations in the country more than 10 years ago. <BR><BR>Genetic modification of papaya was done by inserting genes of the virus into genes of the papaya so the plant would recognise the virus, and eventually resist it.
The ministry is drawing up a memorandum of understanding on benefit-sharing on the papaya with the university, but has not disclosed whether it has any rights on it. Some intellectual property right experts said the original material including the virus strains used in the research were also brought from Thailand, so it should be eligible to the intellectual property rights.
They have called on the ministry to clarify the matter before pursuing benefit sharing, saying any decisions on the matter would set a benchmark for future exploitation of the country's natural resources.
Dennis Gonsalves, a former researcher of Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station who supervised the project, said Thai officials were told of the university's plan to patent any discoveries.
To enable Thai farmers to use the papaya without violating the university's IPRs, they agreed to work out on an MoU together, he said.
"Thailand knew at the beginning that we would develop the papaya and give it to Thailand free of charge, but Cornell would obtain patents on it," said Dr Gonsalves.
He said material transfers among scientists in the past 20 years had not encountered as many complications on IPRs as they did today. If the country was concerned about exploitation of natural resources, it should work out ways to protect them.
Dr Gonsalves on Friday joined Thai biotechnological experts in a seminar on the GM papaya organised by the Biotechnology Alliance Association, Khon Kaen University, and the United States embassy, aimed at boosting understanding about GM papaya among farmers in the Northeast, the country's papaya-growing region.
The farmers were told GM papaya would make ringspot virus a thing of the past. If they wanted to grow it, they should ask the government to review the ban on GM cropping.
Asked if GM papaya could resist all strains of the virus here, he conceded it might not be able to do so.
Vilai Prasartsee, director of the Agricultural Research and Development Office Region 3 in Khon Kaen, said GM papaya developed from the khak dam and khak nual varieties could resist virus strains taken from 13 provinces.
Researchers would need samples from all 76 provinces to determine if it could resist all strains.