Greenpeace helps destroy contaminated orchard (21/5/2006)

Greenpeace helps planter destroy his orchard

A papaya planter in Rayong's Klaeng district yesterday sought help from Greenpeace activists to demolish his orchard to stop the spread of genetically-modified (GM) papaya. Teerasak Bamrung, the orchard owner, is among 2,669 farmers in 37 provinces who obtained papaya seeds from the Department of Agriculture's Khon Kaen research station in 2003 and 2004.

The department claimed its newly-bred papaya species was resistant to the papaya ringspot virus, a common disease found in papaya-growing countries.

Last year, Greenpeace and the National Human Rights Commission collected papaya samples from plantations growing seeds from the Khon Kaen research station and sent them to the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and Mahidol University for testing. The lab results showed that 11 samples, including three samples from Mr Teerasak's orchard, were genetically modified.

Greenpeace said the research station, which has been conducting field trials of transgenic papaya, had distributed genetically-modified papaya seeds and seedlings to the public.

''I have waited for almost a year for concerned agencies to get rid of the GM papaya trees and clean up my orchard to prevent the further spread of the GM papaya, but no one has turned up. So I decided to ask Greenpeace for help,'' said Mr Teerasak.

''I'm not afraid of the GM papaya and still eat papaya fruit from my genetically-modified orchard produce, but it is illegal to grow the transgenic crop,'' he said.

''I'm also afraid the GM papaya will deplete native papaya species through cross-breeding, so I want to destroy them as quickly as possible.''

Greenpeace activists, dressed in full protective gear, yesterday sealed off Mr Teerasak's papaya orchard with plastic rope and put up a warning sign reading ''GMO quarantine zone''. They collected papaya flowers and fruit and uprooted around 30 papaya trees in the orchard.

The crops were chopped up and will be stored in a sealed tank for at least 15 days to ensure they cannot breed any more, said Patwajee Srisuwan, a Greenpeace campaigner who led yesterday's operation. Papaya trees and their roots were buried at a contained dump site.

Ms Patwajee said the operation should be adopted as a model for concerned agencies in dealing with genetically-modified papaya orchards nationwide


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