Genetically modified papaya found in Kanchanaburi,Thailand: Chula researcher

May 19, 2012 0 Comments

Pongphon Sarnsamak

The Nation May 17, 2012 1:00 am

Hawaiian genetically modified papayas have been found at a farmer’s plantation in Kanchanaburi province, a study revealed yesterday. Piyasak Chaumpluk, from Chulalongkorn University’s Department of Botany, who conducted the study, said the papaya in Kanchanaburi would be sent to a local fresh market, a supermarket in a department store and for export to other countries.

He presented his findings to a seminar entitled “2012 Food Security Assembly” organised by BioThai Foundation, the Sustainable Agriculture Foundation, and Alternative Agriculture Network.

Piyasak collected 319 samples of plants that may be genetically modified (GMO). Of this number, some 27 samples were cotton, 74 samples were papaya, 108 samples were rice, 105 samples were maize. The rest were chilli, tomato, and yellow bean.

According to his laboratory study, 29 samples of Hawaiian papaya in Kanchanaburi were found to the tainted with GMO and nine samples of cotton were also contaminated with GMO in Kanchanaburi and Sukhothai provinces.

Three years ago, Piyasak had found GMO contamination in maize for animal feed and cotton.

He said the GMO contamination at the plantation in Kanchanaburi might be accidental.

“Of course, the finding of GMO contamination in plants will affect the country’s image and I don’t want to blame the farmer for being the cause of contamination at their plantation. I think they unintentionally did it,” he said.

“The GMO contaminated plants will spread to other areas,” he added.

Pyasak said he had sent his report to the Department of Agriculture and asked it to strictly control GMO contamination in crop production but he had had no response from the state agency.

To date, GMO crops are not allowed in Thailand. Previously, a field trial of GMO papaya in Khon Kaen province was destroyed by a group of environmental activists after they found large-scale contamination of a neighbouring papaya farm, which resulted from field trials.

Meanwhile, a state agency had complained that experiments with genetically modified organisms were a harmful activity under Article 67 (2) of the Constitution. But this was opposed by some biotechnological experts and academics, who said many studies over the past 10 years in the US, Canada, Japan and China showed that GMO products did not cause any impact on humans and animals.

Piyasak said growing crops with GMOs should be listed as a harmful activity because they would affect human health and the environment.

If they [biotechnological experts] think that GMOs are good and will not affect human health, why are they afraid of listing GMOs as a harmful activity?” he said.

“The government should make a clear decision on whether we will go with genetically modified crops or alternative agriculture. But now we have learnt that we cannot control the contamination,” he said.