The U.S. Department of Agriculture is gauging citizens’
response to genetically modified organisms, asking for
public comment until Nov. 3 on a petition from the
University of Florida that would allow commercial growing
and marketing of the first GM papaya trees in the mainland
U.S. The petition asks the USDA to remove regulatory oversight
from a variety that has been genetically engineered to resist
the ringspot virus.
Since all commercial papaya cultivars are relatively
cross-compatible within the same species, contamination
of organic growers and native species by wind and insects is
inevitable, said Neil Carman, Ph.D., of the Sierra Club’s
Genetic Engineering Committee.
The Organic Consumers Association is urging people to voice
their concerns at…
“The approval of perennial GE papaya trees would be a
dangerous precedent-setting step by USDA, opening the
floodgates for more GE trees including fruit, nut,
ornamental, and paper-pulp and timber species, as well
as trees engineered for soil remediation and other traits,”
GM varieties of papaya were introduced in Hawaii in 1998
to control ringspot virus, and were widely accepted because
Hawaii’s crops had recently been decimated by the virus.
However, the Honolulu Advertiser reported a few years later
that Hawaiian papaya production had tumbled because of imports
from Mexico and Brazil and closed export markets, such as Japan,
which would not accept the GM varieties.
Other reports mention that the GM varieties produce a
weaker tree with lower quality fruit.
“They’re apparently not looking at the bigger picture of
the economic problems that come with itâ€”the cross-contamination,
the market loss, the testing costs,” said Melanie Bondera,
a board member of Hawaii Seed, an advocate for sustainable
agriculture, in an Advertiser interview.