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For Immediate Release
November 20, 2008

U.S. Groups, Businesses and Organic Farmers Overwhelmingly Oppose Engineered Papaya
Organizations came together with scientists, businesses, organic farmers, bee keepers and others [1] to oppose a U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal to allow the commercialization of genetically engineered (GE) papaya trees in Florida. Over 12,000 people opposed the commercialization while only 17 people submitted statements supporting the commercialization of GE papaya.

The STOP GE Trees Campaign, which initiated the call for opposition, includes 137 organizations across the world that have united in the demand for a global ban on GE trees of all types.

GE papaya trees were previously commercialized in Hawaii where Hawaiian activists and scientists charge they have been a disaster, with one study demonstrating 50% contamination of backyard, wild and organic papayas only a few years after being released on the Big Island of Hawaii. Another study found that GE papaya, engineered to resist the ringspot virus, are increasingly susceptible to black spot fungus, leading to use of fungicides to control the problem. [2]

Dr. Neil Carman, of Sierra Club’s Biotechnology Committee stated: “The use of GE papaya trees in Hawaii caused a rapid contamination of backyard and organic papaya.  The USDA admits that release of GE papaya in Florida will also cause contamination, yet they continue to pursue it. They argue such contamination would be beneficial, ignoring the fact that it could wipe out the organic papaya farmers in Florida. In addition, their Environmental Assessment was completely inadequate.  It did not assess the potential impacts on human health, pollinating insects like honey bees, or wildlife.” [3]

Anne Petermann, Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign and Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project said: “That the USDA continues to promote destructive genetically engineered trees and foods, despite the documentation of over 140 cases of genetic contamination [4] is disgraceful. The approval of GE papaya trees in Florida would set a very dangerous precedent that could open the door to commercialization of GE forest trees in the U.S.  It could help pave the way for huge plantations of non-native and invasive GE eucalyptus trees across the U.S. South that would increase destruction of our native forests and devastate the communities that depend on them.”

The STOP GE Trees Campaign teamed up with the Sierra Club, the Center for Food Safety and Florida Organic Growers to publicize the USDA’s plans to deregulate GE papaya in Florida and generate comments opposing it.

Anne Petermann, Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign and Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project +1.802.482.2689/mobile +1.802.578.0477  email:  <globalecology@gmavt.net>
Dr. Neil Carman, Sierra Club’s Biotechnology Committee +1.512.472.1767   email:  <neil_carman@greenbuilder.com>

[1]  Organizations and businesses a that submitted comments included Abundant Life Essentials, Bee Heaven Organic Farm, Brooklyn for Peace, Center for Food Safety (petition signed by 7,843 supporters),  Community Ecology, Designed for Movement, Dolores Green – Florida organic farmer, Environmental Council of Volusia/Flagler Counties (Florida), Family Farm Defenders (5,000+ members), Florida Certified Organic Growers & Consumers, Inc., Food & Water Watch (petition signed by 3,973 supporters), Global Justice Ecology Project (600+members), Global Organics, Hawaii SEED, Indiana Forest Alliance, Institute of Science in Society, Institute for Social Ecology, Mountain Biscuit (Uses Papaya in their products), Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ, Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering, Oregon Toxics Alliance, Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, Park Slope Food Coop, PCC Natural Markets (45,000 members), Reserve Technology Institute, Rising Tide North America, Sierra Club (1.3 million members), Stop GE Trees Campaign (137 organizational members), Sunray Harvesters, The Ecohawk Foundation, The Truth News.Info, Whole Foods Community Coop, Whole Foods Markets, Wildgrace Organic Farm, Youth for Ecology Liberation

[2] https://www.grain.org/research_files/Contamination_Papaya.pdf

[3] USDA Environmental Assessment for GE Papaya and all public comments can be found at https://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main

[4] https://www.gmcontaminationregister.org/