University of Hawaii

Canada OKs imports
of bio-altered papayas

Researchers at UH modified
two varieties to withstand disease

Star-Bulletin staff

HILO >> The Canadian government has approved importing genetically modified papayas from Hawaii, a move that is expected to increase papaya production here and boost shipments to Canada.

Canadian approval was announced yesterday for the two varieties of papaya that were modified by University of Hawaii researchers to resist virus-caused papaya ringspot disease.

"This approval will open up an important market to the popular Rainbow and Sunrise papayas," said Delan "Rusty" Perry, president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association.

At one time the Canadian market received about 8 percent of Hawaii's production, Perry said.

Two-thirds of that market was lost in recent years, said Tai Wang, president of Superfoods in Honolulu, a large papaya exporter.

The loss was due to the continuing fall in production of unmodified papayas due to disease, Perry said. Meanwhile, Canada was cautious about allowing imports of the modified "transgenic" papayas.

The Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, and before it the now-disbanded Papaya Administrative Committee, worked with research partners at UH to develop data on nutrition and other aspects of the transgenic papayas specifically to answer Canadian questions.

"We have been confident of this outcome, since all analyses have demonstrated the similarity of health safety and nutritional qualities of the transgenic papayas relative to our current nontransgenic varieties," said UH researcher Richard Manshardt.

Emerson Llantero, the former manager of the Papaya Administrative Committee, noted the absence of large corporations in the process.

"The approval is the result of a strong collaboration between industry people and university researchers, and proves that GMO (genetically modified organism) development is not the monopoly of big corporations," Llantero said.

In a letter granting approval, Karen Dodds, head of the Food Directorate of Health Canada, said her agency has "no objection" to the transgenic varieties, based on the Hawaii data.

Transgenic papayas have been grown and sold commercially in the United States since 1998.

Puna District papaya grower Orlando Manuel said: "Now that the Canadian government has approved Rainbow, I can plan to expand production. We can use that market."

University of Hawaii at Hilo
Food Directorate of Health Canada
State of Hawaii

E-mail to City Desk


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