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Japan allows genetically modified papayas

(27 May 2010) As of summer, genetically modified (GM) papayas will be for sale in Japan. The fruit must be labeled accordingly. The Japanese government has allowed the import of the papayas from the USA, where a virus-resistant variety has been cultivated since 1999.

Papayas are the first fruit to enter the Japanese market as a GM food product that can be consumed in the unprocessed form. The Food Safety Commission of Japan (FSCJ) assessed the GM papayas already a year ago and concluded that consumption of the fruit is unobjectionable. A government panel now has allowed the import of GM papaya and its use as foodstuff.

The GM papayas were developed in the USA in the 1990s and are equipped with resistance to the Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRV). In papaya trees, this virus causes a disease that can lead to a heavy loss of yield. This virus reduced harvests by a half in Hawai’i, the main region of papaya cultivation in the USA.

GM papayas have been planted in Hawai’i since 1999 and currently cover approximately 60 per cent of the area used for this crop. PRV resistance originates in the introduced gene, which codes for the coat protein of the virus. Proliferation of the pathogenic virus in the plant is hindered thereby. After introduction of the newly-developed GM papaya, damage caused by the virus in Hawai’i decreased significantly.

In addition to the USA, Canada has approved the use of GM papayas as a food product. In the EU, no application for the same has been submitted to date.

Japan is the first country to stipulate the labeling of the GM papayas


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