This report is of extreme interest because it refers to one of the emerging problems stressed by RASFF notifications and statistics during the last months.
The report describes the outcome of a Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) audit in Thailand, carried out between 29 January to 07 February 2014. Genetically modified (GM) papaya is not authorised in the European Union (EU). The objective of the audit was to assess the system of controls to ensure that GM papaya and GM papaya products are not exported to the EU.
The audit was carried out due to RASFF notifications of genetically modified organism (GMO) in papaya and papaya products from Thailand issued in 2012 and 2013. Although GM papaya has never been authorised for cultivation in Thailand, the CA detected a
significant presence of GM papaya. The origin of the GM papaya is not known. There is an incentive for farmers to use GM papaya as non-GM plants are susceptible to the serious disease PRSV. The farmers met had been using farm saved papaya seed for a number of years and the original seed was sourced before official GMO controls started.
In response to the RASFF notifications issued by the EU from 2012, the CA has put in place a system to ensure that GM papaya is not exported to the EU. The system is based on obligatory export certification, and papaya intended for export to the EU must be sampled and analysed for GMO presence. However, DOA does not verify whether sampling for export certification is representative. The CA requires GMP certification of packing facilities and performs official annual surveillance schemes. Certification of papaya growers to the GAP scheme is encouraged and includes systematic testing for GMOs. However, GAP certification is currently not compulsory and a number of growers of papaya for export to the EU are not certified.
Some shortcomings were identified in the GMO laboratories such as sensitivity and quality control procedures. Official controls are supported by additional private controls.
While the control measures are capable of ensuring that papaya exported to the EU is not GM, the system put in place requires more time to be completed. At the time of the audit it was too early to conclude on its effectiveness.