Submitted to: APS Net Plant Pathology Online
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/27/2004
Publication Date: 8/28/2004
Citation: Gonsalves, C., Lee, D., Gonsalves, D. 2004. Transgenic virus resistant papaya: The Hawaiian 'Rainbow' was rapidly adopted by farmers and is of major importance in Hawaii today. Online. APS Net Feature, American Phytopathological Society, August-September 2004.
Interpretive Summary: By 1995, Hawaii’s papaya industry was being devastated by the papaya ringspot virus after the virus was discovered in Puna in 1992. The genetically engineered ‘Rainbow’ papaya was released in 1998. To capture the adoption of the transgenic papaya by Puna farmers, surveys were taken in 1998 and 1999. The farmers enthusiastically adopted the transgenic papaya because of its virus resistance and good horticultural qualities. By 2000, 50% of Hawaii’s papaya crops was comprised of the genetically engineered Rainbow papaya. This is a rapid and remarkably high adoption rate. Today, the Rainbow papaya is widely planted in Hawaii, its resistance to the virus has held up, it is widely sold in supermarkets in Hawaii and make up a large majority of the papaya that is exported to mainland US. The transgenic papaya case is widely cited as an example on the effective use of biotechnology to save an industry.
Technical Abstract: In 1992, papaya ringspot virus was discovered in Puna, where 95% of Hawaii’s papaya was being grown. By 1995, the virus had devastated large areas of papaya in Puna. The genetically virus resistant transgenic ‘Rainbow’ papaya was released to growers in May 1998. This was the first genetically engineered fruit crop to be commercialized in the US. To evaluate the farmer acceptance of the transgenic product early in its release, a survey was done of Puna papaya farmers in 1998 and 1999. The survey consisted of interviewing 54% of the 171 papaya farmers in Puna. The surveys clearly showed that the farmers adopted the transgenic papaya. Ninety percent of the farmers who qualified to get seeds obtained seeds and 76% of them planted the seeds within 9 months after obtaining the seeds. These farmers (96%) said they obtained the seeds because it was virus resistant and had good horticultural qualities. In fact, 19% of the farmers were already harvesting Rainbow papaya when the survey was completed 16 months after the papaya seeds became available. Further evidence on the high adoption rate of the transgenic papaya is that by August 2000, only 27 months after releasing the seeds, Rainbow papaya accounted for 50% of the state’s bearing papaya acreage. Rainbow papaya continues to be resistant to papaya ringspot virus in 2005.