WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2012—The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that on Dec. 1, the Government of Japan approved Rainbow papaya for commercial shipment to Japan. The Rainbow papaya is genetically engineered to be resistant to the papaya ringspot virus. This announcement marks the beginning of a new chapter for Hawaiian papaya growers.
"The market opening in Japan is great news for Hawaii's papaya producers and even better news for American agricultural exports," said Michael Scuse, Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. "Under the Obama Administration, USDA has continued to expand markets for American goods abroad, worked aggressively to break down barriers to trade, and assisted U.S. businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world. This announcement will ensure that Hawaii's papaya producers help to drive our agricultural economy by expanding exports, creating jobs, and strengthening our nation's competitiveness."
In the 1990s, an outbreak of the papaya ringspot virus decimated Hawaii's papaya crop. Scientists from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, The Upjohn Company and USDA's Agricultural Research Service used biotechnology to develop the Rainbow papaya, which is resistant to the virus. After receiving full clearance from the U.S. government, the Rainbow papaya was commercialized in 1998. Now, the majority of Hawaii's papaya crop is resistant to ringspot virus through genetic engineering.
Japan was once the major market for Hawaiian papayas, with annual sales reaching $15 million in 1996. These sales dropped to $1 million by 2010 while U.S. exporters awaited Japan's approval of Rainbow papaya. With Japan's approval for import of Rainbow papaya, U.S. papaya producers are set to regain access to this important market, supporting jobs through increased exports.
Currently, the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Farm exports in fiscal year 2011 reached a record high of $137.4 billion—exceeding past highs by $22.5 billion—and supported 1.15 million jobs here at home. The agricultural trade surplus stands at a record $42.7 billion. Horticultural product exports are forecast to reach a record of $28 billion, based on steady demand and high prices. Exports of fresh fruits and vegetables are expected to be strong to Japan, Canada and the European Union. Strong agricultural exports contribute to the positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
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