The Japanese government published an official ruling Dec. 1 granting approval of commercial shipments of Rainbow papayas, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service report.
“This announcement marks the end of a long process that began back in 1999, and the beginning of a new chapter for Hawaiian papaya growers,” according to the report. “The approval of Rainbow papaya is significant because it is the first horticultural biotech product and the first direct-to consumer food product to gain regulatory approval in Japan.”
At its height in 1996, the Hawaiian papaya industry shipped nearly $15 million worth of conventional papaya to the Japanese market, according to the report.
When Hawaiian papaya production was devastated by the ringspot virus, Hawaiian farmers adopted biotech papaya varieties, which Japan did not approve of at first. From 1996 to 2010, U.S. papaya exports to Japan shrank from an average of $10 million to less than $2 million a year.