The Japanese government has recently approved Hawaiian-grown Rainbow papaya for commercial shipment to Japan.
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 Co. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture'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.
According to USDA, 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.
"The market opening in Japan is great news for Hawaii's papaya producers and even better news for American agricultural exports," said Michael Scuse, USDA’s acting undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services.