August 22, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- AFP, 08/21/04:
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he would
allow an open-field trial of genetically modified food
in what would be a key step towards commercial use of
GM crops in the kingdom.
decision comes under criticism
August 24, 2004, as reported by just-food.com:
Environmental groups have criticized Thailand’s
decision to allow field trials of genetically
modified crops and accused the Prime Minister
of falling to pressure from the United States.
The Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra,
denied the allegations that the decision
had anything to do with the U.S.
"The cancellation of the GMO ban was
not because of any U.S. senator lobbying.
Nobody can lobby me, only the Ministry of
Science and Technology lobbied with information,"
Thaksin was quoted by Agence France-Presse
Environmental group Greenpeace said the
Thai government had made a “rushed”
and “reckless” decision.
"The decision made by a small group
of bio-technology advocates will benefit
only a small group of companies, and ignore
the rights of farmers and consumers of the
nation. It is apparent that the decision
was based on false claims and assumptions,
which will lead this country into disaster,"
said Jiragorn Gajaseni, executive director
of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
The relaxation of Thailand's existing regulations on
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) still requires
cabinet approval, but Thaksin said broader experimentation
with and use of the strains would be sanctioned under
a new biosafety law to be tabled next year.
"We have the capacity to develop genetically modified
crops and if we do not embark on it now we may miss
our opportunity," Thaksin said during his weekly
radio address, a day after presiding over a meeting
on the matter.
"But we must ... use compulsory clear labeling."
Thailand's cabinet in 2001 banned GMO field trials.
Current law forbids the public sale of GMO seeds and
requires products containing more than five percent
of a genetically modified ingredient to be labelled
Thaksin said he felt buoyed by progress in Europe where
the EU ended its ban on GMO products, and stressed that
Thailand would be successful if it could juggle both
GMO and conventional crop markets.
Sakarindr Bhumiratana, a scientist with Thailand's
National Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology,
said the kingdom was currently testing GMO strains of
papaya, chili and orchids for future commercial use.
"The scientists must experiment at the farm level
-- the last stage -- in order to assess the impact and
ensure that GMO crops can be grown on a commercial scale,"
he said in an interview on Thai radio.
Last month environmental group Greenpeace, a major
opponent of genetically modified foods, accused the
Thai government of illegally selling seeds from genetically
modified papaya fruit after raiding a state-owned farm.
Other environmental groups slammed Thaksin's announcement
as a "mammoth mistake" that could throw Thailand's
huge agriculture industry in to turmoil.
"The policy is putting Thai people at risk,"
Witoon Lianchamroon, the director of the BioThai Network,
said in the Nation newspaper, adding that a countrywide
upswell of opposition was likely.
"Thaksin has doubled back on his big promise to
farmers and environmental groups" to maintain a
ban on commercial use of GMOs, he said.
Other opponents quoted by the English-language daily
said Thailand had been heavily pressured by American
corporate giants like Monsanto, which is pushing to
test genetically modified corn strains.
They also said the US government, which launched negotiations
on a free trade agreement with Thailand this year, has
insisted as part of the talks that Thailand grant intellectual
property protection for genetically modified crops.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization,
biotechnology could help developing-world farmers feed
another two billion people in 30 years, breeding drought-resistant
crops as well as staples such as rice and cassava that
require less water.
In May a fresh row over genetically modified food erupted
in Europe after the European Commission declared the
EU would allow its first imports of a bio-engineered
crop in over five years.
The decision outraged Europe's green lobby, which accused
the commission of flouting public opinion and the so-called
precautionary principle, by which a GM product must
be proven safe before it goes on sale.