September 1, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Trirat Puttajanyawong,
Reuters, 08/31/04: Thailand's cabinet decided
on Tuesday to keep a three-year ban on planting crops
using genetically modified organisms (GMO), overturning
a decision by a panel chaired by Prime Minister Thaksin
Instead, it decided to set up a panel to hear the arguments
for and against GMO crops from state agencies and biotech
lecturers at all Thai universities, Science Minister
Korn Dabbaransi told reporters.
"We will have academics from all universities
to hear their view on three options -- 1) to promote
GMOs freely in Thailand, 2) to allow the co-existence
of GM and non-GM crops, or 3) to ban GMOs completely,"
Korn said after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Tuesday's decision reversed one made by Thaksin's committee
only little more than a week ago to allow open-field
trials alongside non-GMO plants.
The following day, Thaksin used part of his weekly
radio address to laud Thailand as a country technologically
capable of developing GMOs.
"If we don't start now, we will miss this scientific
train and lose out in the world," he said.
The debate on biotech grains has intensified worldwide,
with advocates saying they could lead to a more secure
future for food, while opponents say they could produce
new toxins and allergens, affecting the health of consumers.
Following Thaksin's decision, anti-GMO activists, including
Greenpeace and organic food growers, went out on the
streets to urge the government to reverse its decision,
fearing the country's organic food export industry would
be hit hard.
Anti-GMO advocates said by adopting open field trials,
Thailand was heading towards promoting GMOs freely as
the government had no measures to prevent GM crops from
contaminating non-GMO crops.
Korn said the government would not change its GMO policy
until a law on biotechnology had been passed.
Planting of GM crops is now done in government laboratories
for papayas, chillies and eggplants, while imports of
genetically modified soybeans and maize for animal feedstock
and other commercial uses are legal, officials said.
A consumer group reacted warily to the cabinet decision
and urged the government to allow anti-GMO activists
to take part in the drafting process of a new law on
"We hope this government didn't keep the ban because
they were afraid of losing their popularity ahead of
the general election," said Sairung Thongplon of
the Confederation of Consumers' Organisations.
"We hope it will not lift the ban after the elections"
due by the end of March.
(Additional reporting by Sasithorn Simaporn)