BANGKOK, Thailand, 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 Shinawatra.
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
"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
The following day, Thaksin used part of his weekly radio address
to laud Thailand as a country technologically capable of developing
"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
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 biotechnology.
"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)