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8-Misc: Long March for biodiversity in Thailand



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----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  The Long March for biodiversity
SOURCE: Biothai, Thailand
DATE:   September 2000

-------------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


Dear GENET-news readers,

this event is due to take place over 10 days in Thailand. Please send 
messages of support for the long march to the address at the end, in 
Thailand. If you have a very brief piece of news to send them about 
actions you are taking in your region, that would be great! Please 
also alert any press contacts you have. If you do not get your 
message there for the 6th, it does not matter too much; there will be 
a big event at the end as well.

Thank you for your solidarity,
All good wishes,
Helena Paul
(GAIA Foundation, UK)

                              *****


The Long March for Biodiversity:
Mobile campaign on the threat of GMOs and the promise of peoples' 
alternatives for food security and agricultural biodiversity in Asia

Thailand 6-16 September 2000

WHY HAVE A LONG MARCH?

Genetically modified crops and foods being introduced into Thailand 
and other countries in South and Southeast Asia have stirred up a 
huge debate since 1997. The controversy focuses on the implication of 
genetic engineering for food security, the increasing domination of 
transnational corporations in the region, and the impact on local bio-
diversity.

In the past few years, transnational corporations, which develop 
genetically modified crops, have collaborated with governments in 
countries such as Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia to bring GM 
cotton, corn and soon rice seeds for field testing. This poses many 
problems. There are many uncertainties about the technology and 
regulatory systems in these countries are so weak and lacking in 
public participation that GM seeds are introduced with insufficient 
oversight and information. Already, Bt cotton seeds from Monsanto 
have been found growing illegally in Thailand. While NGOs blew the 
alarm on this finding in 1999, no one has yet taken responsibility 
for this act nor solved the problems it raises.

The challenge at hand is for Asian countries to better define their 
options and set directions for agricultural research and development 
that are most appropriate to the people.

Northern governments, transnational corporations, private foundations 
and international agricultural research institutes have played a 
major role in guiding and informing policy-makers to influence their 
decision-making as well as conducting mass media campaigns to boast 
"the bright side" of this technology and win over Asian scientific 
and political consent through the lure of funding. So the governments 
and institutes for science and technology in these countries are 
likely to support this technology. For example, researchers in 
Switzerland who developed vitamin-A rice now claim that scientists 
and policy-makers in Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh are 
eager to embrace this new technology, despite the total lack of 
discussion on the implications for - and with! - farmers and local 
people.

Farmers and people in Asia have learned and experienced the failure 
of the Green Revolution. Therefore, agricultural development should 
not take that direction any longer. At present, transnational 
corporations, international agricultural research institutes and some 
schools of scientists rationalize their slant with the problems of 
increasing populations, lack of food, drought and pests. This was the 
same justification for the Green Revolution four decades ago - 
although now we have soil infertility, genetic erosion, debt, 
landlessness and much greater dependency on external inputs because 
of that Green Revolution. The point is: farmers, consumers and local 
people in these countries have been marginalized from these 
discussions and decisions, despite the fact that they are the first 
and most directly affected. So they should be encouraged and 
empowered to play a more significant role at national and regional 
levels in these discussion and to generate more people-oriented ideas 
for action.


WHAT WILL BE HAPPENING?

The Long March is a continuous caravan-type of mobile campaign that 
will traverse six areas of Thailand (five provincial sites plus 
Bangkok). The sites that will be visited are all areas where farmers 
and other local organizations have already initiated their own 
activities concerning these issues. Local groups will host the 
campaigners and will organise the scheduled events. All events are 
open to the public.

The Long March is designed to bring information from the national and 
international levels to the grassroots people and, at the same time, 
generate information, ideas and concrete planning proposals from the 
local perspective that can feed the national and international 
campaigns. In each site, the programme involves a mixture of 
activates: speeches, panel presentations, cultural shows, seed 
exchanges, distribution of research reports, exhibits, dialogues with 
the media and open fora. It is expected that the foreign participants 
will engage in constant sharing with the Thai communities to enrich 
peoples' strategies on GE and IPR across the region.

The Long March will be captured on video in order to share the 
experience with other groups and countries.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & PARTICIPATION

For media inquiries and other information on The Long March, please 
contact:

Mr Witoon Lianchamroon
BIOTHAI
801/8 Ngamwongwan 27 Soi 5 Muang
Nonthaburi 11000
Thailand
Tel: (66-2) 952 7371 or 952 7953
Fax: (66-2) 952 8312
Email (new!): biothai@pacific.net.th
Web hosting of this document: http://www.grain.org






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