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TITLE:  Korn throws weight behind genetic crops
        Deputy PM points to high yields, low costs
SOURCE: The Bangkokpost, Thailand, by Kultida Samabuddhi
DATE:   Nov 7, 2002

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Korn throws weight behind genetic crops
Deputy PM points to high yields, low costs

Thailand should adopt genetic engineering to increase crop yields and lower 
costs, says Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabbaransi. However, the government 
should take heed of the debate on the pros and cons first. Europe and the 
United States held different opinions on whether the world should embrace 
the technology. "The EU and the US, the two heavy-weights on biotechnology, 
are trying to conquer the Asian market, which is home to half the world's 
population," Mr Korn told a seminar on technology's role in sustainable 
agriculture in Asia held by the United States-based biotechnology company 
CropLife. Asia could no longer ignore biotechnology, he said, because the 
region was obliged to comply with health and environmental regulations, 
which were often used as non-tariff barriers.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia, however, said the technology was unsafe. "There 
is plenty of scientific evidence showing that genetically modified crops 
destroy useful insects, besides making some harmful insects stronger and 
resistant to pesticides, and killing the genes," said Varoonvarn 
Svangsopakul, a campaigner.

Scientists and agricultural experts presented reports at a seminar on 
Tuesday on the benefits of GM crops. "Recent studies on cotton in China 
showed that farmers achieve higher efficiency, decreased use of pesticides, 
and a 20-30% reduction in costs," said John Skerritt of the Australian 
Centre for International Agricultural Research. The seminar was sponsored 
by the US Department of Agriculture.

Margarita Escaler, of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-
biotech Applications, said GM crops are grown commercially in 14 countries, 
including India and China. Nearly half the soybeans grown worldwide are GM 

Thai biotechnology scientist Sakarindr Bhumiratana said the government 
should be more decisive. "They should state clearly whether to allow 
growing of GM crops," he said. The government restricts field trials of GM 
crops and a labelling law obliging companies to declare the contents of 
products comes into force next May.

Rod McSherry, agricultural counsellor for the US embassy, said the US, the 
world's largest GM crop producer, did not mean to promote genetic 
technology. "We do not want to tell other countries that biotechnology is 
good and should be adopted. We just want to confirm that GM crops are safe 
to eat," he said.


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