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6-Regulation: Thai NGO argues against lifting the moratorium on GEcrop trials

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TITLE:  Cabinet told not to lift ban on crop risk assessment trials
        Fears grow over US promotion drive
SOURCE: The Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Kultida Samabuddhi

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Cabinet told not to lift ban on crop risk assessment trials
Fears grow over US promotion drive

Opponents of genetic engineering technology yesterday called on the
cabinet to maintain a ban on trials of genetically modified crops on open
farms. "GM crop field trials are acceptable only at the Agriculture
Department's experimental fields," said biodiversity advocate Witoon
Lianchamroon, director of Biothai. Cabinet is expected to lift the ban
today. The Ministry of Agriculture says the ban disrupts research and
development of agriculture-related genetically engineering technology.
Agriculture Minister Sora-at Klinprathum said more research would be done
into GMOs, which could bring big benefits to Thai farmers. "The ban
should be revoked because it has impeded officials from learning about
the impacts of GMOs on native plant varieties, farmers, and consumers,"
said Mr Sora-at. The government imposed the ban in 2001 as proposed by
biodiversity advocates, who were afraid that large-scale planting of GM
crops in the absence of biosafety bill and reliable preventive measures
would place farmers and native plant varieties at risk. Mr Witoon,
however, said the ban should now be relaxed to allow state agencies to
conduct GM crop risk-assessment in open fields, on condition that
plantations are strictly controlled and limited to Agriculture Department
experimental areas. "We are concerned about a lack of measures to prevent
dispersion of GMOs, and the ministry's ongoing research into GM papaya,"
said Mr Witoon. "Environmentalists are also worried about the United
States' intense promotion of GMOs in the Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation forum." The US is the world's largest producer of GM crops,
including soybean, corn, and potato.