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7-Business: Thai ministry keen on GMO link with Beijing



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TITLE:  Ministry keen on GMO link with Beijing
        Greenpeace: Take note of failures, too
SOURCE: The Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Porpot Changyawa
        http://www.bangkokpost.net/News/16Jul2003_news17.html
DATE:   Jul 16, 2003

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Ministry keen on GMO link with Beijing
Greenpeace: Take note of failures, too

The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry will seek guidance from China
on genetic engineering technology, the minister, Sora-at Klinpratum, said
yesterday.

He had discussed the possibility of signing a memorandum of understanding
with China to exchange expertise and information on genetic modification
during his recent visit to Beijing.

The minister's visit was to prepare for the the Thai-Sino Free Trade
Area, to commence in October.

"Becoming a free trade partner with China, Thailand will need to learn
about the advancement in China's GM technology," Mr Sora-at said.

Beijing was among the first countries to commercially launch a GM crop -
tobacco - and has continued laboratory research on various genetically
engineered crops.

Once the MoU is signed, the ministry would study China's findings and
examine the possible impact of GM crops and plantations, Mr Sora-at said.

"Although Thailand cannot yet run GM crop tests in open fields, it would
be worthwhile to exchange knowledge with countries of higher potential so
we will be able to cope with the progress in GM technology."

Mr Sora-at said opposition and fear of risk to the environment and
agriculture had set back the development of genetic engineering in Thailand.

Gerard Greenfield, genetic engineering campaign coordinator for
Greenpeace International, warned that in learning from Beijing the
government must note also the failure of China's GM crops to win market
acceptance.

And despite continuing laboratory research, the Chinese government had
banned the commercial launch of new GM crops for at least the next three
years, until they were proven safe for consumers and the environment.

Furthermore, the Chinese government had declared a non-GM policy to meet
the demands of an expanded international market, especially the European
Union which would include 15 more eastern European countries next year.
The move was also to provide the EU with alternatives to GM crops such as
soya bean exported by the United States.

Although it was the world's fourth largest GM crop exporter, Beijing's
export volume was marginal compared to the 95% market share of the United
States and Argentina.

Mr Greenfield suggested Thailand look also at Brazil, which had gained a
significant trade increase from its "non-GM" policy.

While China had a domestic market to support its GM products, Thailand
would have to be more sensitive to any moves towards commercial GM crop
plantation because of its "World's Kitchen" policy, he said.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had recently announced a policy to make
Thailand a supplier of food to the world, particularly chemical-free food.

China was expected to ratify the Biosafety Protocol before the end of
this year, he said.

This was likely to complicate the trade in GM crops between the two
countries because more restrictions would be imposed.

Bangkok must be prepared to cope with measures such as the stipulation
that the origin of products must be traced to find the source of any
contamination, Mr Greenfield said.




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