GENET archive


2-Plants: Thai cabinet overturns GMO approval

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Thai cabinet overturns GMO approval
SOURCE: Reuters, by Trirat Puttajanyawong
        Additional reporting by Sasithorn Simaporn
DATE:   31 Aug 2004 

------------------- archive: -------------------

Thai cabinet overturns GMO approval
(Adds activist comment)

BANGKOK, Aug 31 (Reuters) - 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 reporters.

"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 non-GMO plants.

The following day, Thaksin used part of his weekly radio address to laud
Thailand as a country technologically capable of developing GMOs.

"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 of

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

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Exporters oppose govt GMO policy
SOURCE: The Nation, Thailand, by Sirinart Sirisunthorn
DATE:   31 Aug 2004 

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Exporters oppose govt GMO policy

A coalition of major exporters of organic farm produce has rejected the
government's new policy on genetically modified crops and will today join
a protest by organic farmers in front of Government House, calling for a
policy reversal.

The growing impact of the proGM policy - announced just 10 days ago, but
still to be endorsed by the Cabinet - is already making itself felt, the
six major producers and exporters told a press conference in Bangkok

"More than 30 per cent of my Bt1.5billion annual revenue will be affected
if the policy goes ahead," said Sunthorn Srithawee, a vice president of
River Kwai International Food Industry Company, which has been exporting
organic fruit and vegetables to Britain's Tesco superstore for more than
a decade.

"It will impact not only exports to the European Union but also to the
United States and Japan," he said.

The other five companies in the coalition are Green Net Cooperatives Co,
Tops Organic Product and Supplies Co, Samphran Food of the Healthy Mate
brand, Thai Organic Food Co, and Southeast Asia Organic Co.

The companies said the policy was putting a serious extra burden on them
as they must either pay for GMfree certification or risk rejection from
foreign customers.

"The cost of each sample for GM testing is as high as Bt1,500. Imagine
how much each company needs to pay for the test in order to export the
products," Sunthorn added.

Witoon Panyakul of Green Net - Thailand's biggest network of smallscale
organic farmers - said the government's GM crops policy would ruin the
future of Thai organic trading businesses, which are currently worth at
least Bt800 million per year with expected annual growth rates as high as
20 to 30 per cent.

"The point is we cannot control GM contamination. Technically,
contamination could happen through various processes before export,,
including seeding, pollinating, planting, harvesting and processing of
the crops," Witoon said.

Wanlop Phitchpongsa of Tops Organic Co, and also an executive of a major
rice exporter, said one of his African customers had immediately asked
the company to provide GMfree certificates.

Apart from calling on the government to uphold at its meeting today the
Cabinet GMban resolution issued on April 3, 2001, the coalition of
organic producers and exporters will also launch a threepronged campaign
against the expected implementation of the new policy, targeting farmers,
consumers and businesses.

After strong opposition from consumers, environmentalists and farmers,
the Cabinet last Tuesday decided to put off lifting the current GMban.
However, the issue could be back on the agenda any week, officials say.

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Watchdog wades into GMO row
SOURCE: The Nationa, Thailand, by Kamol Sukin
DATE:   28 Aug 2004 

------------------- archive: -------------------

Watchdog wades into GMO row

British-based GM Watch has joined local crusaders opposed to genetically
modified organisms in urging the government to review its controversial
reversal of its GMO policy.

Thailand's former policy to ban GM crops was praised by large sections of
the international community. Its decision this week to do a policy U-turn
and allow GM crops has raised big questions internationally, GM Watch
director Jonathan Matthews said in an e-mail to Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra released to the media.

Matthews said Thaksin's recent comment that Thailand did not want to miss
the GM train indicated he had been given wrong information about the
biotech industry.

"It makes us wonder what you have been led to believe about where that
train is heading. The industry is on the decline," Matthews said in the

"The giant biotech Monsanto corporation recently announced it was
stopping all further efforts to introduce GM wheat globally, stop
breeding GM canola in Australia and withdraw its GM cereal programmes
from Europe."

A similar trend is under way at other major biotech companies, including
Bayer and Syngenta, Matthews added. He said Thaksin's claim that Thailand
was following Europe's lead in allowing GM crops was flat-out wrong.

The EU has just brought in the world's most stringent laws against the
planting of GM crops due to widespread consumer rejection of them. "This
is the reason why the biotech industry has headed to Asia, and Thailand
is a core target of them,'' Matthews said.

"No doubt they will try to unleash propaganda on you using all means
possible, including claims that you will miss the 'train' if you don't
allow GM crops."

Matthews said Monsanto had already pulled out of Indonesia, where it was
under investigation.

"China's political leaders appear at best ambivalent about going further
down the GM route because of increasing evidence of consumer hostility.
The only GM crop commercially approved in any part of India, GM cotton,
has proven immensely controversial," he added.

Matthews warned the Thai government against making decisions based on the
propaganda of the biotech industry.

Instead, he said, it should listen to consumers, activists and



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