GENET archive


3-Food: German firm cancels Thai fruit salad over GMO fears

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  GMO FEARS: 'Papayas are not tainted'
SOURCE: The Nation, Thailand
DATE:   4 Sep 2004 

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GMO FEARS: 'Papayas are not tainted'
Ministry denies local varieties contaminated during field trials

The Agriculture Department yesterday denied that papayas destined for
European markets and elsewhere were genetically modified crops.

"Exporters can apply for a department certificate to prove the papayas
have not been contaminated," said department director general Chakarn

Six exporters have sought - and received such certificates - for their
papaya exports to Poland and the Netherlands, he said.

Chakarn said his department's field tests with genetically modified (GM)
papayas had not contaminated local crops and that Thailand had not
condoned the planting of GM crops.

"I can speak with authority that Thailand has not produced GM papayas or
GM crops of any kind. Environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, are
welcome to verify my statement," he said.

He warned that opponents of GM crops should not make - wild accusations
about papaya contamination without - checking.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia took up Chakarn's challenge and called on the
authorities to stop skirting around the issue of GM papayas and begin to
destroy and clean up contaminated crops.

"Test results from independent laboratories in Hong Kong show that some
GM papayas on the market are of the Kaek Dam Tha Phra strain, which is
available only through the research station run by the Agriculture
Department in Khon Kaen," Greenpeace executive director Jiragorn Gajaseni

The test results prove field trials of GM papayas had contaminated local
crops, she said.

The contamination is a time bomb that could destroy the agricultural
industry if authorities failed to deal with it quickly, Jiragorn said.

Organic agriculture advocate Withoon Panyakul urged the authorities to
present proof that papaya seeds distributed to farmers were not contaminated.

"Lingering doubts about Thai GM papayas can be dispelled quickly if
authorities rush to destroy suspicious papaya crops," he said, drawing an
analogy to the culling of millions of chickens to contain the spread of
avian flu.

Papaya farmer Somkuan Sriwongchotisakul said she was willing to destroy
her crops in Khon Kaen's Phon district if authorities could prove the

Greenpeace said that the papaya samples from Somkuan's plot were GM papayas.

Somkuan said if her papayas were contaminated, she should receive
compensation from the authorities as her seeds came from a government
research station.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  German firm cancels Thai fruit salad over GMO fears
SOURCE: Agence France Press
DATE:   3 Sep 2004 

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German firm cancels Thai fruit salad over GMO fears

A German food distributor has cancelled orders of Thai fruit cocktail
products out of fears they may contain genetically modified papaya.

The apparent stop order has hit as Thailand grapples with accusations
that government trials of genetically modified papaya have contaminated
northern farms and as the government backpedals over plans to broaden
trials of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

"As far as I know one Thai company ... was facing a ban of its fruit
salad because it includes papaya, and papaya was one of the fruits
Thailand has been conducting GMO tests on," Wanlop Pichpongsa, director
of the Top Organic Product and Supply, told AFP.

Wanlop, an opponent of GMO production in Thailand, did not identify the
companies involved but said the industry was alarmed after the government
put on hold open-field testing of GMO crops after strong resistance from
groups such as Greenpeace.

"I think the ban was a precautionary measure by (the German) importers
but it took everybody by surprise as it came so suddenly," Wanlop said.

The Bangkok Post quoted another exporter, Soontorn Sritawee of River Kwai
International Food Industry, as saying a German importer cancelled its
Thai fruit cocktail orders.

The agriculture ministry's department of agriculture reacted swiftly to
the reports by asserting that Thai food products were safe and offering
to provide non-GMO certificates to exporters who submit food samples for

"The department is ready to provide information and facts to Thailand's
trading partners to avoid this issue affecting our trade," Chakan
Saengruksawang, the department's director general, said in a statement.

The department had already provided non-GMO certification for 248 food
products including rice, Thailand's top agricultural export, but other
foods including papaya, pineapple, watermelon and corn would require
scientific testing, Chakan said.

Thai canned fruit salad exports reportedly generate about one billion
baht (24.1 million dollars) annually.

The Thai government this week halted recently approved plans for open-
field GMO trials which would have relaxed three-year-old regulations
governing the crops, but the move was dismissed by activists as a short-
term tactical ploy in the face of public protest.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been accused of bowing to pressure
from US corporate giants like Monsanto, which is pushing to test GM corn
strains, to reverse a ban on trials.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  Debate over GMO crops spreads to Asia
SOURCE: Reuters & AFP / The Straits Times, Malaysia,4386,270498-
DATE:   3 Sep 2004

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Debate over GMO crops spreads to Asia

NEW DELHI - Debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is echoing
in Asia now as India prepares to fast-track their use to feed its growing
population while Thailand retreats from field trials after a public outcry.

India plans a new policy promoting speedy approval of GMO crops to boost
yields and feed its growing population, a government minister said yesterday.

The policy, which should be in place within eight to nine months, would
also promote foreign and private sector investment in the biotechnology

'We intend to have a biotech policy as quickly as possible to supply the
farmers pest-resistant and drought-resistant seeds with high nutritional
values,' federal Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told Reuters.

He said at least seven GMO crops, including rice, potatoes and mustard,
were being field-tested in India.

'But these products are six to seven years down the line,' he said,
adding that the government would seek to speed up the approval process
for biotech products.

'By 2025, we will have to produce 420 million tonnes of foodgrains to
feed our population. That means we have to increase our (crop)
productivity twice just to meet the demand of our people,' Mr Sibal said.

 The debate on biotech grains has intensified worldwide, with advocates
saying they could lead to a more secure future for food. Opponents say
they could produce new toxins and allergens, affecting the health of

Thai officials, meanwhile, will begin a new study to decide if GMO trials
should be delayed or even abandoned after the Cabinet backed down from
relaxing regulations governing the crops.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been accused of bowing to pressure
from US corporate giants like Monsanto, which is pushing to test GM corn
strains, to reverse a ban on trials.

Opponents said the United States government had insisted that Thailand
grant intellectual property protection for GMOs before they reach an
agreement on free trade.

Mr Thaksin yesterday dismissed suggestions that his earlier backing for
open-field trials was linked to US pressure.

Science and Technology Minister Korn Dabbaransi said the study would
decide 'whether GMOs should be openly or partly allowed or banned'.

Thailand's Cabinet in 2001 banned GMO field trials. Current law forbids
the public sale of GMO seeds and requires products containing more than 5
per cent of a genetically modified ingredient to be clearly labelled.

                                  PART IV
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TITLE:  Larger Battle Ahead for Anti-GMO Activists
SOURCE: IPS News, by Sonny Inbaraj
DATE:   1 Sep 2004 

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Larger Battle Ahead for Anti-GMO Activists

BANGKOK, Sep 1 (IPS) - While activists welcomed the Thai prime minister's
reversal of a recent decision to allow the commercial growing of
genetically modified (GM) crops, and hailed it as a people's victory,
they warned that a national committee set up by the government to study
the issue could run the risk of being hijacked by scientists having links
to bio-technology companies.

On Tuesday at a cabinet meeting Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
reversed his decision made on Aug 21 to undo an earlier ban on the
planting of GM crops, and opted for a national committee of academics to
study the move before he planned any further action.

''Prime Minister Thaksin decided not to consider putting the resolution
on the cabinet's agenda due to it being a debatable issue academically
with controversy among various groups,'' government spokesman Jakrapob
Penkair told reporters.

''More information needs to be gathered before a decision can be made,''
added Jakrapob.

While Thaksin's cabinet was meeting at Government House, over 100
representatives from consumer bodies, organic farm- product exporters and
environmental groups gathered outside to protest against the premier's
Aug 21 decision.

In 2001, Thailand imposed a ban on field trials of GM crops, and
terminated ongoing field trials of GM cotton and corn carried out by the
transnational corporation Monsanto. The government also banned all
commercial planting of GM crops.

Thaksin's decision to undo the ban, based on the recommendation of the
National Biotechnology Committee, incensed environmentalists who had
vowed to wage an all-out campaign against the prime minister's re-
election campaign, next year, if he went ahead with the cultivation of GM
crops in the country.

''The prime minister's decision on Tuesday not to go ahead with
cultivation of GM crops is a people's victory,'' Varoonvarn Svangsopakul,
a genetic engineering campaigner with Greenpeace, told IPS.

''But this is the first step. There is a second round with regard to the
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) National Committee,'' she pointed out.

''We want independent people on it and not academics and scientists
associated with bio-technology companies and multinationals,'' added
Varoonvarn. ''Our next fight is to get members of civil society in the

''We still have to be vigilant,'' stressed the Greenpeace campaigner.

According to Science and Technology Minister Korn Dabbaransi, at the
moment only university academics will be in the GMO National Committee in
its fact-finding stage.

Korn said the committee would review three options with regard to GM
crops: openly promoting it; partially planting them or an outright ban.

Activists said they would only accept the committee if members of civil
society and environmentalists were on it.

''We will push the government to accept independent members,'' said
Witoon Lianchamroon, the director of BioThai - an environmental group
devoted to the preservation of biodiversity in Thailand.

''This is a perfect opportunity for the government to cooperate with
people's groups - from the fact-finding stage to the implementation
stage,'' he said in an interview.

Witoon wants the government committee to include organic agriculturalists
and independent researchers and claims the government-appointed academics
have an agenda to promote GM crops.

''These scientists and academics have links with multinational companies
that supply GM seeds. They are in it for the money,'' he claimed.

''BioThai will not agree to the public shut out from such an important
decision. We want half the members of the GMO committee to be organic
food producers, organic farmers, environmentalists and independent
researchers,'' stressed the activist.

Bio Thai, Greenpeace and several alternative-agriculture networks have
also submitted official letters of complaint to two senate committees -
the committee of human security and social development and the committee
on foreign affairs - urging an investigation into the ''secret planting''
of GM papaya at a Department of Agriculture field research station in the
north- eastern province of Khon Kean.

The issue of GM crops flared out in the open in late July when Greenpeace
managed to prove that the research station was planting GM papaya and was
the source of contamination of one of the country's most important staple

The environmental group became concerned when it twice tested batches of
papaya seeds, from the native species 'Khak Dam Tha Phra', sold by the
research station to farmers. Independent laboratory tests showed that
packages of papaya seeds sold by the Department of Agriculture's own
research station contained genetically modified seeds.

On Wednesday, a group of Greenpeace South-east Asia volunteers led by
their executive director, Jiragorn Gajaseni, met with Agriculture
Minister Somsak Thepsuthin to press for the destruction of the GM papaya
trees at the Khon Kean research station.

''The longer we leave this GM papaya contamination unmanaged, the more it
will spread across the country. There is no proof that it is safe for the
environment and human health,'' Jiragorn told reporters.

''The minister of agriculture must act now and come up with a clean-up
policy before this experimental papaya spreads all over Thailand and turn
the Thai people into guinea pigs,'' he added.

GM papaya has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the ringspot
virus. It is made by cutting a gene from the ringspot virus and forcing
it into the cell of a papaya.

This is done by randomly shooting the gene millions of times with a gene
gun with the hope that it gets into the plant cell. As part of this
process, another virus and bacteria resistant to antibiotics are added.
In terms of human health risks, the build- up of antibiotic resistance is
also a concern.

''On Tuesday the cabinet decided that it will not consider the GMO policy
proposed by the National Biotechnology Committee. Today, we ask the
minister of agriculture to listen to facts and deal with the GM papaya
contamination caused by this field trial immediately,'' said Jiragorn.



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