GENET archive


2-Plants: Update on GE papaya contamination and GMO discussion in Thailand

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Survey says farmers feel GMOs are unsafe
SOURCE: Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Piyaporn Wongruang
DATE:   23 Jul 2005

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Survey says farmers feel GMOs are unsafe

Consumers and farmers are not confident of farming involving genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) due to their lack of access to scientific
information about the advantages and disadvantages of such farming, a new
study has found.

Nearly all consumers surveyed, 91%, and 71% of the farmers said they have
no access to information about benefits and constraints of genetically
modified farming, and as a result were not confident about its effect on

The study by the Agricultural Economics Office was held early this year
to gauge people's attitudes on GM farming after the government gave a
green light to GM plantations last year although it later withdrew the
decision after public criticism.

Lead researcher Sudjai Chongvorakitwatana said adopting the technology
might be inevitable, but it was necessary to learn how people think about
the issue to help devise policy that the public will accept. The
researchers interviewed 167 consumers, 67 farmers, and 53 crop science
academics in 11 provinces in the North, Northeast, South, and Central
Plains. The respondents were believed to have some knowledge about GMOs.

''We tried to select people who knew something about the technology and
hoped they can tell us something about the public's attitudes toward the
technology,'' said Mrs Sudjai. According to the study, over half of the
consumers said Thailand was not yet ready for GM farming due to
inadequate databases and farmers' lack of readiness as well as the
authorities' unclear role in taking care of the matter.

Meanwhile, nearly half the farmers agreed that Thai farmers were not yet
ready to embrace GM farming. The study said they were not sure about the
risks associated with it. They wanted the state to educate them before
encouraging them to adopt the technology.

Most did not want to see GM farming promoted now. Some said the country
has enough resources they can develop while others said GM farming should
be promoted only when there is enough information to confirm that it is
safe for consumption and the environment. In the academics group, most of
them agreed that GMOs research and studies were crucial for the country's
agricultural development. However, nearly half of them opposed GM farming
being promoted now. They said there was not enough information to ensure
the technology was absolutely safe and there were insufficient measures
to control it.

About 64% concluded that the country was not yet ready for GM farming.
They suggested authorities develop bio-safety standards as well as other
management measures and hold a public hearing on their proposals.

Sunai Setboonsarng, assistant to the Agriculture and Cooperatives
Minister, agreed there was insufficient knowledge about GMOs, even among

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

TITLE:  More GM papaya found in Northeast
SOURCE: Bengkok Post, Thailand, by Apinya Wipatayotin
DATE:   9 Jul 2005

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More GM papaya found in Northeast

Genetically modified papaya has been found growing in three more
provinces in the Northeast even though the Department of Agriculture has
been insisting since last year that all GM papaya has been eradicated.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia revealed that some of the papaya planted by
farmers in Kalasin, Chaiyaphum and Maha Sarakham had been contaminated
with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The global environmental group claimed that farmers in the three
provinces had last year received papaya saplings from the department's
Khon Kaen agricultural research station, which distributed 2,600 saplings
to farmers in Kalasin, 720 in Chaiyaphum and 100 in Maha Sarakham.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia on Thursday dumped over 1,000kg of papaya in
front of the Department of Agriculture building and demanded a meeting
with the department's director-general Chakan Saenraksawong, who failed
to show up.

Anan Suwannarat, director of the Agricultural Regulatory Office, said the
department was willing to work with Greenpeace to clear up the

''We would like to see the list of areas where you have found GM papaya
so that tests could be conducted on the saplings for confirmation. If it
is true, we will get rid of them. However, I believe that all GM papaya
was already destroyed. But if your information is correct, we would have
to investigate why GM papaya still exists,'' he told Greenpeace.

The department collected 8,912 papaya samples from 85 farmers last year
and found 329 of them contained GMOs. The farmers were compensated 40
baht for each tree destroyed.

Greenpeace campaigner Patwajee Srisuwan was dissatisfied with Mr Anan's
explanation. ''This is the usual answer we get - nothing on new
developments. The point is it does not involve only three provinces. We
would like to know how they would handle the contamination problems in
the other 34 provinces where farmers also obtained papaya seeds from the
station for use,'' she said.

Greenpeace had earlier claimed it found GM papaya in not three but four
provinces - Kamphaeng Phet, Khon Kaen, Rayong and Ubon Ratchathani.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  Nesac says field trial ban should continue
SOURCE: Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Piyaporn Wongruang
DATE:   23 Jun 2005

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Nesac says field trial ban should continue

The National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac) will recommend
that the government maintain the ban on open field trials of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) and their eventual commercialisation.

Reungchai Tansakul, a member of the council's agriculture and
cooperatives committee, said Nesac considered the issue critical as the
GMO impact would be widespread in various sectors ranging from farming to

He cited the examples of the recent GM papaya spread in addition to
pressure from the United States to open up the country for GMOs through
free trade area negotiations.

The government had considered opening the country up for GMO production
months ago, but dropped the idea after strong public opposition.

Dr Reungchai said the committee had taken about six months to study the
issue before arriving at its recommendation.

According to its report, GM commercial production and field trials should
be carried out only when the country has risk management and control
measures on the impact of GMOs, including the appropriate laws, in place.

The committee found there were no regulations dealing directly with the
issue. It suggested the government develop bio-safety laws, GM product
control regulations, as well as establishing national agencies comprising
people from various sectors to direct related policies as well as

In addition, research and development on GMOs should be carried out in
line with public needs, whereas use of materials in research should be
strictly controlled.

''All the points we have raised have never been made clear, so these
should be made clear, particularly the role of the public in the
government's GMO policy development,'' said Dr Reungchai. ''Thais should
be well informed what GMOs are, so they can decide whether they want to
accept them or not.''

Witoon Lianchamroon, director of BioThai, an independent organisation
promoting bio-diversity conservation and community rights, said at a time
when the government has a parliamentary majority, the council's
recommendations could help add more weight to public scrutiny of the
government's policies and performance.

At least, he said, the government has to respond one way or another to
the points raised by the council, helping clarifying what the public
should know.

''It has not been clear what should be done about GMOs and by whom. Our
independent committee has asked the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry
to check for any further spread of GM papaya, but nothing has moved so
far. We think filing our complaints with the court is our next best
hope,'' said Mr Witoon.


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