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GMO-FREE REGIONS & POLICY: Thai Ministry retreats from seeking GE crop trial approval




                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  MINISTER BACKS OFF

SOURCE: Bangkok Post, Thailand

AUTHOR: 

URL:    http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/29Aug2007_news98.php

DATE:   29.08.2007

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MINISTER BACKS OFF

GM CROPS / The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry retreated from its plan to seek cabinet approval yesterday for the lifting of the ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops. Agriculture Minister Thira Sutabutra said the decision followed the fierce protests since he announced the plan earlier this month. ”It’s hard to press ahead with this, but I will not give up because lifting the ban would benefit the country,” he said. Mr Thira reaffirmed that he still intended to ask the cabinet soon to revoke the April 13 resolution prohibiting GM crop field trials. Witoon Lianchamroon, of the farm community rights group Biothai, said the ministry had underestimated public opposition to GM crops. Public Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla had also publicly opposed lifting the ban, he added.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  LET RATIONALITY DECIDE GMO DEBATE

SOURCE: The Nation, Thailand

AUTHOR: Editorial

URL:    http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/08/29/opinion/opinion_30046911.php

DATE:   29.08.2007

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LET RATIONALITY DECIDE GMO DEBATE

The bio-safety law must be enacted before field trials on genetically modified crops can resume

The Agriculture Ministry has said it would, at a later date, submit a proposal to the Surayud Cabinet to lift the ban on field trials of genetically modified organisms (GMO), which has been in force for the past six years. The ministry, which was earlier scheduled to table the proposal at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, withheld it without giving a reason why. Officials at the ministry insisted that Thailand, one of the world’s major food producers, must restart field tests of genetically modified crops to keep up with advances in global research and to maintain the country’s competitiveness.

If the Surayud government decides to scrap the earlier Cabinet resolution issued on April 3, 2001, by the then-Thaksin government to ban field tests of genetically modified crops, as requested by the ministry, government and private-sector researchers will be able to resume experimenting with and conducting field trials of papaya and other crops, such as palm oil and flowering plants.

The ban was imposed on the grounds that there was a lack of reliable measures in place to ensure bio-safety, and since then researchers have only been allowed to do research and development on genetically modified crops in closed environments or laboratories.

The 2001 ban followed a controversy over possible threats to bio-diversity and the environment after environmentalists and anti-GMO activists found that genetically modified papaya under field trials supervised by the Agriculture Ministry were also being grown by many farmers in surrounding areas.

It was suspected that seeds of genetically modified papaya were either stolen or were purposefully given to farmers. The growing of genetically modified papaya has since become widespread and has become popular among consumers who do not seem to worry about its impact on bio-diversity and the environment, or the long-term health effects on people who eat genetically modified food.

The Agriculture Ministry and the country’s GMO research community are pushing for the resumption of field trials of genetically modified crops to ensure Thailand is well positioned to take advantage of the technology if and when the ongoing global debate on its virtues and drawbacks is settled in the favour of GMOs. This is not a totally unreasonable standpoint.

Genetically modified crops are now being farmed in 22 countries over a total area of 637.5 million rai and they are expanding fast, while their trading value is estimated at about US$6 billion (Bt203 billion) per year. Many genetically modified crops have already been sold in the market, including soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, potatoes and papaya. Developed countries like the United States, France, Australia, Canada, Spain and Germany, and developing countries like China, India, Argentina, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil, have embraced GMO technology.

Adding to the urgency of the GMO debate are the already evident effects of global warming and climate change, including flooding, drought, rising sea levels and natural disasters that have resulted in failed crops and lower yields, which pose a threat to global food security. Many experts believe that the world, particularly poor developing countries, needs another Green Revolution and that GMO technology will enable that to happen. While the GMO debate is not likely to be settled in the foreseeable future, Thailand should resume field trials of genetically modified crops but only with stringent safeguards in place to prevent genetically modified crops from contaminating the environment or crossbreeding with indigenous plant species and strains.

The Natural Resource and Environment Ministry is finalising draft legislation on bio-safety, which would ensure that the GMO research community and industry are well regulated and the environment and bio-diversity well protected. But the move to lift the ban must be made concurrently with enforcement of the bio-safety law.

In other words, the ban on field trials should not be lifted until the bio-safety law is put in place. Thailand should take a balanced approach by investing in research and development on GMOs, while at coming up with effective measures to prevent contamination in which scientists and the regulators both play crucial roles. Thailand can make advances in GMO research and development while at the same time preventing and mitigating any potential ill effects.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  NEW PUSH FOR GMO FIELD TESTS

SOURCE: The Nation, Thailand

AUTHOR: Piyanart Srivalo & Janjira Pongrai

URL:    http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/08/29/national/national_30046914.php

DATE:   29.08.2007

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NEW PUSH FOR GMO FIELD TESTS

Thira set to brief ministers, in spite of prot

Agriculture and Co-operatives Minister Thira Sutabutra will seek a meeting with ministers next week to lobby support for his ministry’s plan to resume field testing of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops.

GMO field tests were suspended by the Cabinet in 2001.

Thira revealed yesterday he planned to talk to the ministers of Science, Natural Resources and Environment, Public Health and Commerce before he put his ministry’s plan to Cabinet. ”The experiments on GMO crops are necessary,” Thira said yesterday, ”I can guarantee that academically speaking the experiments are completely safe”.

Activists have campaigned against GMO crops and voiced fears that field tests would allow seeds from GMO crops to drift and contaminate other fields close to the experimental farms. Greenpeace rallied in front of Government House yesterday.

”If we don’t develop GMO crops now, then we will have to answer a question by our children in the next 10 years as to why we have no development in the field,” Thira said.

The agriculture minister expressed confidence he would be able to persuade Public Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla to support the plan.

But Mongkol complained yesterday that a case about GMO crop seeds spreading from a field test was still pending at the National Counter Corruption Commission.

”If we accept GMO crop technology when we are not ready, we may end up being enslaved by GMO producers,” Mongkol warned.

He also pointed out that the country had yet to develop a proper system of biodiversity and that GMO crops might hurt indigenous crops and local farmers.

”If we have to buy fertilisers and pesticides, we will lose our farming independence,” he said.

Mongkol said he would be ready to listen to experts and would not object if they could guarantee that GMO crops would hurt neither consumers nor the local biodiversity, and that the country would not become dependent on seeds, pesticides and fertilisers after it adopted the GMO crops.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Kasem Sanidwong na Ayudhaya said he already instructed the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning to prepare relevant information for him to study.

National Science and Development Agency director Sakarindr Bhumiratana said Thai researchers had conducted GMO crop farms in line with standards and procedures accepted by various countries for more than 10 years.


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