Thailand taking the disastrous path to GMOs

Press release - 23 August, 2004
Environmental group Greenpeace today condemned the Thai government's decision to open Thailand to genetically modified crops as nothing short of leading the country into disaster.

"No study has been conducted on the long-term effects of GMO crops on the environment and human health, so why is the government rushing to commercialize GMOs in the country? The government is directly putting the Thai people and environment at risk," said Jiragorn Gajaseni, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Thailand's National GMO Policy, drafted by the National Biosafety Committee with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as its chairman and with pro-GMO advocates as its members, not only surrenders farmers and consumers right to choose but is based on wrong information.

A the time when the basic principles of genetic engineering are under challenge from new scientific research, the government seems to be deliberately ignoring the warnings of many scientific institutions around the world. The Thai public expects the government to be knowledgeable about the latest scientific developments and not act recklessly by rushing to commercialize GM crops.

Whereas the policy assumes that GMO and natural crops can co-exist, evidence from several GMO hotspots around the world show that there is no way to prevent contamination or cross pollination resulting to genetic pollution. The latest example of this is in the province of Khon Kaen where the government's GMO papaya field trials have been identified as the source of contamination of a farmer's papaya farm 60 kilometers away from the field trials.

Thaksin has also gone to press saying that Europe has opened its doors to GMOs while the reality is otherwise.

"In fact, Europe's moratorium on GMOs has not been lifted, and the EU has just instituted the world's strictest GMO rules deterring many biotech companies from operating in the continent," said Janet Cotter, a Greenpeace scientist, based in the United Kingdom.

In recent months, several units of Bayer and Syngenta have either closed down or drastically cut back GE operations in the EU owing to consumer and farmer rejection. Many European food companies and supermarkets have also declared policies that reject GMOs.

The government also went on to say that opening Thailand to GMOs will benefit the Thai people. Perhaps it is entirely deaf and blind to protests by farmers and consumer groups along with tens of thousands of petitions rejecting GMOs.

"The decision made by a small group of bio-technology advocates will benefit only a small group of companies, and ignore the rights of farmers and consumers of the nation. It is apparent that the decision was based on false claims and assumptions, which will lead this country into disaster," Jiragorn concluded