Greenpeace eyeballs Ministry of Agriculture for pushing GM crop field trials

Feature story - August 23, 2007
Wearing giant eyeball headgear, Greenpeace activists trooped to the central office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) in Bangkok to warn against the agency´s attempts to repeal the ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country. The "eyeball parade" called attention to the insidious threat posed by genetic contamination likely to occur should the government allow GM crop field trials.

Wearing giant eyeball headgear, Greenpeace activists trooped to the central office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) in Bangkok to warn against the agency´s attempts to repeal the ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.

Wearing giant eyeball headgear, Greenpeace activists trooped to the central office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) in Bangkok to warn against the agency´s attempts to repeal the ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.

Wearing giant eyeball headgear, Greenpeace activists trooped to the central office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) in Bangkok to warn against the agency´s attempts to repeal the ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.

Wearing giant eyeball headgear, Greenpeace activists trooped to the central office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) in Bangkok to warn against the agency´s attempts to repeal the ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.

Wearing giant eyeball headgear, Greenpeace activists trooped to the central office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) in Bangkok to warn against the agency´s attempts to repeal the ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.

"We wish to inform Minister Theera Sutabutra that we will be watching every move he makes on this issue. Given its brazen promotion of GM crop field trials, the MoAC seems to be inclined to support the interests of multinational agro-chemical companies to the detriment of the environment and our agricultural sector. Vigilance is needed to make sure that the MoAC does not throw away the future of Thai agricultural production," said Natwipha Ewasakul, Genetic Engineering campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

In July 2004, Greenpeace exposed the role of an MoA-run experimental station in Khon Kaen as the source of genetic contamination of Thai papayas. The station distributed GE contaminated papaya seeds to as many as 2,669 farmers in 37 provinces. The MoA has so far failed to act to comprehensively rid Thai papaya farms of this widespread GE contamination. Due to the uncertainty caused by this unwanted and illegal contamination, market confidence on Thai papaya exports especially in Europe faltered.

"The Ministry´s deplorable experience with GM papaya should have already taught the agency an important lesson regarding the formidable challenges posed by genetic contamination.  Once GMOs are released into the environment, usually via open field trials, it is almost impossible to recall them. The process is irreversible," added Natwipha.

In 2005 and 2006, the world´s most important food crop, rice, was found to be contaminated by genetically modified strains which are unapproved and illegal in most countries outside of the United States.  Bayer´s genetically modified rice called Liberty Link contaminated US rice supplies resulting in widespread market rejection of  rice from the US, especially in the EU, Japan and the Philippines.  This has also prompted leading rice traders in Thailand and Vietnam, respectively the world´s first and second largest exporters of rice, to sign a joint declaration in November last year shunning GMO rice and committing to trade and grow only GMO free rice to protect traditional rice varieties and  their export markets.

"These cases of contamination clearly demonstrate the uncontrollable and dangerous nature of GM crops. With genetic contamination comes the inevitable loss of markets for the country´s agricultural produce, as shown by the continuing rejection of GMOs by a growing number of consumers worldwide.  Minister Theera´s scheme to have the GM crop field trial ban repealed should not be allowed to succeed if  the country wants to keep the integrity of its food supply and retain its stature as the Food Basket of Asia," added Ewasakul.

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