Thailand benefits from GMO rice contamination scandal

Rice exporters, Greenpeace says GE crops unwanted in market

Feature story - October 16, 2006
Thailand’s biggest rice exporters say there is no market for genetically-engineered (GE) crops. The rice exporters joined Greenpeace in a press conference entitled “Investing in Agriculture for Food Security” on World Food Day today to warn Thailand’s new cabinet to reconsider the country’s GE policy. Thailand’s rice exports experienced a considerable upsurge following GE contamination scandal which caused the rejection of US rice imports to Europe and the Middle East.

Rice is life.

"Thailand's strength is non-GE rice. Since October, many buyers have switched to importing rice from Thailand after it was revealed that US rice was tainted with GE contamination. We are now sharing the USA's rice market. And if the US contamination scandal isn't solved, Thailand will permanently occupy this market share," said Wallop Pitchyapongsa, Managing Director of Capital Rice Co., Ltd. "The government must therefore clearly establish Thailand as a major source of non-GE food products."

Greenpeace also called on the government to abandon all GE field trials, pointing to potentially irreversible contamination. Once contamination occurs, it is uncontrollable and expensive to detect and prevent. The scandal that now taints US rice exports originated from rice that had not yet been produced or approved for commercialization. The case is similar to Thailand's own GE papaya contamination scandal which also began with field trials. Thailand's rice exporters are worried should a similar case happen to the country's primary staple.

"The popular rice varieties, such as Jasmine rice for which Thailand is famous, will be the first to suffer should the country undertake GE rice field trials. The inevitable contamination will destroy the competitive significance that Thailand's rice now enjoys." said rice exporter Tanakorn Jitratangbunya of Chia Meng Co., Ltd.

The focus on sustainable agriculture will instead ensure that Thailand's crops will remain highly competitive in the world market and guarantee genuine food security in the country.

"Genetic-engineering is clearly the wrong strategy for Thailand's agricultural future. GE undermines sustainable agriculture, destroys food security, and forces farmers to be at the mercy of GE companies. GE is also not accepted by consumers all over the world," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE campaigner Patwajee Srisuwan. "What we need is s clear government stand supporting sustainable agriculture and rejecting GE."

Patwajee added, "The GE papaya scandal two years ago was for Thailand an important lesson on GE contamination. The government, with the new Minister of Agriculture and former head of the GE papaya contamination committee Dr.Teera Sutabutra, should reveal their investigations to the public and thus take an important first step in ensuring a better future for Thailand's agriculture."