Genetic Engineering : The Next Invasion of Asia - Greenpeace

Press release - November 24, 2000
The international environmental group Greenpeace today warned that Asia is fast emerging as the key target of the biotech industry, given the region's burgeoning food market and the declining consumer and farmer confidence in genetically engineered products in Europe, Japan and the United States.

The international environmental group Greenpeace today warned that Asia is fast emerging as the key target of the biotech industry, given the region's burgeoning food market and the declining consumer and farmer confidence in genetically engineered products in Europe, Japan and the United States.

"In a desperate attempt to protect their profit margins, the biotech industry is now shifting its sights to Asia where public understanding of the issue is still low. The industry hopes to cash in on this region's vast food market after having been rejected by Western and Japanese consumers. Unless they secure this important Asian foothold, the industry is as good as dead," said Isabelle Meister, Greenpeace specialist on genetic engineering.

Multinational corporations spearheaded by agri-chemical giant Monsanto, are currently on a major offensive to promote genetic engineering in various Asian countries including India, Thailand, China and the Philippines. The industry has been actively enlisting the support of governments in the region as well as international and national research institutions, to promote GM products and help secure the conducive political and legal landscape for their acceptance in Asia.

In the Philippines, the government has already declared biotechnology as a flagship program and has received assistance from the United States to promote the public acceptance of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country. The Department of Agriculture is also railroading the commercial use of genetically altered crops in the country in total disregard of the irreversible environmental and human health risks and despite the glaring absence of the capacity to respond adequately to genetic pollution.

"Instead of exercising prudence and caution on this matter, it is disturbing to see the Philippine government pushing a pro-GMO commercialization policy in haste. Aside from satisfying the needs of a desperate industry, the government is clueless about the potentially far-reaching impacts of GMOs," said Von Hernandez, campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Field trials of genetically modified crops have also been initiated in Thailand and India with the obvious intention of pushing their large- scale cultivation and commercial release in these countries.

There is increasing scientific evidence that genetic engineering can cause harm to beneficial insects, cause genetic erosion, create new plant viruses, increase farmers' dependence on agricultural chemicals, and may trigger serious allergic reactions in humans. Recognizing the risks of GMOs, more than a hundred countries have adopted the Biosafety Protocol in Montreal early this year to regulate the trade and use of GMOs.

"It is lamentable that our governments are falling for the false promises of the biotech industry. We need solutions, not illusions," said Michelle Chawla, GE campaigner for Greenpeace India.