Banned GM crops grown nationwide, claims NGO
The Nation (Thailand) May 9, 2001,
ENVIRONMENTALISTS are calling for an investigation into cotton and soybean farms suspected of growing genetically modified (GM) crops for commercial purposes.
Witoon Lianchamroon, coordinator of the non-governmental organisation BioThai, which protects local farmers' rights, yesterday said the country had poor enforcement methods regarding the prevention of GM crops from spreading from field test areas to regular farmland. He said he had been informed that BT cotton, a GM crop owned by biotech giant Monsanto, was being grown on more than 50,000 rai of farmland nationwide despite not having been approved.
Moreover, he said, the crop had also spread to Laos. Witoon said he also believed that GM soybeans might have reached farmers' land. The Assembly of the Poor (AOP) recently asked the government to cancel the field tests on GM crops, which are part of scientific-experiments into genetically modified organisms (GMOs), unless the government could effectively stop the leakage of GM seeds to general fields. Witoon supported the demand. However, Deputy Agriculture Minister Natee Klibthong said he was afraid that if the field tests could not be conducted, the experiments would not be completed. "Then we can not conclude whether a GM crop can be allowed to grow in the country," Natee told The Nation. However, he added that the Department of Agriculture would consider the AOP's proposal and then report to the Cabinet. Jakkrit Kuanpotch, an expert on biotechnology law, said the country still needed a specific law to cover the GMO issue. He added that GM crops now fall under the 1964 Plant Quarantine Act, which he said was too outdated to cover GMOs and modern biotechnology. "At least we should amend the act to able to use it to penalise people who illegally import, distribute and grow GM seeds," he said. Jakkrit suggested that the government should revoke the license of any company whose GM crops are leaked onto general farmland. He also pointed out that all GM seeds were patented by multinational conglomerates, meaning they were the ones who would benefit if the government allowed farmers to grow GM crops.
Sirinart Sirisunthon THE NATION