Monsanto promotes banned crops to poor Thai farmers
Farmers who participate in Monsanto's 'education programme' on GM crops, part of the company's marketing roadshow for its seed and agro-chemical products, are given free umbrellas, T-shirts and plastic buckets.
GM-food producer puts poor farmers in touch with banned technology
The Nation (Thailand) November 15, 2003, Saturday
GM-food producer puts poor farmers in touch with banned technology Despite the government ban on the production of genetically modified (GM) crops for commercial purposes, Monsanto (Thailand) has begun promoting pest-resistant GM corn to farmers in the Northeast. Poomin Trakoontiwakorn, the company's technology development manager, said the government would probably lift the ban by 2006 and allow farmers to grow GM crops. He claimed the GM crops would help the agricultural sector with their high-yield varieties and non-reliance on pesticides and herbicides.
GMOs have run into strong opposition from farmers and NGOs in many developing countries. The farmers are concerned that the output was not as impressive as promised while NGOs claim the safety of GM food is still in question.
Monsanto said it has completed scientific laboratory and greenhouse experiments on two varieties of GM corns - one resistant to worms and the other resistant to Round Up, a herbicide developed and distributed by the company itself.
Poomin said the company could not continue its field tests because of the government ban. The company launched a campaign last month to 'educate' farmers about GMOs and biotechnology in Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchsima. Corn farmers in Sa Kaew learned about the benefits of GM crops just a few days ago. 'This is to educate farmers about the technology and let them know that new varieties of corn are available that can solve all their problems,' said Kongtat Janchai, head of the company's government and public affairs division. An expert in plant biotechnology from the Department of Agriculture was also invited to join the campaign. Suthep Wongbutrsri, 48, a corn farmer from Sa Kaew's Nong Ta Kien district, said he enjoyed the presentation on GM corn but felt the company did not tell the whole story. He said he could earn more money by growing GM corn that was resistant to herbicides, since he would not have to spend money on chemicals. 'But I'm pretty sure things might not go that way. I believe there are negative effects to growing GMOs that the company did not tell us.'
'For me, it's just a salesman's pitch to convince us to believe in the goods,' he said. Farmers who participated in the education programme, which was part of the company's marketing roadshow for its seed and agro-chemical products, were given free umbrellas, T-shirts and plastic buckets.