1.Nesac says field trial ban should continue
2.Biotechnology may be unnecessary - Science and Technology Minister
EXCERPT: The government had considered opening the country up for GMO production months ago, but dropped the idea after strong public opposition.
Dr Reungchai said the committee had taken about six months to study the issue before arriving at its recommendation. (item 1)
1.Nesac says field trial ban should continue
Bangkok Post, 23 June 2005
The National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac) will recommend that the government maintain the ban on open field trials of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their eventual commercialisation.
Reungchai Tansakul, a member of the council's agriculture and cooperatives committee, said Nesac considered the issue critical as the GMO impact would be widespread in various sectors ranging from farming to exports.
He cited the examples of the recent GM papaya spread in addition to pressure from the United States to open up the country for GMOs through free trade area negotiations.
The government had considered opening the country up for GMO production months ago, but dropped the idea after strong public opposition.
Dr Reungchai said the committee had taken about six months to study the issue before arriving at its recommendation.
According to its report, GM commercial production and field trials should be carried out only when the country has risk management and control measures on the impact of GMOs, including the appropriate laws, in place.
The committee found there were no regulations dealing directly with the issue. It suggested the government develop bio-safety laws, GM product control regulations, as well as establishing national agencies comprising people from various sectors to direct related policies as well as implementation.
In addition, research and development on GMOs should be carried out in line with public needs, whereas use of materials in research should be strictly controlled.
"All the points we have raised have never been made clear, so these should be made clear, particularly the role of the public in the government's GMO policy development,'' said Dr Reungchai. "Thais should be well informed what GMOs are, so they can decide whether they want to accept them or not."
Witoon Lianchamroon, director of BioThai, an independent organisation promoting bio-diversity conservation and community rights, said at a time when the government has a parliamentary majority, the council's recommendations could help add more weight to public scrutiny of the government's policies and performance.
At least, he said, the government has to respond one way or another to the points raised by the council, helping clarifying what the public should know.
"It has not been clear what should be done about GMOs and by whom. Our independent committee has asked the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to
check for any further spread of GM papaya, but nothing has moved so far. We think filing our complaints with the court is our next best hope," said Mr Witoon.
2. Korn: Biotechnology may be unnecessary
Bangkok Post, 18 June 2005
Thailand should first decide which crops are best to develop before worrying about the technology needed to create them, Science and Technology Minister Korn Thapparansi said yesterday.
Mr Korn said biotechnology was one of the top items on the government's agenda to develop crops that improve both farmers' lives and market produce.
"When you can specify the crops you want to develop, you are then able to decide how you want to grow them.
"It may not be necessary to think about genetic modification in the first place," said Mr Korn in a keynote speech delivered to the Global Sharing of Knowledge and Experience on Crop Biotechnology conference.
He said the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry should take the lead in developing crop biotechnology policies that give the public more options for choosing the crops that are developed.
The Science and Technology Ministry should act as a core research centre to support the Agriculture Ministry, he said.
Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a non-governmental organisation supporting agricultural biotechnology for poor countries, said although biotechnologies were not the answer, they could help with a nation's development.
So far, he said, the global trend toward biotech crops was increasing significantly.
Those crops accounted for about 81 million hectares last year and could jump to 150 million hectares by 2010, he added.
However, Banphot Na Pompetch, a bio-safety law expert, cautioned that Thailand should not rush to embrace biotechnology, particularly genetically modified crops which have raised concerns about their impact on human health and the environment.
He said the government should conduct risk analysis on GM technology first before opening the market to the products