Thai PM's policy draws ire of activists (22/8/2004)


The "FTA" references are to the bilateral free trade agreement currently being negotiated between Thailand and the US. In mid-June Thailand's Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti questioned why the US was insisting that Thailand grow GM crops as a precondition for a free trade agreement.

GMO CROPS: PM's policy draws ire of activists
Kamol Sukin, Prapasri Osathanond
The Nation, 22 Aug 2004

Senators, others allege that change on genetic modification is driven by FTA

Activists yesterday slammed the government's recent policy on genetically modified (GM) crops. Meanwhile senators cast doubt over whether its main motivations related to the Thai-US free trade agreement (FTA).

Two Senate committees - the Committee on Social and Human Security and the Committee on Foreign Affairs - will jointly organise a special session to investigate FTA influences in setting GM policy. The session is planned for next Wednesday at Parliament.

A number of activists interviewed by The Nation yesterday expressed strong disappointment over the GM crop policy launched last Friday by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that allows farming and trading of the controversial crops. "We felt as if we were being hampered when heard about the policy," said Saree Ongsomwang, coordinator of the Foundation for Consumers.

"Which part of the brain did they use to make such a decision? How can the government put the lives of millions of Thai people into the hands of a group of scientists like this?" Saree said.

"Hasn't the government learned anything from its mistake at our home?" asked an activist from the Northeast, referring to the recent spread of GM-contaminated papaya in the region.

Saree said the network of consumer organisations was scheduled to release press statements rejecting the policy today. It will be the first move by a nationwide alliance of activists, she said.

Witoon Lianchamroon of BioThai, an organisation promoting preservation of biodiversity and local wisdom especially in the Thai farming sector, said his organisation would join other environmental, consumer and farming networks organising against the move. The alliance will ask the government to return to the April 3, 2001 Cabinet resolution, which banned all trading and planting of GM crops except in laboratory experiments.

Last Friday Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the Cabinet would consider revoking the resolution on Tuesday.

Senator Niran Phitakwatchara said yesterday the government should reconsider the controversial policy.

"It is obvious that the past ban on GM crops was to prevent their potential impact on consumers and the environment. Why change the policy now? What other reason could there be if not pressure from the FTA?" he asked.

"The government should take the speech of His Majesty the King into consideration before proceeding with this policy. HM the King just said at the recent Science Congress that science and technology should be embraced at an 'appropriate' level," Niran added.

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