The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry's push for the lifting of the ban on open-field trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops was turned down yesterday by the cabinet which decided to leave the decision to the next administration. The cabinet instructed the ministry to conduct more studies on the impact of growing GM plants in open fields and to organise a public hearing on the matter as required by the constitution before seeking approval for field trials of transgenic crops from the next cabinet.
Article 67 of the charter stipulates relevant agencies must hold a public hearing before implementing a project that has social and environmental impact.
''The ministry must also draft a regulation to prevent and control the spread of GM crops from experimental fields to nearby areas,'' said government spokesman Chaiya Yimwilai.
Revoking the 2001 cabinet resolution banning open-field trials has recently become controversial after Agriculture Minister Thira Sutabutra said lifting the ban would promote research on GM crops. His stand prompted anti-GM crop groups to stage weekly protests at Government House to demand the coup-appointed cabinet maintain the ban.
Transgenic plants must pass three levels of biosafety tests - laboratory, greenhouse and open-field trials - before being endorsed for mass production.
With the open-field trial ban, experiments on GM crops are permitted only in laboratories and greenhouses.
Mr Chaiya said the cabinet secretary was instructed to speed up enforcement of the biosafety law, which contains safety guidelines for field trials, compensation for those affected by GM crops, and measures placing restrictions on GM imports and exports.