Updates on BASF pullout and Thai court case (24/5/2006)

1.EPA urged to withdraw licence for GM potato trials
2.Rights official testifies as GMO trial resumes

1.EPA urged to withdraw licence for GM potato trials
Evening Echo, 24 May 2006

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is coming under pressure today to withdraw the licence it has granted for trials of genetically-modified potatoes in Co Meath.

Reports this morning said the BASF, the German firm that secured the licence, is considering abandoning the trials due to the stringent restrictions being imposed by the EPA.

The Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association has claimed the move is a ploy by BASF to force the EPA into relaxing the restrictions.

It is calling on the agency to withdraw the licence altogether, saying the people of Ireland do not want anything to do with GM crops.

The campaign group GM-free Ireland, meanwhile, has said it cannot understand why the EPA granted the licence in the first place in the face of widespread opposition and advice from leading international scientists.

2.Rights official testifies as GMO trial resumes
By Ismail Wolff
Thai Day, 24 May 2006

The trial of Greenpeace activists accused of destroying a GMO (genetically modified organism) papaya plantation resumed yesterday with a representative of the National Human Rights Commission testifying that GMO tests in Khon Kaen posed a significant threat to the public.

The two activists, Patwajee Srisuwan and Dr Jiragorn Gajaseni, have been charged with theft, trespassing and destruction of property and face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail if found guilty.

The NHRC's Banthoon Setsirote testified in court yesterday that a research center in Khon Kaen had illegally distributed GMO-contaminated papaya seeds and seedlings to farmers throughout the country.

The NHRC had studied the effects of GMO contamination and how it threatened the environment and human rights, Banthoon told the court.

The commission found that the contamination threatened consumer rights, farmers' rights and other rights related to environmental, social and cultural issues, he said.

Greenpeace argue their activists were pushed into the "emergency measures" at Khon Kaen in 2004 after their appeals to state agencies, including the Department of Agriculture (DOA), regarding the threats posed by the plant were ignored.

"Genetic pollution caused by GMOs has irreversible effects on the environment, therefore we must stop the widening GMO papaya contamination in our country. The Constitution empowers every Thai citizen the right to protect our environment," said Patwajee.

The scandal surrounding GMO contamination and its extent became a major issue when it was exposed by Greenpeace.

In September 2004, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ordered the destruction of all GMO papaya plants in field trial plots at DOA research stations following recommendations made in both government and independent reports. However, there have been many reports of continued GMO contamination since then.

Last December, the NHRC lodged an official police complaint against former DOA chief Chakarn Saengraksawongse and other officials of the Khon Kaen research station, accusing them of negligence for failing to follow up the investigation and destruction of GMO papaya following the government order.

A recent Greenpeace report called on the government to give further assistance to farmers to help decontaminate their farms of GMO papaya.

The report states that the DOA distributed GMO-contaminated seeds to 2,669 farmers in 37 provinces.

"A neutral agency must be created to formulate and enforce a national bio-safety law, based on precautionary principles, and with the interest of the Thai people and the environment as its priority," said Patwajee in a recent statement.


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