E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


U.S. urges Thai government to allow biotech crop trials

(Friday, Jan. 9, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Kultida Samabuddhi, Bangkokk Post, 01/07/04: The United States is pressing the Agriculture Ministry to go ahead with open-field testing of genetically modified crops and to use biotechnology as a key means to boost crop yield and quality.

"The US administration would fully support Thailand in a research on biotechnology, including an establishment of biotech labs and sending biotechnology experts to train Thai officials," agricultural counsellor Rodrick McSherry at the US embassy was quoted as saying.

Mr McSherry had a meeting with Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsutin's chief adviser Virachai Virameteekul yesterday. The meeting focused on the issues of GMOs and the US-Thai Free Trade Area Agreement, Mr Virachai said.

The discussion on GMOs was a follow-up on a meeting between US ambassador Daryl Jonhson and Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob on December 2002.

Mr McSherry insisted that genetic engineering technology was vital for agricultural development in developing countries, including Thailand. GMO products were also proved safe for human consumption, he said.

"The ministry agrees with Mr McSherry and US scientific reports on the benefits of GMOs. So, we will move forward with research on biotechnology, beginning with seeking cabinet approval for a GMO field trial in a contained area of the Department of Agriculture's research station, Mr Virachai said.

However, he added that it was still a long way off before the ministry allowed commercialisation of GM crops.

Thai negotiators also told US officials about rejection of Thai agricultural products by the European Union, which has strongly opposed GM technology.

Thai agricultural products, including canned tuna in soybean oil and poultry, used to be rejected by the EU because GMO traces were detected in them. It was possible Thailand would soon cancel imports of soybean and maize from the US to avoid losses in the EU market.

"Thailand's policy on GMOs will be unclear as long as the US-EU dispute on GMOs issue are not settled," Mr Virachai said, adding that the World Trade Organisation was expected to rule on the case within 18 months.

The US is the world's largest GM producer, while the EU countries oppose the technology saying that GM food products pose potential harm to human health and the environment.

Buntoon Srethasiroj, of the National Human Rights Commission's panel on biological resources conservation, said the Agriculture Ministry should consult other relevant agencies, such as the National Biosafety Committee and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, before joining the US' pro-GMO policy. He also said the ministry's support for GM crop cultivation would hurt the government's policy on food safety because many consumers believed GM food products were unsafe.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/070104_News/07Jan2004_news21.html