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Should Monsanto Be Allowed To Bring Genetically Engineered Crops To Vietnam?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Millions Against Monsanto page and our Genetic Engineering page.

HO CHI MINH CITY - It's 5 a.m. and the streets already are buzzing. People know that the best time to shop at open-air markets is before daybreak. And they know to ask for fresh, firm vegetables grown locally, rather than in China, where dangerous pesticides are routinely overused.

Soon they also might be asking whether their potatoes and soybeans are genetically modified. Not only is the Vietnamese government considering lifting the current ban on genetically modified organisms, it hopes to blanket as much as one-third of the country's farmland with genetically engineered crops by 2020.

This is too much too soon. Vietnamese officials are reasonably worried about how to feed a country of 90 million. But the policy change is based on one-sided information from those who would profit from G.M.O. sales, and it displays little concern for consumer protection.

What's more, Monsanto, the chemical company that would help bring biotechnology to Vietnam, is the one that brought it Agent Orange during the war four decades ago.

Advocates say genetically modified seeds produce greater yields, in part because they are resistant to insects, herbicides and drought. Opponents say the promise of higher productivity is a myth and warn of overdependence on single-crop agriculture, damage to the environment and for consumers.

These are the kinds of costs and benefits that a country should weigh for itself. But in Vietnam the issue is barely being discussed, even though the state has a knack for public-service announcements. When politicians make a push for motorcyclists to wear helmets or teenagers to abstain from drugs, they slather the streets with Soviet-style posters and the newspapers with editorials.


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