Debate over GE Crops Continues in Thailand

Debate over GE Crops Continues
in Thailand

September 25, 2001
Officials fight ban on field tests

The Department of Agriculture yesterday reiterated its demand that the ban
on field trials of genetically modified plants be lifted, arguing that the
ban was a major obstacle in developing genetic engineering technology for
the agricultural sector.

The government agreed to impose the ban last year as proposed by the
Assembly of the Poor, said Hiran Hiranpradit, the department's senior expert
in crop production.

''Continuing the ban on GM field trials will cause great damage to the
country, especially in agricultural research and development,'' said Mr
Hiran, a member of a PM's Office Office sub-committee on GM products policy.
The sub-committee yesterday held a meeting to finalise the country's
five-year policy on GM products.

Mr Hiran said the sub-committee has repeatedly submitted letters to Deputy
Prime Minister Pongpol Adireksarn, who oversees the committee solving the
Assembly of the Poor's petitions, calling for the ban to be lifted.
Ampon Kittiampon, the Agriculture Ministry's assistant permanent secretary,
said lifting the ban would greatly contribute to an increase in knowledge
and understanding of the new technology.

Nares Dhamrongchai, of the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology (Biotec), said field trials should be allowed, but only under
strict rules to prevent leakage of GM seeds.

Greenpeace campaigner Auaiporn Suthontanyakorn disagreed, saying the ban
should stay as long as state agencies could not prove they could prevent GM
seed leakage.

Also, it was not necessary to embrace the technology at the moment because
its safety to the ecosystem and human health was not yet proven, Ms Auaiporn

Mr Hiran announced that a national agency to provide information on GMOs to
the public would be set up.

The agency comprises Biotec and the Thailand Biodiversity Centre under the
Science Ministry, and the Agriculture Ministry's Natural Resources and
Biodiversity Institute.

Buntoon Sethasarote, of the Natural Resources and Biodiversity Institute,
said information on the pros and cons of GMOs needed to be cleared up to
avoid causing public misunderstanding.

''At present, each concerned party seems to select information that supports
its stance, which confuses the public. So an agency to provide unbiased
information on GMOs is a must,'' Mr Buntoon said.

Dr Nares, of Biotec, said people interested in GMOs could find reliable
facts at the newly-created agency, which would also gather facts and
opinions from every organisation concerned.

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