CONSUMER rights and organic farming advocates will rally at Government House today – and in 43 other provinces – to protest against the Biological Safety Bill, which will allow use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for commercial purposes.
Biothai official Kwanchai Muanying said yesterday his non-governmental organisation planned a symbolic protest to express their objection to the bill, which recently received Cabinet approval, and to “jointly protect their food sovereignty”, at their respective city halls at 10am today.
Biothai (www.biothai.net) had earlier put out a poster on Thai social media inviting people to join this movement.
Kwanchai said the demonstrators in Bangkok would submit a petition to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and National Legislative Assembly President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai demanding that approval of the bill be postponed, so all sides can present information and concerns over possible impacts.
“If this government just passed this bill, it would mean the granting of freedom to grow GMO plants,” he explained.
He said farmers were concerned most about the fact that the bill has no measures to prevent contamination.
“In Thailand, the requirement for GMO plants to be 200 metres from other farms would make it impossible to say there was no contamination to crops outside,” he said. Biothai and its allies would continue to provide information to farmers about the bill because many had very little knowledge about it.
Nanthawan Handee, from an alternative farmers’ group in Sanamchai Khet district in Chachoengsao, said her group, established over a decade ago, would join people from public, private and civil sectors in a rally at Chachoengsao City Hall under the banner “Paed Rew Muang Yang Yeun Assembly”.
She said if the bill was implemented, it would seriously affect her group, which grows organic plants and rice for export to Europe.
“We obtain a high-class standard certification from the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture and we export rice to food-processing companies to make pasta for sale in Europe,” she explained.
“Organic agriculture is the future of the world and Thailand. If the government passes this bill, it will destroy Thai farmers. GMO plants should only be in experimental labs,” she said, adding that Thailand had already been affected by GMO papaya contamination and this move would bring about more serious damage.
Foundation for Consumers director Saree Aongsomwang wrote on Facebook that she and network members would certainly attend the symbolic protest at Government House against the bill, which she said had many weak points. They included allowing GMO plant production for commercial purposes and no punishment for biotech businesses whose products turn out to be environmentally harmful.
Meanwhile, Democrat Party member and former Science and Technology Ministry secretary Pumsan Seniwong na Ayuthaya urged the government yesterday to be more sensitive in handling this matter because of public opposition – it should postpone approval for this controversial bill.
He said he would be disappointed if the Science Ministry had made a claim, circulating in media, that GMO plants could exist with normal plants. He urged ministerial executives and people in science not to prioritise research and economic gain while disregarding social impacts and people’s health.
He also raised questions for the government and ministry to answer, including who would carry the burden of creating a 200-metre-wide buffer zone and managing the rotation of GMO plants, grown apart from normal crops, and whether there would be a law to control that.
Source: The Nation