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Phuket Opinion: Opening the GMO floodgates

PHUKET: The future of Thailand’s agricultural and ecological biodiversity was granted a small albeit significant lifeline this past week when the Premier rejected the so-called “biosafety bill”.

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By The Phuket News

Sunday 20 December 2015, 09:00AM


Activists hold papaya seedlings with signs asking

Activists hold papaya seedlings with signs asking

Had it passed, the controversial legislature – popularly dubbed the “GMO bill” – would have paved the way for the commercial regulation and production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and thus effectively ending a 14-year ban on GMO testing.

The bill, which had been revised several times over 11 years, received its latest approval by Cabinet on November 24 before it was submitted for final approval, a move which sparked protests by agrofood and consumer groups nationwide, including here in Phuket.

Explaining his decision, the PM said that GMOs were “unnecessary” for the time being.

But even with the ban in place, GMOs are increasingly commonplace in Thailand, with testing still legally possible thanks to a 2007 Cabinet resolution that allows limited trials to be conducted in partnership with the government.

Over the past two decades, dozens of cases of contamination from GMO papaya, corn, soy and cotton have been reported throughout the Kingdom, and GMO-tainted Thai food products have been rejected by importers in Europe, the Middle East and Japan. 

Should Thailand join the TPP, biotechnology clauses in the agreement would likely open the flood gates further.

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Thai supermarkets are already full of products with GMO ingredients. While there is a labeling law in the Kingdom, it is seldom enforced, if at all, due to easily bypassed stipulations that require only soya and corn products with their top three ingredients containing more than 5 per cent GMO content to be labeled.

Suffice to say, nobody at The Phuket News has ever seen such a GMO label in Thailand.

Unless you care to scrutinise labels with a fine comb, chances are you’ve been consuming GMOs all along through soy, corn and papaya products, instant coffee, cola and other sweetened drinks (HFCS and aspartame), ice cream and chocolate products (lecithin), to name a few.

Indeed, GMOs, and their pairing pesticides and herbicides, are here to stay. The corporate lobby will inevitably get their way as the impacts of climate change and food security become more apparent.

The Phuket News thus encourages everyone to inform themselves about all the underlying issues, concerns, and most importantly, sponsors and motives behind all related GMO policies, regulations and legislation. After all, you are what you eat.

 

 

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