The bill, which has been revised several times in 11 years, received its latest preliminary approval by cabinet on November 24 before being submitted to the prime minister for final approval, sparking protests last week by agricultural, ecological, food and consumer groups nationwide, including in Phuket.
The biosafety bill would allow the commercial regulation and thus production of genetically modified organisms in the kingdom.
GMO crops are currently banned in Thailand, with the exception of a 2007 cabinet resolution that allows private companies to obtain a permit in partnership with a government academic institution to conduct limited trials.
Despite the overall ban, however, dozens of cases of GMO contamination of Thai papaya, corn, soy and cotton crops have been reported over the past two decades, and Thai supermarkets are already full of products with GMO ingredients, mostly imported from abroad.
The current Thai government has been considering lifting the ban on GMO trials for at least a year.
However, Prime Minister Prayut finally rejected the latest version of the bill on Tuesday (December 15), stating that GMO production wasn't needed in Thailand at this time, and thus kicked it back to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for further scrutiny.
Central to the GMO opposition movement in Thailand is the Biothai Foundation, who issued the following statement on their Facebook page today (originally in Thai, translated by The Phuket News into English):
The Biothai Foundation lauds the progress in opposition to the bio safety bill by the public, agricultural and food operators, representing 125 local organizations in 77 provinces nationwide, who joined with with agricultural and law researchers, and other experts ... to share information and campaign against the bill … until finally the PM announced [his decision] to stop pushing the bill, sending it back to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for further review.
In any case, pressure on the government to permit the growing of GMOs – which comes from the multinational seed companies, raw animal feed industry and giant food corporations – will not subside until they get their way. We believe those groups who benefit from GMOs will find other ways, be it to push for GMO trials in accordance with the cabinet resolution of December 25, 2007, or pushing for Thailand to become a member of the TPP.
Citizens and operators who will be impacted [by GMOs] need to come together to reveal and share knowledge and information about GMOs, whether in respect to technology, economics, politics, health or environmental impacts, as well as providing better alternatives, so that the greater public can have more participation in the policy decisions for agriculture and food of the country, and not just let these large agrofood corporations use the government to decide the future of the country.
Our aim is not just to oppose the bio safety bill, drafted in favour of [GMO] companies, or to simply oppose GMOs, which are not ideal and have no benefits for Thailand whatsoever, but also to push for laws and policies that regulate and promote biodiversity and ecology-based agriculture, as well as a food system for health and the environment, which emphasizes the interdependent relationship between small food producers, operators and consumers, so as to be the main current for developing the country to [be able to] adapt to economic, social and environment changes and problems that lie ahead.
Biothai will be part of this progress, until our aim is met.
Thailand has a GMO labelling law which is seldom applied or enforced due to its vague and lax stipulations.