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Thai pressure group launches anti-GMO campaign

12-Oct-2004

A Thai-based pressure group has joint forces with a global consumer federation to help push forward the anti-GMO agenda in the A-P region.

Consumers International (CI), the worldwide federation of consumer organisations, has joined with Thailand's Foundation for Consumers to launch a global anti-GM campaign.

The campaign was launched in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, and was followed by a press conference chaired by senator Dumaong Toottan, president of Thailand's parliamentary sub-committee on consumer monitoring.

Other speakers included Amadou Kanoute, Michael Hansen and Saree Aongsomwang.

Many Thai farmers and consumers are concerned at the unregulated introduction of GM papaya from a research facility into the open environment. Although the authorities have ordered the destruction of the unauthorised GM papaya, some scientists fear that the contamination has spread.

Amadou Kanoute, director of CI's Africa office spoke on the efforts to introduce GM seeds and crops to African countries. He claimed that rather than solving hunger in Africa that GM would further impoverish African farms by making them totally dependent on corporate giants, such as Monsanto, who would have a monopoly on seed supply.

Dr Michael Hansen, from the US Consumers' Union and an expert on the effects of biotechnology on agriculture, explained the basics of genetic engineering and some of the dangers he believed it posed.

He claimed that some of the science that supposedly supported GMOs was dubious and that that the precautionary principle must prevail.

Saree Aongsomwang, director of the Foundation for Consumers, outlined the current situation in Thailand and explained why it was so vital for Thai farmers to resist the pressure to adopt methods based on GM crops.

She pointed out what she saw as the inadequacy of labelling laws in Thailand, showing how some labels were hidden or inadequate, while others were missing altogether.

The CI campaign was launched on the eve of the international meeting of Food Safety Regulators in Bangkok, and less than a week before World Food Day on 16 October.

It aims to stop the spread of GM crops until internationally agreed regulations are in place and there are clear benefits to consumers, farmers and the environment. At present about two-thirds of GM crops are grown in the USA, with the remainder in a few key countries.

Many countries have not switched to GM crops, in part because of widespread consumer concern over GM foods.

In regard to existing GM foods, the CI campaign intends to focus on four areas. It will aim to ensure that all GM foods are subjected to rigorous, independent safety testing, are adequately labelled, and traceable back to their origin; and that producers are held liable for environmental or health damage which they may cause.