By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE Biological Safety Bill will allow genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to damage the nation's ecology and those who will suffer the most are farmers, a law professor warned.
Somchai Ratanasuesakul, a law lecturer at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, cautioned that the bill, which recently received Cabinet approval, will cause incorrigible ecological damage and severely harm agriculture, the nation’s core economy.
“There is a very high possibility that this bill will open the door for GMO liberalisation in the future in order to benefit giant biotechnology transnational companies to expand their market in Thailand,” Somchai said in a recent interview.
“This bill is not drafted to prevent the possible harm of GMOs as its title indicates; instead, it will intentionally open many legal gaps for biotechnology businesses to open up the market in Thailand and escape without any punishment if their products turn out to be environmentally harmful.”
Somchai, who is well known for his opposition to biological patents and GMOs, said the bill would not respect the precautionary principle. He said it must be regarded as very dangerous and harmful until scientific proof clearly points out that it is safe. Therefore, it any possible negative impacts should be treated very cautiously.
“GMOs should be treated with caution because if one ‘leaks’ into the environment, it is impossible to get rid of the contamination,” he said.
“This bill states that it allows GMOs to be used out in an open environment, if lab tests prove that it is safe. But what if [a GMO] is found to be harmful later? There is no indication of such a case in the bill and those responsible can walk free.”
Describing the content of the bill as “awful”, Somchai said the country needs the Biological Safety Act, but the content of the bill should be revised to ensure that the precautionary principle is followed.
Somchai is also concerned that the bill is a “daydream turned nightmare” for Thai farmers, because they will not get high yields and disease-tolerant crops as promised. Instead, GM crops would raise their expenses with less-than-expected produce.
He argued that if we open the country to GMOs, biotechnology conglomerates such as Monsanto would be able to control Thai seed market and cause seed prices to rise.
“Many studies show that even in the United States, GM plants do not produce a better harvest than normal crops. Furthermore, GM seeds usually sell with specific fertilisers and other chemical products that will increase the cost of farming,” he said.
Also, many foreign markets such as Europe lean toward organic products and 16 EU countries have already banned GMOs. Even in the US, more consumers avoid GM products and go for organic food.
“The farmers are more likely to go bankrupt than get rich,” he said.