BioThai Foundation was founded through a collaboration between social activists, farmers, academics, government officials and the people of rural communities who shared a common understanding on important issues, problems and proposals related to conservation, development and use of biological resources, local wisdom, community rights, food security and food sovereignty, agriculture, sustainable development and fair trade.
Our name was coined in 1995 as a short form of the Thai Network on Community Rights and Biodiversity which was made up of individuals who worked on issue of biodiversity and local wisdom in Thailand. Initially, our work focussed on analysis and dissemination to the Thai public of the text of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, lobbying for laws to regulate genetic resources and Thai traditional medicinal knowledge, organizing international meetings and linking with international networks to push for legislation on farmers’ and communities’ rights to biodiversity in developing countries, as well as campaigning to raise awareness of genetic resource grabbing by transnational companies and industrialised countries.
In 1999, BioThai was established as an organisation to support the work of the network. At this time, we were called Biodiversity and Community Rights Action Thailand.
As the work expanded, further long-term support was needed to provide information, research, etc, to groups of farmers, local communities, and the networks working on these issues. The organisation was formally registered as a Foundation in 2006 under the name BioThai Foundation, (“มูลนิธิชีววิถี” in Thai). While we still follow our original focus on biodiversity and community rights, in recent years, our work has also expanded to a much broader set of issues including food security, monitoring agribusiness corporations, and fair trade, amongst other related topics.
More importantly, in 2010 we have started new campaign namely “Food For Change” to mobilize consumers to engage in sustainable food system development.
In 2014, we adjusted our full name in line with the scope of our current work to “Biodiversity - Sustainable Agriculture - Food Sovereignty Action Thailand”
to study and research critical issues related to biological resources, agriculture, food, farmers’ and community rights;
to promote and disseminate knowledge related to biological resources, agriculture, food, farmers and community rights to the Thai public; and
to make recommendations and develop public policies related to the management of natural resources, economic development, and culture, towards sustainable social development.
Supporting the role and strength of farmers, local communities, and civil society networks on issues of conservation, rehabilitation, development and sustainable use of biological resources. Currently BioThai is working together with various other organisations to provide support to over 400 communities in every region of Thailand on ecological conservation and rehabilitation, the recovery, development and use of rice varieties, local vegetables, and tropical fruits, to improve community self-reliance and food security.
Together with community groups and various networks we lead a campaign named “Food for Change” (in Thai “กินเปลี่ยนโลก”). The campaign aims to raise awareness of consumers to change their eating habits to support local community production methods which sustain and conserve natural resources, and are healthy and environmentally-friendly, while emphasizing equity and balance between local farmers / food producers and consumers. We also work to recover and gather local food knowledge, for example, chilli paste recipes, pulses, foods made from traditional vegetables, etc.
Advocacy on impacts on biological resources. For example we have worked to oppose “bio-piracy” in cases where patents were sought for Thai Jasmine rice. Monitoring and investigating the impacts of genetic engineering on farming and food systems in cases of genetic contamination from GM crops such as BT cotton, GM papaya resistant to ringspot disease, BT corn, and Roundup-Ready soya. We have been reporting to the public on the situation of GMOs in Thailand and related problems and media consistently since 1997 to the present day.
Advocating and lobbying for policies and sui generis laws to protect biological resources and local community wisdom, such as the Plant Varieties Protection Act 1999, the Protection and Promotion of Thai Traditional Medicine Act 1999. Opposition to the policy of allowing commercial GMO crop production and open field trials which are not under effective control.
BioThai has been core member of the FTA Watch group since it was founded in 2004 along with other non-governmental development organisations, academics, and people’s organisations. FTA Watch has been monitoring, lobbying and campaigning on issues of trade liberalisation and the impacts this will have on farmers, consumers, and small-scale enterprises. BioThai has also helped to found the Corpwatch group, to raise awareness about the activities of the major corporations which have social and environmental impacts, in particular, those related to natural resources and food security.
Cooperating with civil society organisations in various countries to strengthen people’s collaboration and build understanding on international policies related to biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, fair trade, and climate change.
Work plan and activities carried out in collaboration with other organisations
Food security program. BioThai is the main coordinator and administrator of this work. Its major partners are the Alternative Agriculture Network, the Sustainable Rice, Fish, Food Project in Ubol Ratchathani, North-east Thailand, the Satingpra Peninsula savings group, Songkhla province, the Savings Group for Development of Pha Nga Bay, the Sustainable Agriculture Foundation (Thailand), the Horticultural Department, Faculty of Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, the Knowledge Management Foundation, the Farmer Schools Network in Nakhon Sawan province, and the Khaokwan Foundation in Suphanburi province. Funding has been received from the Thai government’s Health Promotion Fund (สสส.).
FTA Watch. BioThai is the Secretariat to the FTA Watch group, monitoring the development of Free Trade Agreements with various foreign countries. We are responsible for monitoring and analyzing the impacts of these agreements on intellectual property rights, biological resources, and small-scale farmers.
Corporate Watch BioThai is a member of the group monitoring companies which are trading and investing in genetic resources and the food system.
Food for Change this is a set of campaign activities carried out by BioThai Foundation together with the Alternative Agriculture Network, the Community Forest Support Group, and the Ton Kla Foundation to campaign for a food culture which supports small-scale local communities, and are good for both consumers health and the environment.
Thai Working Group for Climate Justice (TCJ). BioThai was a founding member of TCJ and monitors the process of addressing climate change both at the international and national level, supporting local networks in analysing the situation and finding a common approach to resolving problems brought about by climate change and measures to address climate change, especially those issues related to adaptation of small-scale communities.
Thailand Pesticide Action Network: Thai-PAN. This network links together a group of researchers from various public organisations working on agriculture and consumer protection and farmers groups, who are concerned about the dangers of chemical pesticides and related problems such as, registration, import, advertising, sale, and control of chemical pesticides. The mission of the network is firstly developing knowledge about hazards associated with agricultural chemicals. Secondly, communicating and raising public alarm on problems associated with these chemicals, and thirdly pushing for more stringent policies for the management and control of chemical pesticides for the safety of farmers, consumers, the environment, and sustainable development.
Main funders of the work BioThai foundation
From 1995 to the present day, BioThai has received funding support for its activities from the following organisations:
External funding sources:
Domestic funding sources:
In addition to the above organisations, donations have also been received from the general public to support specific activities such as publications, posters, and various campaign materials, etc. Since 2002, 85% of our total programme budget has been received from funding sources within Thailand.
Members of the Biothai Foundation Board