Haven’t the nation’s soils been exposed enough to toxins?

Pornsil Patcharintanakul, Executive in charge of Animal Feed Operations at Charoen Pokphand Foods Plc, who is also the President of the Thai Feedmill Association of Thailand, along with Mr Pramote Tirapraiwong, President of the Thai Agro Business Association, a group of traders of hazardous pesticides and Mr Nipon Iamsupasit, President of the Thai Biotechnology Alliance Association, which was set up by multinational corporations that promote GM crops, have jointly issued a letter to the Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives opposing the Bill to promote and develop a sustainable agriculture system that is currently being drafted.

This draft legislation is aimed at increasing the area of land under sustainable agriculture to a total of 5 million rai (800,000 ha) by 2021.  This would see the expansion of various forms of sustainable agriculture, such as integrated cropping, organic farming, Thailand’s new theory agriculture, agroforestry, natural farming, etc. The Bill is consistent with both the 12th National Social and Economic Development Plan, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals to which Thailand has declared its commitment.

Amongst those who have also signed their opposition to the draft Sustainable Agriculture Bill is Mr Anand Dalodom, former Director of the Department of Agriculture, who was behind past efforts to promote GM cotton by the Monsanto company.  Other signatories include academics in the field of plant breeding who have written articles in support of switching from existing rice varieties, which can currently be planted and replanted by farmers, to hybrid varieties – which is a marketing strategy favoured by the Charoen Phokphand company and certain transnational companies allowing them to dominate the rice seeds market in the same way as they have the maize seeds market – even though the yield of hybrid rice is not as high as the advertising would suggest, and farmers would have to buy seeds every growing season at expensive prices from these giant companies.

Mr Winij Chuanchai, another executive of the Jia Tai company in the Charoen Pokphand group explained that their opposition was because “the draft Bill will damage the growth and progress of the majority of the country’s farmers and violates the Thai Constitution”.

The draft law is being promoted by the National Farmers Council and the National Economic and Social Development Council, and has been supported by Mr Wiwat Salayakamthorn, Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives, and Mr Krisada Boonrat, Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives.  It may be brought down if the giant agribusiness corporations and various transnational satellite companies join forces in opposition. Will the Thai people sit by and allow these influential groups to dictate national policy once again?