Study backs adoption of GMO tech

Study backs adoption of GMO tech

Khunying Thongtip said higher levels of agricultural productivity could prevent farmers from resorting to land acquisition through forest encroachment.
Khunying Thongtip said higher levels of agricultural productivity could prevent farmers from resorting to land acquisition through forest encroachment.

Thailand needs a "new mindset" to adopt controversial genetically modified organism (GMO) technology to increase agricultural productivity and serve the bio-based petrochemical industry under the government's bio-, circular and green (BCG) economic model, a study says.

The suggestion was presented yesterday by Khunying Thongtip Ratanarat, a member of the board of the Petroleum Institute of Thailand, who was asked by the Energy Policy and Planning Office to conduct a study on a master plan on the fourth-phase development of the Thai petrochemical industry over the next three decades.

The new petrochemical industry should not only be driven by oil and gas but also bio-based industries which need the application of various agricultural products including cassava, sugar cane, rubber, and palm oil.

Khunying Thongtip said GMO technology can be applied to increase the amount of these products planted on limited areas in order to support the BCG economic model, which promotes wise use of resources, including renewable resources, to produce energy, food and other value-added products, with little or no impact on the environment.

Higher agricultural productivity can prevent farmers from resorting to land acquisition through forest encroachment, she said.

However, GMO has been a highly contentious issue in Thailand for several years due to worries over health safety, and environmental impact.

The technology is aimed at improving crop resistance to pests by adding a specific gene to crops. This gene can be gained from a species of living things other than plants.

Environmental groups said genetically modified plants, which receive, for example, a bacteria gene to increase resistance to insects, might threaten local plants, which may be exposed to unwanted pollens from nearby farms.

Thailand bans commercial plantation of genetically modified plants and only allows for the import of GMO corn.

"We have many GMO products in our kitchens and we have eaten them for many years without negative impact, so why do we fear them?" said Khunying Thongtip.

The BCG economic model can add value to farm products, helping farmers, now making up 60% of the population, increase their contributions to GDP, which currently stands at only 10%, she said.

GMO technology will help Thailand better compete with Malaysia and Indonesia, which have used the technology to increase rubber and palm oil productivity, she added.

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