GeneWatch PR: Thai ministry of public health distances itself from Monsanto in response to leaked memo

For immediate release - 20th September 2000

In a letter to GeneWatch UK, Professor Pakdee Photisiri, the head of the Department of Medical Sciences of Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health, has been forced to defend the independence of his laboratory having been named as a target in Monsanto’s memo leaked to GeneWatch earlier this month.

The leaked memo detailing the activities of Monsanto’s Regulatory Affairs and Scientific Outreach teams during May and June 2000 referred to Professor Pakdee’s laboratory, saying:

"Thailand: A GMO detection lab was established by the Ministry of Public Health to develop methods to certify exports to Europe. The lab director Dr. Pakdi (sic) is a key player in international CODEX activities and has requested Monsanto's assistance to train technicians and provide reference samples. Cooperation with this request is likely given the importance of the lab and Dr. Pakdi's position."

Professor Pakdee is the Head of the Thai delegation to CODEX, the UN organisation responsible for setting international food safety standards. Having sympathetic delegates on CODEX is important for companies like Monsanto in their attempts to gain international acceptance of GM foods and favourable regulations.

In his letter to GeneWatch, Professor Pakdee said that his laboratory would continue to resist any pressure to compromise its impartiality.

In response, GeneWatch UK’s Director Dr Sue Mayer said: "By publishing Monsanto’s internal memo, GeneWatch has alerted Thailand and other countries to the company’s activities and how it decides when to give technical support. In Professor Pakdee’s case, Monsanto was clearly influenced by his position in an important international committee, presumably in the hope of gaining a sympathetic voice."

"We welcome Professor Pakdee’s reassurance about his laboratory’s independence," added Dr Mayer. "It is important that governments remain vigilant and resist any efforts by industry to gain undue influence".

- ends -

Full text of Professor Pakdee's letter Full text

Full text of Monsanto's leaked document Full text

GeneWatch UK's press release on Monsanto's leaked document Full text

For more information, please contact GeneWatch UK on:

Tel: +44 (0)1298 871898
Fax: +44 (0)1298 872531

Notes to editors:

  1. Recently, there have been demonstrations led by farmers in Thailand against GM crops. In September 2000, more than 1,000 farmers held a 10-day rally against GMOs called "The Asian Long March to Protect Perfect Biodiversity" with a caravan from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. ‘Farmers rally against GMOs’. The Nation, Bangkok, 17 September 2000.

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