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COTTON USED IN MEDICINE POSES THREAT
GENETICALLY-ALTERED COTTON MAY NOT BE SAFE
By Aphaluck Bhatiasevi
Bangkok Post, 17 November 1997
Fears about the adverse impacts of a genetically-altered cotton in the
production of traditional Thai medicine has prompted the government to
call off tests of the cotton plant currently underway in Thailand
Bollgard cotton is genetically engineered by inserting a bacteria which
kills the insect's genes. The cotton requires no pesticides during the
However, traditional healers, agriculturalists and environmental lawyers
have expressed concern about the potential threats of the plants to
medicine and honey production.
They question whether such a geneticlly engineered cotton, used in the
production of some herbal medicine is safe for human use.
They also pointed out that insects are needed for pollination especially
the natural production of honey and fruits.
Vut Vuttithamavej, chairman of the Association for Traditional Thai
Medicine, said the fact that cotton plants are not only used for
cloth raises concerns over the effects genetically altered cotton may
on food and medicine.
Monsanto Company, a major chemials manufacturer from the United States,
developed the new strain of cotton plant by inserting the bacteria
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into the normal cotton plants. The bacteria
will kill insects without the need for insecticide to be sprayed onto the
Cotton is one of the world's cash crops hardest hit by pests.
bollworms. Bollgard- or Bt-cotton was introduced here three years ago and
now under safety and effectiveness tests in agricultural areas in Wichian
Buri, Phetchabun; Khok Samrong, Lop Buri; Pak Tho, Ratchaburi; and Pak
Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima.
"With the growth of Bt cotton, we'll earn more money with higher yield,
is it worth losing our natural biological species?" questioned Mr Vut.
Sixteen species of the "Malvaceae" cotton family is used for production
traditional medicines said Institute of Traditional Thai Medicine
She said if Bt cotton is introduced in the country without sufficient
it would have an impact on the production of herbs, particularly those
of cotton seeds and oil.
Another point of particular concern is the production of honey, which is
important ingredient for the production of herbal medicines, said Dr
The tests on growth of Bollgard cotton showed that more than 30 percent
bees died, but no further assesment was done on whether it was caused by
"If it is due to the cotton, it would definitely mean a loss in the
of honey and we don't know whether the honey already produced by the bees
are also poisoned by the bacteria of the plant," she said.
Law Society of Thailand's environmental lawyer Varin Thiemcharas said
although many people support the growth of Bt cotton in this age of
economic crisis, it is doubtful that these cotton plants can be used for
the production of food and medicine.
# # # # # # # #
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods
Natural Law Party, 500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
Tel. 613-565-8517 Fax. 613-565-1596
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
contains more information on genetic engineering.
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