As the TNCs Catch You: An Analysis of the liberalization of biotechnological products in the Thai-US FTA
By Witoon Lianchamroon
11 Jul 2005
One of the books the Thai Prime Minister suggested his cabinet members read was “As the Future Catches You” by Juan Enriquez, a Mexican writer. The book’s contents relate to the fact that countries need to catch up with the development of biotechnology. Otherwise they will be alienated and left behind.
Juan Enriquez captivates the reader with fascinating data and a presentation that underlines the development of biotechnology. But for developing countries, the development of biotechnology does not mean liberalizing GM products, or recognizing and promoting patent rights on biotechnology, or liberalizing foreign investment on biotechnology, as certain decision-makers of this country believe. By giving in to such propaganda, this country may see itself caught in the claws of transnational corporations (TNCs) instead of being freed from the catch of the future, as warned by Enriquez.
The US role in multilateral negotiations As the United States is now the world’s biggest producer of genetically modified (GM) products, it has made every attempt to push countries to accept GM crops and products. The TNCs that control almost the entire market for GM seeds are also located in the US.
GM crops planted between 1996 and 2002 (Unit: Million hectares)
| Country | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 |
| US | 1.5 | 8.1 | 20.5 | 28.7 | 30.3 | 35.7 | 39.0 |
| Argentina | 0.1 | 1.4 | 4.3 | 6.7 | 10.0 | 11.8 | 13.5 |
| Canada | 0.1 | 1.3 | 2.8 | 4 | 3 | 3.2 | 3.5 |
| China | 1.1 | 1.8 | * | 0.3 | 0.5 | 1.5 | 2.1 |
| Others |
9. It is possible that the Ministry of Agriculture’s effort to push for the revocation of the 3 April 2001 cabinet resolution, which banned GM crops field trials, was one of the US conditions that also included the call for active abolition of products made in violation of IPRs.
11. Press Release of Committee of Finance, United States Senate, Friday, October 17, 2003
12. The money received might be higher owing to partial disclosure of information; for further details please see www.opensecrets.com
13. The Corruption of American Agriculture (2001), Tad Williams, Americans for Democratic Action Education Fund , www.adaction.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
14. Food Fight, Vikki Kratz, Center for Responsive Politic and www.opensecrets.com
15. From an article on “GMOs updates and Thailand’s solutions to policy making” by Witoon Lianchamroon.
16. 2001 figures from the Pacific Seeds Company.
17. Source: Private Investment in Agricultural Research and International Technology Transfer in Asia, Agricultural Economic Report No. 805, USDA, 1996.
18. Data from the Agricultural Extension Department, 2003.
19. Data from the Pacific Seeds Company, 2003. .
20. An estimate based on the data gained from the Ministry of Agriculture and Charoen Pokphand in 2003.
21. An estimate based on an interview given by a Monsanto executive in 1997.
22. Today, 90% of corn varieties are in the hands of CP, DeKalb and Cargil, of which the latter two firms have been taken over by Monsanto. The estimated increase in the value of seeds is based on the assumption that future use of GM corn seeds will be two times higher than that of hybrid corn seeds.
23. The value of GM soybean seeds is estimated to be five times higher than that of open hybrids. In the future, the GM soybean seed value might rise two times higher, as the market is completely monopolized.
24. The price of GM rice seeds is estimated to be two times higher than that of normal rice, and the price will be five times higher in the long term.
25. Cultivating Poverty: The Impact of US Cotton Subsidies on Africa. Oxfam Briefing Paper no. 30.