The Vietnamese government is set to allow US and Swiss firms to show off some of their genetically-modified (GM) corn varieties by planting them in small areas even as they wait for approval to sell the seeds in Vietnam.
A source from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said the cultivation is planned on 1.5 to two hectares (3.4-4.4 acres) each in the northern provinces of Son La, Vinh Phuc, and Hung Yen, the Central Highlands’ Dak Lak, and the southern provinces of Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Dong Thap, Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon (Saigon Times) Online reported Monday.
This would also provide platforms for sharing information and delivering technologies, the news site quoted the source as saying.
The companies -- Syngenta of Switzerland, Dekald Vietnam of the US’s Monsanto, and Pioneer Hi-Bred Vietnam of the US’s Dupont -- late last year received endorsement from the ministry that their worm- and weedkiller-resistant varieties are environmentally friendly.
The seeds had been tested since 2011 in Vietnam.
The test results are being examined by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment which has the final say on approving their sale in the country.
Monsanto, the world’s leading producer of GM seeds, was also the main manufacturer of Agent Orange that left a devastating legacy in Vietnam, a legacy that continues to cause harm to this day.
The global genetically modified organism (GMO) cultivation area has grown 100-fold since 1996 to 170 million hectares despite protests by environmental activists.
India and China are among the 28 countries that allow GMOs.
Vietnam plans to widely grow genetically modified corn, cotton, and soybean from 2014.
Since GMOs have not been used long enough for scientists to accurately measure their impact on human health, and only now are they beginning to see some results that raise questions about diseases and aliments caused or linked to them, much more research is needed before GM-related products are used.
Meanwhile, even as the safety of GMOs is still being debated, GM seeds have already been sold to Vietnamese farmers on the black market and started their invasion of the country’s food chain.
Eradicating them will entail enormous effort and costs, experts say. But before it is too late Vietnamese authorities and scientists have to act to prevent the contamination from spreading further, they say.