Specter of Agent Orange haunts introduction of GMOs to Vietnam

| | August 17, 2015
vietnam spraying chemicals ap photo
U.S. Air Force UC-123 Providers spray the defoliant chemical Agent Orange over dense vegetation in South Vietnam in 1966. The chemical, which Air Force spokesmen said at the time was harmless to humans and animals, could remove 50 percent of ground cover within a few weeks of application, making it difficult for guerrillas to hide. (AP Photo)
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

When Vietnam moved economically from communism to capitalism in the 1980s, it enjoyed an agriculture boom that lifted millions from poverty. But today, new trade deals could threaten Vietnamese farmers, who are considering using genetically modified seeds to stay competitive.

Vietnamese people believe that the chemical Agent Orange, produced by the Monsanto and Dow companies, is still causing detrimental health and environmental effects, 40 years after it was sprayed to kill plants in the Vietnam War.

Today Monsanto and Dow sell genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. But because of the war history, Some Vietnamese don’t want these companies to bring their products to Vietnam.

The resentment adds baggage to an already heated debate as Vietnam considers using GMOs. Crop yields have stagnated in recent years, and GMOs could help, said Tran Dinh Long, chair of the Vietnamese Seed Association. He believes planting GMO seeds could improve productivity.

But consumers are not sure about what to make of lab-modified seeds. Chung Hoang Chuong said he is skeptical of all the money GMO companies spend to lobby politicians. He also worries about the risks — for his health, and for the environment.

Nguyen Phuong Thao believes GMOs are safe. She teaches biotechnology at Vietnam National University and has researched GMOs for 18 years.

“We care about the side effect of the GMO as well. But there is, so far, no evidence to show that the GMO will cause a problem for the animals or the human health,” said Thao.

Thao believes they will help Vietnam endure climate change. Some seeds are genetically altered to withstand flooding or drought, the threat of which could increase in Vietnam if climate change worsens.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Vietnam Debates GMO Crops With Eye on History

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