The Bangkok Post
"I have documents to show that I obtained the seeds from IRRI, the International Rice Research Institute, in the Philippines," said Chris Deren, a professor at the University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, Florida.
But Witoon Lianchamroon, director of Biothai, a government-funded agricultural think tank, urged the researcher not to just talk but to act by entering into an agreement with Thailand's Plant Varieties Protection Committee's Office.
He said Mr Deren's promise not to seek a patent for the jasmine rice under research was not as important because if the rice was actually cultivated and marketed, Thai farmers would definitely be affected.
He said the agreement he proposed should spell out terms of profit-sharing and patenting.
"It is so easy to acquire the seeds," Mr Deren said in an interview. "Why would I go to the trouble of going halfway round the world to steal it? It's not necessary."
Mr Deren's troubles began after his quest to develop an early maturing variety of Thai jasmine rice to suit the US climate won media attention about two months ago.
Farmers in Thailand, which sells about 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of jasmine rice to the US each year, fear that exports would be lost if the US grows its own variety of the staple.
Karun Kittisataporn, permanent secretary for commerce, said the government had assigned legal experts to study whether developing Thai jasmine rice in the US is illegal, or breached rules of the World Trade Organisation.
Mr Deren said replacing Thailand's jasmine rice was not an easy task. "If it was possible to replace Thailand's jasmine rice, others would have done it already. Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines already grow aromatic rice, but none of those compete well," he said.
Mr Deren also said he would not seek to patent his variety of Thai jasmine, and that it would be available to anyone interested in using the strain for research. He said a local variety might still be years away from commercial production.
Neil Rutger, director of the US National Rice Research Center, defended Mr Deren's work, saying the plant breeder obtained the seeds for his project from IRRI through the US Department of Agriculture.
Mr Rutger said he had been in communication with IRRI officials and that he was satisfied with their explanations on the origin of the seeds.
He said it was never his nor Mr Deren's intention to patent the variety of rice that would emerge from the project.
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **
Last Updated on 11/23/01