BANGKOK: A Thai agricultural official-cum-lawyer has urged seed operators in the kingdom to thoroughly study the kingdom’s plant and seed laws, suggesting to them a number of ways in which they can protect themselves from prosecution.
Addressing members of the Thailand Seed Trade Association (ThaSTA) on November 18 at KU’s Food Research and Product Development Building, Dr. Prasert Soodmai reviewed relevant seed-business clauses of The Plant Act of 1975, which was last amended in the year 2007.
Dr. Prasert, an alumni of Kasetsart University who has a Ph.D. in Soil Sciences, obtained his Administrative Law Certificate from the Thai Bar Association after formally retiring from a government career as a fertilizer certification and analysis scientist with the Department of Agriculture.
The lecture was organized in response to a recent spur in cases being pressed by prosecutors against seed producers, distributors and retailers after inspections had reportedly revealed sub-standard germination rates. The law requires packaged seeds being sold in the kingdom to have germination rates of no less than 80%.
Increased enforcement of the law and scrutiny on seed businesses comes ahead of the government’s plans to develop the country to become a global seed production hub.
Dr. Prasert, an alumni of Kasetsart University who has a Ph.D. in Soil Sciences, obtained his Administrative Law Certificate from the Thai Bar Association after formally retiring from a government career as a Fertilizer Certification Scientist with the Department of Agriculture.
“The burden of proof is a key element in Thai law, which utilizes adversarial legal system principles. Therefore, it is prudent for members of seed enterprise to maintain comprehensive and thorough records, bookkeeping and invoicing practices,” he said.
Addressing producers, distributors and agents, he said “A copy of the Statement of Certification, with clear guidelines for storage should always be provided with the invoice at the time of delivery [of seeds],” clarifying that certification statements printed on seed labels alone would not carry as much weight in court.
Dr Prasert urged those in attendance to not only educate themselves on the laws and respective procedures for compliance and judiciary appeal, but to actively monitor developments, and ever-changing industry regulations and requirements.
“If you can, take night courses and pursue a law degree part time. Attend training seminars and workshops regularly. The fact that you took a course 10 years ago is not sufficient. The training needs to be regular, because technology, law and regulations are changing constantly,” he said.
In addition to high standards for storage and distribution, seed testing should also not be overlooked, Dr Prasert stressed.
“Companies that can afford to do so need to invest in maintaining and upgrading their labs and testing facilities to be in compliance with standards and rules of the International Seed Testing Association and other similar international organizations.”
He suggested the sector as a whole pool its resources and network to provide leasing and licensing solutions to provide smaller companies access to labs.
In closing, Dr Prasert stressed that the best protection was prevention through education and compliance with all prescriptive regulations and laws.
He advised companies already facing prosecution to honor due process and to exhaust every appeal avenue in an outstanding case before filing that case with a different court.
Ending the session, he advised against confessing or admitting to charges early on in proceedings.
“Once a confession is given, it is very difficult to change [one’s position] later on in the case, so you should always refute charges first. Deny, don’t confess. And make sure you have a good lawyer versed in seed and agriculture related laws on call,” he concluded.
Dr Prasert can be contacted through ThaSTA and APSA.