Anti-GM protestors wreck Bayer stand (3/9/2003)

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ANTI-GM protestors wreck the Bayer stand at British Potato 2003 event
Farmers Weekly interactive, 3 September 2003
By Tom Allen-Stevens in Newark

BIOTECH company Bayer CropScience has come under attack for its work in Genetically-modified crops at the British Potato 2003 event in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

Anti-GM protestors wrecked displays and overturned exhibits on the company's stand before they were overpowered by security staff at the event.

The campaigners claim that Bayer is now "public enemy no. 1" after it acquired the GM interests of Aventis.

"We can't have multi-national companies in control of our food - GM crops are destroying our world," said Jenny, who claimed no affiliation to a recognised campaign group.

With 75% of the GM trials in the UK growing Bayer seed, she said that the company was most likely to be the first to introduce commercial transgenic crops.

The campaigners handed out leaflets from an organisation called Bayer Hazard, which claims links to a German anti-Bayer group.

The leaflets allege Bayer once used heroin as a medicine and linked the company to the production of poison gas in World War II and nerve agents more recently.

"Given Bayer's obvious contempt for public health and accountability, it is hard to imagine how their control of GM crops in Europe can be anything but a disaster for farmers and the environment," said the leaflet.

Jenny, who said she was "just a concerned consumer", said that direct action against the company would be used to force it to pull out of GM crops.

"We're going to target Bayer wherever they are. We won't stop until we've totally destroyed their GM work," she warned.

The attack on the stand stunned the Bayer staff manning it, who were given personal threats by the campaigners during the affray.

Bayer CropScience said that the company "utterly condemned" the threats and that there was no place in any argument for attacks on individuals.

"This demonstration shows that these campaigners have lost their argument against GM," said Bayer spokesman Julian Little.

"All they can do now is hit out at the messenger and resort to name-calling."

He said the company was expecting demonstrations since it is due to release its annual results in Mannhelm, Germany, on Wednesday (3 September).

"But our stand at the Newark show is exclusively concerned with crop protection products for potatoes and has nothing to do with GM whatsoever."

He said that, like all German chemical companies, Bayer had been forced to produce poison gas during the war.

"Like many companies, there are aspects of our past that we are not proud of," said Dr Little.

But he stressed that no evidence had been substantiated that showed GM was harmful to either human health or the environment and the recent science review had backed this up.

The anti-GM campaigners were cautioned for causing a breach of the peace by police who attended the incident.

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