Bayer target of noisy protest / Groups sue USDA (13/11/2003)

Bayer to be target of noisy protest
ic Berkshire, Nov 13 2003

PROTESTERS from all over England are heading for Newbury this Thursday to hold a big noise demo outside Bayer's headquarters in Newbury.

An organiser from London said she expected at least 100 opponents of GM crops to take part in the all day protest starting at 10am out-side the Strawberry Hill premises.  They are urging supporters to "bring whistles, airhorns, megaphones and anything to make some noise and let Bayer know we don't want GM!"

The campaigners are under-stood to be coming from as far away as Leeds, Brighton, Manchester, Totnes and London.  They say that Bayer Crop-science is pushing for the commercialisation of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the UK. Bayer owns over 90% of the GM crop varieties seeking approval here.

They say if Bayer gets its way this country will be flooded with GM crops, all of which will end up irreversibly released into the environment and contaminating our food.

Bayer spokesman Steve Painter said the company had been aware of the planned protest for a few weeks and had consulted the local authorities about it.

"We have taken precautionary measures and have our plans and procedures to minimise any disruption.

"We anticipate it will be peaceful and lawful and so long as it is they should be allowed to proceed.We want to carry on business as far as possible."

The protest in Newbury is symbolic against Bayer because no crop science work is done here.  A police spokesman said they were aware there is going to be a protest.  "The police role will be to ensure they maintain a peaceful and lawful protest."

The demonstration is part of a larger national campaign to put pressure on Bayer, to try to force it to withdraw its plans to profit from the commercial growing of GM crops in this country.

Direct action has stopped some crop trials and now they want to stop Bayer producing GM crops commercially.

Last Wednesday activists entered the Bayer Crop Science chemicals facility in Widnes, Cheshire. It also has facilities at Norwich, and in North Yorkshire.

The gauntlet was thrown down to Bayer in Newbury previously on October 10 when three protesters who were cycling from Totnes in Devon to London for the Tractors and trolleys demo, stopped at the firm's UK HQ.

Bayer Cropscience was formed in 2002 when Bayer AG, the German-based pharmaceutical and chemical company, aquired Aventis Cropscience. Aventis Crop-science was a combination of Hoechst and Schering(AgrEvo) and Rhone-Poulenc.

Although Bayer Cropscience is a new company, it's previous incarnations have been heavily involved in the genetic engineering of food in additon to conventional agrochemical business.
Green groups sue USDA to stop bio-pharm planting
Thursday, November 13, 2003
By Randy Fabi, Reuters

WASHINGTON - A coalition of environmental groups and consumer advocates sued the U.S. Agriculture Department in federal court Wednesday to try to halt the experimental planting of biotech crops engineered to make medicine.

Environmentalists, consumer advocates, and food industry groups have urged the USDA to impose stricter regulations on pharmaceutical crops, fearing the unapproved plants could accidentally slip into the food supply.

Biotech companies like Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co. have experimented with corn, soybeans, tobacco, rice, and sugar crops as a cheaper way to mass-produce medicines to treat a range of human ailments.

The coalition, which includes Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety, accused the USDA of allowing the experimental crops to be planted in open fields without assessing the risk to other crops, wildlife, and humans.

The lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Hawaii, one of the top producing states of pharmaceutical crops.

"The existing regulatory system merely assumes that growing these crops is harmless, even in places where they can contaminate the environment and get into the food supply," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director for Center for Food Safety.

A USDA spokesman would not comment on the lawsuit.

The biotech industry said USDA's regulatory system was effective.

"This lawsuit can only serve to impede the potential medical benefits of the technology," said Lisa Dry, a spokeswoman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Before field-testing pharmaceutical crops, biotech companies must obtain a USDA permit that sets strict planting requirements to minimize environmental risks. This includes planting experimental crops at certain distances away from other crops and cleaning farm equipment.

A Monsanto spokesman said the company has decided to shut down its plant-made pharmaceuticals program to cut costs and focus its resources on its seeds and biotechnology businesses. The St. Louis-based company said it expects to complete the process by the end of the year.

In March, the USDA imposed tougher rules on planting industrial and pharmaceutical crops after a Texas biotech firm was accused of accidentally contaminating other crops. Privately held ProdiGene Inc. last year agreed to pay about $3 million to settle the matter.

Source: Reuters

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