Greenpeace activists occupy GM crop field (26/3/2004)

Greenpeace activists occupy GM crop field
Friday 26.03.2004, CET 18:07
March 26, 2004 11:23 AM

Around 40 Greenpeace activists have occupied a field in northern Switzerland – site of the country’s first outdoor trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat.

The protesters are calling for the experiment in Lindau near Zurich to be scrapped, claiming it poses a risk to the environment.

Greenpeace activists ringed the field with white sheets and chained themselves to fencing.

They hung banners proclaiming, "Stop genetically modified wheat".

They also called on the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, which is conducting the field trial, to destroy the seedlings.

"We are not going to abandon the fight just because the seeds are already in the ground," said Greenpeace spokesman Bruno Heinzer.

The trial finally went ahead last week following an intense legal battle which was in and out of the courts for more than a year.

Opposition groups, which include farmers, consumer organisations and Greenpeace, branded the government's decision to give the go-ahead "irresponsible".

Legal option

Opponents have the option of appealing to the Federal Court, Switzerland’s highest legal authority, but Greenpeace says this would be futile since the trial has already started.

They claim the GM wheat could have harmful effects on the soil and might cross-pollinate with other crops.

But the Federal Institute of Technology said the plants had been covered to avoid cross-pollination and that steps were being taken to keep birds and other animals away from the test field.

Rolf Probala, a spokesman for the institute, said on Friday that he regretted the fact that Greenpeace had given up the legal process.

Police are monitoring the situation but have not been asked to remove the protesters.

Nationwide vote

In September, environmental groups, consumers and farmers collected enough signatures to force a nationwide vote on the use of genetically modified crops.

The initiative calls for a five-year ban on GM plants for agricultural and commercial use.

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