The recent report from Canada's Royal Society may have exposed how little the government scritinises the biotech industry. Not so the opposition...
Protests over modified crops to escalate: CSIS
February 12, 2001
OTTAWA - Canada`s spy agency predicts an increase in protests -- including acts of vandalism and sabotage -- by militant opponents of bio-engineering and the genetic modification of crops.
In a newly obtained report, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service cites attacks on an Ottawa corn plot and hundreds of British Columbia trees as examples of the growing anger about modified organisms in Canada.
``Destruction of genetically engineered plants has become common in Europe and Great Britain, but the activity has only recently come to North America.``
A declassified version of the confidential intelligence report, completed last August, was obtained by Southam News under the Access to Information Act. Portions of the document were withheld.
The report is the latest evidence of the spy agency`s interest in radical elements of the anti-globalization movement, which has seen opponents of genetic modification join activists who support animal rights and environmental issues.
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants or animals whose basic makeup has been altered by humans through manipulation of DNA sequences.
Though scientists have long engaged in selective breeding of closely related species, genetic manipulation can help combine species that would ordinarily never become intertwined. For example, scorpion genes have been introduced into certain corn crops.
Advocates argue such techniques can improve crop quality and yield. Critics object to genetic engineering out of concern about possible ill effects on health and the environment.
``Anti-GMO protests are likely to increase and to become more prominent in association with anti-globalization demonstrations,`` says the CSIS report.
There have been numerous peaceful protests about modified foods in recent months, though the spy agency identifies a trend toward violent action.
``For the most part, activists associated with genetic engineering protests confine their actions to vandalism, including destruction of scientific research and facilities, use of graffiti and signage, and occasional harassment by correspondence,`` says the report.
Early last August, a group called Democraseed attacked a plot at the federally run Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, chopping down and uprooting corn stalks.
A communiqué released the following day claimed responsibility for the acts on behalf of a group comprising ``farmers, artists, government workers, hi-tech workers, researchers, teachers and social workers.``
Estimated damage was $50,000 and the project was set back one year.
CSIS says Democraseed thought it was attacking genetically modified crops, but actually destroyed a test field used to develop corn that would be resistant to root worm.
``The fact that Democraseed mistakenly attacked a regular corn plot obviously was not of concern to the group.``
The Democraseed communiqué anticipated such an error, saying it would be the fault of the government for not ``acting in an open, transparent and democratic way,`` notes CSIS.
The spy agency also points out the man charged with pushing a cream pie into Jean Chrétien`s face last summer in Charlottetown voiced his opposition to genetically modified foods among other political concerns.
In October, 1999, a group called Reclaim the Genes said it destroyed 500 trees at a University of British Columbia research facility. Another group claimed credit for chopping down 3,000 trees at a forestry centre near Victoria.
There have been many such incidents in Europe and, in the last couple of years, dozens of examples in the United States.
The Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for a December, 1999, fire that partially destroyed a Michigan State University agriculture building.
Last June, the Anarchist Golfing Association wrecked experimental grass plots in Oregon, causing about $500,000 in damage.