Fred Tait, a farmer and past vice-president of the National Farmers Union, said he believes genetically modified wheat will contaminate regular wheat.
"Here we have the Government of Canada, in combination with Monsanto, going to release a variety of wheat into our system that will totally contaminate our wheat supply."
ACTIVISTS TARGET BIOTECH WHEAT IN MANITOBA PROTEST
By Roberta Rampton
WINNIPEG, Manitoba - With banners flying, Greenpeace activists on Thursday launched the latest salvo against Monsanto Co.'s development of genetically modified wheat with a protest at a government research farm in Manitoba.
Greenpeace spokesman Lindsay Keenan was said in an interview with Reuters that the incident heralded more actions to come, adding, "Resistance is solid."
Five protesters were arrested during the four-hour incident Thursday at the Morden, Manitoba facility in which Greenpeace activists padlocked gates to the government research facility and unfurled signs from the roof.
Jim Bole, director of Agriculture Canada's cereal crop research in Manitoba, said the farm is growing one small plot of Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat, adding, "We do take it very seriously that these trials could cause harm to wheat markets and therefore it is important that they be conducted in accordance with regulatory protocols."
Larry Bohlen, director of health and environmental programs for Friends of the Earth, said, "There is a lot of buzz about biotech wheat now. The debate is heating up."
Along with Greenpeace, which is pursuing both consumer-and investor-oriented strategies against Monsanto, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and others are mounting anti-biotech wheat campaigns this year. The Sierra Club, which has more than 750,000 members, plans to present an "Amber Waves of Grain" protest petition later this month at an international agricultural conference in Sacramento hosted by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.
The petition has the support of more than 40 different U.S. organizations, said Sierra Club spokesman Jim Diamond. Friends of the Earth is also planning a biotech wheat protest at the same meeting and is drafting a "biotech wheat critique," according to Bohlen.
Greenpeacers lock Mba research station gates over genetically modified wheat
cp agriculture news
Thursday, Jun 05, 2003
MORDEN, Man. (CP) - About 15 Greenpeace demonstrators locked themselves inside an agricultural research station Thursday to protest the facility's testing of genetically modified wheat. "We want to let people know about the risks that GE (genetically engineered) wheat pose to the environment and pose to Canadian farmers and to let the Canadian government know that we will not let them carry on these close ties they have with Monsanto," said Holly Penfound, one of the protesters.
Monsanto Canada is an arm of multinational biotech giant Monsanto in St. Louis. Monsanto has developed wheat and canola varieties known as Roundup Ready because they are resistant to the herbicide. That makes if easier for farmers to control weeds.
Environmentalists have concerns the genetically modified strains may not be safe for human or animal consumption. They also fear the strains will contaminate general grain production.
The protesters arrived at the southern Manitoba station at Morden, about 100 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, about 6:30 a.m. They locked the station's gates, chained themselves to fences and replaced the Canadian flag with a Greenpeace flag. Employees were allowed in the building about 10 a.m. Morden police did not immediately say if any charges would be laid.
John Bole, science director with Agriculture Canada responsible for the Morden station, said the demonstrators did no damage to crops or the building. "They put padlocks on many of the gates and some of the doors of the research center and displayed banners objecting to the testing of genetically modified wheat that goes on at the research center," he said. "They had signs that read Quarantine and words like that. There was also a plane with a banner flying over.
"It certainly attracted some attention in small-town Morden."
The town has about 5,000 residents. About 150 are employed directly or indirectly by the research station, Bole said.
Fred Tait, a farmer and past vice-president of the National Farmers Union, said he believes genetically modified wheat will contaminate regular wheat. "Here we have the Government of Canada, in combination with Monsanto, going to release a variety of wheat into our system that will totally contaminate our wheat supply."
Bole countered: "That's why we're very cautious about making sure that it doesn't spread from these test sites."
The Morden station is growing Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat in a plot complete with barriers on which any pollen adheres so it doesn't affect other crops, Bole said. It is the fourth year the centre has tested the experimental strain for Monsanto, Bole said.
The company has applied to the federal government to get its Roundup Ready wheat reviewed, a necessary step before it can be marketed. It will be at least several years before it can be marketed, although some detractors say permission could come as early as next year.
Monsanto has said it will not introduce the new strain unless it is beneficial to farmers.
The Canadian Wheat Board says customers in more than 80 per cent of the markets it serves have expressed concerns over genetically modified wheat.
© The Canadian Press, 2003