UK campaigners bare all to expose genetics 'cover-up'

Five campaigners against genetic engineering spent three hours naked on a
company roof in London on Tuesday, in order to expose what they called the
"cover-up" of genetically modified food.

The protesters, who included a mother of three, a songwriter and an organic
farmer, braved strong winds and low temperatures to hold a banner reading
'Expose the Genetix Cover-up' on the Soho roof of advertising agency Bartle
Bogle Hegarty.

The agency was contracted a month by the US-based biotechnology
multinational Monsanto to run a four-month project to look at consumers'
perceptions of biotechnology and to investigate "how to get the facts
across most effectively" in the face of strong opposition from
environmentalists.

The naked campaigners intitially refused to come down from Bartle Bogle
Hegarty's roof until Monsanto could fulfil three demands: that they give a
"guarantee that we will suffer no side-effects from eating genetically
altered food produced by them, now or at any time in the future"; that they
"guarantee that mutant DNA will not leak into our environment"; and that if
not, "will they accept full financial and moral liability for any damage
caused by these products to people or the planet?"

Bartle Bogle Hegarty refused to speak to the press during the
demonstration, but they did conduct an off-the-record negotiation with two
supporters in order to convince the naked protesters to come down.  Despite
a significant police presence and a big crowd of onlookers, no arrests were
made.

A press statement by the protesters accused Monsanto of "playing God with
DNA, and using consumers as guinea pigs".  It continued: "The naked truth
is that the outcome of Monsanto's global experiment cannot be predicted in
advance.  Already, food which has been doctored with genes from viruses and
bacteria is being sold, unlabelled and untested, in our shops.  Other new
crops being grown in our fields have already begun to spread mutant DNA to
related plants in the wild.  The natural world is being re-designed for
private profit, while agencies like Bartle Bogle Hegarty are paid to keep
consumers in the dark about the hazards."

But speaking to the OneWorld News Service, Monsanto's Head of Public
Affairs in Europe Tom McDermott reaffirmed his faith in the safety of their
genetically engineered soya: "The products that we are responsible for have
been reviewed extensively by regulatory agencies in the UK, the European
Union, the United States, Canada, Japan and other countries around the
world, and in every case they have been determined to be safe for people
and for the environment."

Responding to the naked campaigners' demands for a cast-iron safety
guarantee McDermott continued: "There is no such thing as a 100% guarantee
in life - we can't offer that about any proposition.  But we can say that
genetically modified foods are as safe as any other food that people
consume, and we do take responsiblity for all our products."

McDermott also denies that Monsanto's contract with Bartle Bogle Hegarty,
whose other clients include Golden Wonder crisps, Levi's jeans, Coca Cola
and the beer makers Heineken, is designed to "cover up" the dangers of
genetic engineering.  "We have engaged this agency to work on a research
project to help us understand how best to speak to the consumer - this
doesn't mean we're going to have a big advertising campaign.  In a free
society we are entitled to present our case along with anybody else."

The OneWorld News Service on the Web: http://www.oneworld.org/news/


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