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Greenpeace Takes Action Against Test Plot of GE Wheat in Switzerland

http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/Swissinfo.html?siteSect=111&sid=4822518
Swiss Info (Swiss Radio Website)

http://www.nzz.ch/2004/03/26/english/page-synd4822518.html
Neue Zurcher Zeitung (New Zurich Times, Switzerland)

Friday 26.03.2004

Greenpeace activists occupy GM crop field

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 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.

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.

Parliament rejected imposing a moratorium last June, mostly because of fears
that this would jeopardise Switzerland's standing in the field of
agricultural research.

Those backing the moratorium argue it would not stifle research.

It would allow crop trials in open fields, provided there were strict
controls.