Canada Activists Protest at
International Biotech Conference

The Canadian Press (CP)
September 16, 2002

Saskatoon biotechnology conference begins with activists on centre stage

SASKATOON (CP) _ A mock-Frankenstein's monster and the Raging Grannies
took centre stage as an international conference on agricultural biotechnology
kicked off Sunday.

There are 800 delegates at the conference but they were overshadowed on
opening day by 40 activists who danced, sang and protested outside the
conference centre.

Patents on life hold the sick and hungry hostage,'' read one banner held by
an activist. No more government money for biotech corporations,'' read
another. Support organics.''

Girls in colourful clothes danced and sang, while a green-headed monster
represented the genetic experiment gone wrong. The Raging Grannies sang
songs poking fun at the corporations they fear are bringing genetically
engineered foods to market before long-term studies have proven them safe.
Mixing fish genes with tomatoes to make them stand the cold better is
scary,'' said Dorothy Hannon of the Grannies.

Genetic engineering is probably going to mean the end of organic farming in
Saskatchewan if we end up with crops that are out there contaminating other
crops,' ' said Doug Bone, an organic farmer from the Eston-Elrose area.
Bone is one of two certified organic grain farmers in Saskatchewan who have
launched a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto and Aventis, which sell
genetically modified canola.

Inside the conference, scientists talked about the ways genetically
modifying food crops helps to feed the hungry by making them more resistant
to pests, drought and frost.

Some foods are also changed to increase their vitamin and mineral content,
said Hubert Zandstra, a food and nutrition scientist who is director general
of the International Potato Centre, which does research in the Andes and
other mountain areas.

He said changing crops to make them more resistant to pests helps the
environment by reducing the need for pesticides.

This is especially important in poor countries in Asia, South America and
Africa where illiteracy is common, resulting in chemicals being used
improperly, Zandstra said.

There are places where you can hardly breathe because of the pesticides,''
he said.

The conference wraps up Wednesday.
(Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

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