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1999-08-20

Britain Debates Use of Special Police Force to Guard Biotech Crops

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An article this week in The Independent of London says that British ministers are secretly planning specialist round-the-clock police squads to guard genetically engineered crop trials from environmental protesters.

The move follows pleas for government help from biotechnology companies and farmers running the trials. They say they are unable to protect the crops from protesters’ organized raids.

According to The Independent, the special "GM forces" will be trained in restraint techniques and in ways of protecting the fields from what companies call "eco-warriors." The plans have been discussed in secret meetings in the past several weeks.

Unlike the US, where genetically engineered foods have crept into the supermarket shelves without a hint of public debate, Europe has resisted the introduction of biotechnology into its foods. Recent protests in Britain have drawn hundreds of people to the fields where biotech crops are grown for trials, where the protesters proceed to pull the plants out of the earth. In response, many activists have received court injunctions from biotech giants such as Monsanto, and face huge fines and even jail terms if they trespass onto Monsanto property. These tactics closely mirror the company’s procedures in the United States, where it routinely hires Pinkerton detectives to spy on farmers and sues those it says violated its complicated patent clauses.

Guests:

  • Melanie Jarman, environmental activist and "crop puller"–she recently received a court injunction from Monsanto for pulling some of its plants in a protest.
  • HUGH WARRICK, Editor of Splice, the magazine of the group Genetics Forum.

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