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article imageAnti-GMO group destroys trial vineyard in France

By Michael Cosgrove     Aug 15, 2010 in Science
A group of anti-GMO activists has destroyed a vineyard in Colmar, north-eastern France which had been developed for scientific trials. The site director condemned “a very serious act against scientific research.”
The incident happened at around 5am this morning, when a group of 61 activists from all over France entered the heavily-protected vineyard and uprooted 70 grape plants before alerting the press to their actions, according to Le Figaro.
Researchers deplored the loss of several years of research into vine disease and condemned what they called “a really dumb thing to do.”
The vineyard had been planted in 2005 by France’s National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) and had already been damaged by a lone activist in September 2009. He was fined €20,000 and ordered to pay €1 in symbolic damages. “That incident cost €16,000 ($20,400) to put right” said Colmar site INRA president Alain Masson, adding that “We had to re-graft the grape variety we were using. But this time they have uprooted everything and it’s going to be difficult to save anything.”
Tight security measures had been installed around the vineyard, including a high double fence, military-grade barbed-wire, various alarms and CCTV surveillance cameras. The alarms worked as designed but by the time police arrived ten minutes later the group had chained the entry shut and had uprooted all the plants.
The group members were taken to Colmar police commissariat for questioning before being released. The INRA has filed a complaint and the evidence will be presented to a local judge when investigations have been completed.
Masson said that the activists “Are making themselves out to be bio food supporters but they are opening the doors wide open to everything they condemn, including the major multinationals who are imposing the use of GMOs. They think they are fighting the millions of acres of GMOs which have been planted all over the world by destroying scientific trials financed by public money. That is just dumb. We had been authorized for four more years’ research after last year’s damage and our work was being checked by a surveillance committee."
One of the activists, Olivier Florent, who had come from the southern region of the Vaucluse, said that the group had been well organized. “We met up on Saturday evening for a briefing in the middle of the countryside in tents and in the rain, which proves how motivated we were. We acted without violence and with our faces uncovered. Public money is financing GMOs and we don’t want that.”
The French Ecology, Research and Agriculture ministers all “firmly condemned” the destruction of the plants, and their services issued a joint statement saying they were “shocked by this act of scandalous damage against exemplary trials which associate {…} scientists, professional agricultural organizations, local communities and organizations which support environmentally-safe GMOs.”
The research was centered upon trying to find a way of eliminating the Fanleaf virus, which is present in almost all wine-growing regions all over the world, killing vines and making land unfit for future wine growing.
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