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7-Misc: Will Monsanto accuse Prince Charles as "co-conspirator"?



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TITLE:  Monsanto's ham fists biotechnology
SOURCE: St. Louis Post Dispatch, USA
DATE:   April 15, 1999

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Monsanto's ham fists biotechnology

Monsanto Co. is using draconian laws and ham fists in Britain to try to suppress environmentalists' opposition to its genetically modified crops. Last December, the activist group Genetix Snowball printed its "Handbook for Action," detailing the location of Monsanto test plots and suggesting civil disobedience. The pamphlet was sent to about 650 people, including Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Monsanto wants the names and addresses of everyone who got a copy. It plans to send each person a warning: If they incite or take action against Monsanto they could be charged as a "co-conspirator." The company had previously gotten a court injunction against protesters. Such heavy-handed tactics can only reinforce the company's image abroad as a corporate bully and create more resistance in the public's mind. "The collection and retention of names and addresses of people by Monsanto is very worrying for us," John Wadham, of the British civil rights group Liberty, told the!
!
 London Times. "These could be people who have merely read a book and are in subsequent danger of being caught up in court proceedings."

Last year, Monsanto won an injunction against five members of Genetix Snowball who had pulled up 200 genetically engineered plants at a test plot in England. The injunction also covered the group's press secretary, who hadn't uprooted any plants. He was listed as a "co-conspirator" for inciting the public to break the law. Monsanto has the right to protect its property from vandalism. Vandalism is ugly, but so is threatening and intimidating protesters. One has to wonder when Monsanto's board of directors will awaken from its bad dream: its public relations strategy is a shambles, is costing the shareholders millions if not billions of dollars and is raising even greater public fear of genetically modified foods. Perhaps the company should take a tip from Genetix Snowball, which may be losing on the legal front but faring far better in the public relations war. When digging up bioengineered crops, the group's handbook advises: Decorate your spade to look friendly. Avoid tools !
!
like scythes. Threats, lawsuits and ham fists will cost them more than a few billable hours.



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