GENTECH archive 8.96-97
Gene-modified crop sabotaged in Ireland
NATURE, 9 October 1997
Dublin. Ireland's first genetically modified crop has been
sabotaged by a group of environmental activists styling
themselves the Gaelic Earth Liberation Front. Police
launched a criminal investigation into the destruction of a
one-acre crop of genetically modified sugar beet, being
grown under licence by US chemical company Monsanto
on a state research farm in County Carlow, about 50 miles
The crop had been genetically modified to resist the
company's herbicide Roundup, and a three-year trial had
been approved by Ireland's Environmental Protection
Agency, which insists there is no threat to the environment.
But, despite the assurance, the project caused a storm of
protest, with environmentalists staging demonstrations,
mounting pickets and taking court action in an effort to
Six months ago, the Irish High Court finally gave
Monsanto the go-ahead for the crop trials. But such was
the level of protest that the company abandoned plans to
conduct the trials at three separate Irish farms, using only
the Carlow research farm.
In the attack, much of the almost mature beet was
destroyed, and the rest dug up. The Gaelic Earth Liberation
Front, a previously unknown group, said in a statement:
"This was Ireland's first genetically engineered crop and we
hope it will be the last."
Patricia McKenna, a Green Party member who represents
Dublin in the European Parliament, praised those
responsible, adding: "If Monsanto, which was carrying out
the trials, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which
licensed them, insist on playing games with the Irish
environment, then fair play to those who challenge them
through peaceful direct action."
Monsanto described her comment as "extraordinary, given
that this was an illegal act". It said it was "shocked and
dismayed at this act of wanton damage", and accused those
responsible of having no interest in scientific research or the
benefits it could bring. Monsanto intends to resume the
trials as soon as possible.
A spokesman for Genetic Concern, an Irish
environmentalist lobby which led the opposition, denied any
involvement in the sabotage, or knowledge of the new
group. But he added: "We're not surprised. There are a lot
of people very annoyed the tests went ahead without
adequate public debate."