GENTECH archive


Ship Boarded In Colombia Protest Against Gene Crop


Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 21:03:22 -0800
From: Bruce Martin <>

Saturday February 20 2:29 PM ET

Ship Boarded In Colombia Protest Against Gene Crop
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Environmental activists briefly boarded a ship carrying
genetically-modified U.S. corn, also known as maize, in Colombia Saturday as
part of a protest campaign against so-called ``Frankenstein'' foods.

Environmental group Greenpeace said five members from Argentina, New
Zealand, Australia and Colombia used jet skis to reach the cargo ship
Abydos, which was traveling from New Orleans, shortly before it docked at
Colombia's Caribbean port of Santa Marta.

Shore-based protester Isabelle Meister of Switzerland said the group spoke
briefly with the ship's captain to complain against the lack of import and
export controls on genetically modified foods. The protesters then left the

Media in Britain, where a debate is raging on such foods, have dubbed the
crops ``Frankenstein'' food in a reference to the fictional mutant monster

``We're protesting against transgenic crops being dumped on these countries
without them even being told,'' Meister told Reuters in a phone interview.
``This was a peaceful protest to draw attention to the issue.''

Scores of other demonstrators in the port unfurled banners saying ``No
genetic imperialism.''

Meister said she did not know how large the U.S. cargo was but said Colombia
has imported more than 1.6 million tons of U.S. corn between March 1998 and
January 1999, about 20 percent of which was genetically-modified.

The protest came as the United Nations held a week-long conference on
genetically-modified foods in the nearby Colombian resort of Cartagena.

More than 500 delegates from 150 countries are trying to hammer out a
protocol that would establish strict guidelines for the import, export and
use of genetically-modified crops.

The biotechnology industry has pumped billions of dollars into engineering
new high-yield and disease-resistant strains of crops, especially corn, soy
and cotton, by mixing genes and DNA from other plants and even animals.

Critics say the crops could cause widespread environmental damage by
cross-pollinating with wild species and harm plants, insects and animals
right up the food chain. They fear food made with the crops could pose
health risks, for example by causing allergic reactions or resistance to
certain medicines.

Europe has led calls for strict controls on the movement and use of
genetically-modified food including compensation if the crops produce
dangerous side-effects.

In London, seven protesters were arrested last week after dumping
genetically modified U.S. soya beans at the prime minister's official

Biotechnology industry representatives, however, say the crops are safe and
will provide a means to feed the world's growing population using existing
farm land without encroaching on uncultivated areas.

The U.N. conference in Cartagena is due to end Tuesday when all the
countries involved are due to adopt a protocol.

U.N. officials concede, however, that talks have been difficult and complex
as top grain exporters such as the United States, Canada, Australia and
Argentina battle against unwanted restrictions on exports.

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