GE - reports on US actions against crops
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- Subject: GE - reports on US actions against crops
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- Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 12:17:12 +0100
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From: "annie oakley" <email@example.com>
Vandals destroy experimental corn at U.C.
Latest attack seen as protest of genetic engineering
Thursday September 16, 1999
By William Brand
BERKELEY -- Environmental vandals have struck again at the University of
California, Berkeley -- destroying more experimental corn plants in an
protest against genetic engineering.
However, once again the plants destroyed were not part of genetic engineering
experiments, the university said. The vandalism is the latest in a series of
attacks against bio-engineered plants that have spread from Europe to the
This time, more than 500 corn plants in two rows were stomped and crushed in a
small field at the Oxford Tract at Oxford and Virginia streets, a half-block
from the main UC Berkeley campus.
Capt. Bill Cooper of the campus police estimated damage at $30,000. "We're
treating this as felony vandalism," Cooper said.
On Aug. 2, vandals smashed 14 rows of corn at the university's Gill Tract in
Albany. Corn plants being grown by the same researcher, plant genetics
student Nick Kaplinsky, were destroyed in both raids.
Plants being grown by other researchers also were destroyed in each raid.
Kaplinsky was the only researcher hurt by both attacks.
In the Oxford Tract raid, someone posted a sign offering a reward of "20,000
bags of organic corn seed for information leading to the arrest or conviction
of corporate sellouts."
In the Gill Tract attack, an individual wrote a letter to the Daily
Californian, the student newspaper, claiming responsibility.
Steve Lindow, professor of plant pathology, said the destroyed corn was
conventional experiments and did not involve trans-genetic engineering.
The College of Natural Resources recently received a $30 million, long-term
grant from Novartis, the agricultural company, for basic plant genetics
research. The grant has been the subject of some controversy at the
Corporate research grants did not fund any of the experiments attacked, Lindow
said. "All of these corn crops were part of basic plant genetics experiments
funded by the federal government," he said.
Trans-genetic engineering is a controversial process where genes from other
plants are inserted into a corn plant's DNA to make the corn resistant to
or for other reasons.
There have been increasing attacks aimed at genetically engineered crops.
Besides the Berkeley attacks, a sugar beet experiment at UC Davis was also
destroyed recently, a university official said.
Bio-engineering opponents fear that genetically-altered plants could cross
naturally with wild plants and cause untold havoc in the natural world. They
also express concern about the safety of food from genetically engineered
Fear is so great in Europe that some countries have shunned such crops.
Recently, the giant Japanese brewer Kirin said that beginning in 2001 it would
not brew beer from genetically altered corn.
Berkeley researchers said the Gill and Oxford tract attacks were totally
misguided and conventionally grown corn plants were needlessly destroyed.
"This all feels pretty horrible," one affected researcher, who asked for
anonymity, said. "The Gill tract attack alone set a lot of us back six months.
In Nick's case, he's been delayed a year."
Capt. Cooper said security had already been stepped up at the Gill tract and
more security has been assigned to the Oxford site as well. The site -- an
block between Hearst Avenue and Virginia -- is fenced, but access has always
The tip about the raid came in an anonymous Tuesday afternoon voice mail
message left at the Daily Californian, the student newspaper. Capt. Cooper
the raid happened sometime between 7 p.m. Monday and 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
University spokeswoman Marie Felde said Chancellor Robert Berdahl and other
officials are very concerned about the attacks. "We're going to do all we can
to find out who is responsible," Felde said.
"Our researchers have put years into developing and evaluating some of these
corn plants. It's a tremendous personal loss and a great research loss."
September 15, 1999
Vandals Strike Corn Plant Project
Resembles August attack in Albany
Plants grown for a UC Berkeley research project were destroyed yesterday by a
group considered to be opposed to genetic engineering.
A group called Reclaim the Seeds took responsibility for the destruction of
approximately 1,000 corn plants at a research field located at the
of Oxford and Virginia streets.
The vandalism occurred sometime between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon,
according to student researcher Nick Kaplinsky, whose corn crop was
Kaplinsky said he did not know why his plants were targeted. Although many
environmental groups have said transgenic plants are a threat to the natural
agricultural process, Kaplinsky said he was not involved in growing such
Transgenic corn, which is genetically engineered, is different from naturally
growing corn because it has a sequence of DNA that is not originally found in
its genetic code, according to Kaplinsky.
I dont know why they hit this corn; theres no transgenic corn here, Kaplinsky
said. None of the corn that was growing and none of our research is
commercially applicable. Its basic research.
Basic research the type Kaplinsky is pursuing aims to determine the
principles governing a particular area of science, whereas applied research
leads to practical applications of the discoveries made from basic research.
An anonymous caller informed The Daily Californian yesterday afternoon of the
destruction of the plants. The caller simply said there were photo
opportunities at the Oxford Tract.
At approximately 2:50 p.m., UC police arrived on the scene to gather evidence
and take photographs of the damaged corn.
One piece of evidence left at the scene was a sign posted on a stake in the
center of the destroyed corn that read, Reward 20,000 bags of organic corn
for information leading to the arrest or conviction of corporate sell-outs.
The sign resembled a UC Berkeley reward notice for information regarding the
Aug. 2 destruction of 14 rows of corn plants at the Gil Tract research
Jill Goetz, a spokesperson for the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources,
said college officials are concerned about the increasing number of attacks on
We are distressed when any of our research is vandalized it is of major
to us, Goetz said. Weve turned the case over to campus police and they will
make a thorough investigation.
An anonymous statement from the group claiming responsibility was faxed to The
Daily Californian via Genetix Alert, which relays anonymous information
regarding environmental actions to the news media.
We are not going to demand anything, the group said in the statement. We are
not going to ask for anything. We are going to RECLAIM THE SEEDS. We are going
to stop genetic mutation.
Although there are different groups claiming responsibility for the two recent
attacks on plant research, Kaplinsky said he doubts the vandalism was done by
It would really surprise me if they were a different group, he said.
Attacks on biologists and companies that research genetic engineering in
are on the rise, according to Jeffrey Tufenkian, a spokesperson for Genetix
This kind of action is really a part of growing rejection of genetic
engineering; its widespread in Great Britain and throughout Europe and its
beginning to grow in the U.S., Tufenkian said. Were seeing a lot more of these
actions happening in recent months.
sorry i dont have the press release for this action right now but heres a news
article that was written about it. the comment made about the corn not
is ridiculous- later in the article it is confirmed that the corn was
Roundup-Ready. this is the 6th crop action at UC (three at Berkeley, three at
Protesters rip up UCD test crops: Beets, corn hit by foes of genetic
By Ted Bell
Bee Staff Writer
(Published Sept. 17, 1999)
A group of guerrilla gardeners has laid claim to the destruction this week of
experimental sugar beet and corn crops at the University of California, Davis,
marking the latest in a string of attacks aimed at genetic engineering of
In the most recent assault, a group calling itself "Reclaim the Seeds" said
"plant defenders" wore masks and used "guerrilla gardening gear" to attack a
UCD field early Tuesday and uproot a quarter-acre of genetically altered sugar
The group, in a two-page communique, called the raid an act of "self-defense"
against chemical giant Monsanto, which contracted with UCD for the test
Reclaim the Seeds also claimed responsibility for destroying two acres of corn
at UC Davis last month.
A UC Davis spokeswoman confirmed the two attacks, and said a third raid was
mounted earlier this week on another experimental corn crop at the Davis
The two corn crops were not genetically engineered, said Pat Bailey, UCD
spokeswoman. Like the targeted sugar beets, the corn plants were destroyed by
having their roots pulled or their tops cut off.
An estimate of dollar loss was not immediately available.
Judith Kjelstrom, associate director of the UCD Biotechnology Program, said
participants are getting concerned about security.
"With shootings in high schools and churches, you don't know how far this
emotional, radical behavior could go," Kjelstrom said. "It's a scary thing."
On Thursday, Martina McGloughlin, director of the UCD program, met with
Associate Vice Chancellor Andre Lauchli to discuss security for agricultural
fields, laboratories and a new campus mice research facility.
Bitter disagreement exists worldwide over the value of genetically engineered
strains of common crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton.
Supporters say such technology can make crops more resistant to traditional
enemies of agriculture, such as pests and fungus, and resistant to the overuse
of pesticides and herbicides.
Critics say genetic engineering can lead to unpredictable changes in food
crops, higher levels of toxins, damage to the ecosystem and hazardous effects
for generations to come.
About half of this year's U.S. soybean crop and one-third of the nation's corn
harvest are genetically engineered, a spokeswoman for Monsanto said Thursday.
Vandalism against the genetic engineering food business has been more
publicized in Europe and Japan, but such attacks appear to be growing in this
country, university officials say.
In the past month, vandals have struck UC Berkeley twice, destroying 500
experimental corn plants on the East Bay campus and raiding a test field in
neighboring community of Albany.
In both cases, the university denied that the targeted crops were involved in
genetic engineering experiments.
"After this week, we are getting quite concerned," Kjelstrom said.
In its UCD attacks, the Reclaim the Seeds group targeted "Round-Up Ready"
a strain designed to resist the Round-up herbicide so it can be applied in
reduced doses to kill surrounding weeds.
The group contends that biotechnology is untested, dangerous and is a tool of
companies interested only in profits. Its communique was released through
Genetix Alert, a news distribution center for anti-genetic engineering groups.
In its two-page missive, Reclaim The Seeds said the Davis raids were a protest
against Monsanto, UCD and the global genetic engineering takeover.
"This was also done in response to UC Davis' recent collaboration with Jackson
Laboratory, the world's largest distributor of genetically altered mice."
The Maine-based Jackson Laboratory announced in July that it will establish a
West Coast operation titled JAX Research Systems at UCD. Jackson rears and
sells the world's greatest variety of mutant mice for scientific research.
Jeffrey Tufenkian, a spokesman for Genetix Alert, said Thursday that his
organization does not commit illegal acts and does not know Reclaim the Seeds'
But the protest movement is based on real problems involving the
commercialization of biotechnology, Tufenkian said.
"The technologies are untested," he said. "There are potential problems with
the cross-breeding of GE crops with the wild varieties, thus causing genetic
pollution. There are also problems with the effects on wild animals."
In response to demands by environmentalists, Gerber, the nation's largest
of baby food, announced in July that it is dropping suppliers who use genetic
engineering in their corn and soybean products.
Lori Fisher, spokeswoman for the St. Louis-based Monsanto, said agricultural
experiments can benefit the environment -- by reducing or eliminating
herbicidal spraying, for example.
Vandals may be defeating the very cause they claim to represent, Fisher said.
"We don't have a problem with people who want to demonstrate if they have
legitimate concerns with this technology," Fisher said.
"But, obviously, to destroy trials designed to answer some of the very
questions they have is to destroy the evidence that can provide those