Anti-GM Attacks Destroy German Test Plots

Trial and tribulation. A destroyed potato field near Gross Lüsewitz.

Federal Ministry of Education and Research

BERLIN—Vandals in Germany have destroyed two experimental sites growing genetically modified (GM) wheat and potatoes. On the night of 9 July, half a dozen masked attackers overpowered the security guard watching over test fields in Gross Lüsewitz, near Rostock. They then destroyed a field of wheat resistant to fungal diseases and a field of potatoes engineered to produce cyanophycin, an amino acid polymer that could potentially be used to make plastics. The fields were part of a trial funded by the German government to develop a more-efficient testing system for gm crops. Two nights later, a dozen attackers threatened guards with pepper spray and bats at a demonstration garden in Üplingen, in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. They destroyed a field of potatoes and trampled wheat and maize. Police estimate the damages from the attacks at more than €250,000. No suspects have been arrested.

Kerstin Schmidt, head of Biovativ, the company that owns the test plots in Gross Lüsewitz, told German media that the company would continue its work. Politicians across the political spectrum have condemned the attacks, but the local Green party in Rostock went ahead with a long-planned anti-GM demonstration at the Gross Lüsewitz test site on Monday. A speaker for the local party said she could "understand but not support" the attacks.

Activists also destroyed a GM wheat plot in Australia yesterday. Meanwhile, researchers at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, U.K., said today that they want to "engage" with protestors who plan to hold a rally at their lab on 23 July. Activists want to dump a trailer load of non-GM potatoes at the lab to protest the development of a blight-resistant potato; the scientists say they want a meaningful debate. "We welcome the opportunity to discuss our work with people who are interested, for whatever reason, in what we are doing," the leader of the potato project, Jonathan Jones, said in a statement today.