GM Corn Protesters Send Message | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 03.08.2005
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GM Corn Protesters Send Message

The issue of genetically-modified corn strikes a nerve with many Europeans. To vent their indignation about the lifting of a moratorium, ecology campaigners protested at a GM cornfield near Berlin.

Some people would like to go so far with GM corn in Germany

Some people would like to go so far with GM corn in Germany

On Sunday, up to 400 ecology campaigners from western Europe flocked to a small village some 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside of Berlin to join forces for a protest action which they called "voluntary field liberation." Their plan was to symbolically destroy some genetically modified (GM) corn in a field outside of the village Hohenstein.

One organizer, Michael Grolm, said the protesters did not come to destroy the crops in the field, but the provocative nature of the name, directed towards a farmer who is growing GM corn on his land, forced police to counter with a strong presence. According to Grolm, the large number of police officers needed to protect the relatively small parcel of land meant the protest was a success.

In his words, farmers and companies who want to propagate the advantages of GM grains, will have a "difficult time" if so many police officers are needed to protect farmland where GM crops are supposed to be grown.

Protesters see two-fold danger

Grüne Gentechnik in den USA

Opponents feel that not enough research has been done to assure that genetically modified grain, here soy beans, is safe

Ecology proponents and anti-globalization protesters showed up from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France to demonstrate against what they believe to be a two-fold danger brought on by an increased usage of GM crops.

Some were enraged by the fact that the cornfield directly neighbors a natural park, calling it a provocation.

"It isn't clear what genetically modified grains do," said Martin Webber, who spearheaded the campaign in Hohenstein.

Webber said that he has heard of studies that some species crucial to ecosystems, such as butterflies, have been dying at much higher rates than usual when farmers grow GM crops in their fields.

While some demonstrators were concerned about the possible health hazards and/or effects to human genetic material, others saw the spread of GM corn in another light, namely the light of bright money.

"Many people concentrate on the food aspect," said Christoph Asseuer. "I'd rather concentrate on the fact of a monopoly that a certain corporation holds on the seeds (...) The variety of seeds is in great danger of being throttled by the attempt to monopolize certain seeds and take certain seeds out of the market."

Monsanto bears responsibility

Grüne Gentechnik in den USA

Monsanto is a leading producer of genetically modified crops

Asseuer didn't specifically name which company he was talking about, but the one bearing the brunt of attacks from most GM opponents is Monsanto.

Martin Webber also saw sinister motives behind Monsanto's GM marketing.

"They will set up a monopoly situation here," he said. "It's like in India or South America. People from there say sooner or later that you lose your farm because you can't compete anymore. I don't want that so I'm going to throw them out."

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