French anti-science vandals invade a Belgium farm and destroy crops

posted in: News | 9
Phytophthora infestans causes ‘late blight’ in potatoes. In regions of potato cultivation with a temperate climate, like Belgium, this is the single most dangerous disease. The disease costs farmers in Belgium about 55 million euros annually, and controlling it causes significant environmental pressure. However, in the last few years a number of resistant varieties based on conventional plant breeding techniques were introduced to the market, and work is being done on developing genetically modified Phytophthora-resistant lines.
These GM plant are environmentally much more friendly than some existing  methods of treating fungus attack on plants  such as the commonly used toxic copper sulphate.
But the GM potatoes will not be used if the anti-GM fanatics have their way.
A research field trial of these blight-resistant potatoes has just been destroyed in Belgium.
Belgian field trial of potato plants.
29 May 2011
Expatia report that environmental activists stormed a field of genetically modified potatoes in Belgium Sunday, breaking through a security cordon in a raid that left police and protesters injured, authorities and organisers said.
They state that police briefly detained around 40 people taking part in the “Field Liberation Movement”, which aimed to destroy the research crop in the northwestern town of Wetteren, according to Belga news agency.
Around 10 officers were slightly injured, according to police, while organisers said eight on their side were manhandled.
Expatia report that more than 200 people took part in the protest but only a few managed to sneak through fences and a police line protecting the field, said Franciska Soler, of the Volunteer Reapers of France which participated in the event.
“A certain number of potato plants were destroyed,” activist Soler told AFP.
  • Talking to activists about the science didn’t work.
Jo Bury, the director of the VIB science research institute that planted the potatoes, said around 100 scientists had tried to talk the actists out of vandalism.
“We are deeply shocked about the violent actions by the activists of the Field Liberation Movement. The field trial with blight resistant potatoes was almost entirely destroyed. Our hearts are with the scientists whose hard work was destroyed today.”
“Althought his is a dark day for science as a whole, we want to thank all 350 scientists and farmers who came out and supported Save Our Science. It was a strong message to the world that we believe that science has an important role to play in the development of environmental friendly agriculture” Geert Angenon, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Geert De Jaeger, UGent, Rony Swennen, K.U.Leuven, Jeroen Crappé.
  • Information about the field trial:
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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.