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[SANET-MG] secret genetic tests
In EU ,US and Canada genetic field tests are undertaken in dark secrecy,
for the specious reason that companies undertaking tests fear
demonstrations. I believe that the real reason for secrecy is hidden
from the public. Companies and government agencies need only provide
adequate round the clock security for their test sites. there is no
reason that government should spare corporations the expense of security.
The real reason is that such tests lead to gene flow to crops and weeds
and in the case of crops producing pharmaceuticals the tests may lead to
surface, groundwater and air particulate pollution from plant debris.
Governments are providing companies with secrecy so that humans effected
by the sites will have no means of linking their injury to the tests.
For example, Agriculture Canada undertook secret field tests of crops
bearing a potent human gene causing immune suppression in the general
area in which I live. Any monitoring and the location of the the test
site are maintained in complete secrecy not to protect the test from
demonstrators but to spare proponents from the liability of their hare
Genetic engineering field test is rooted in the soil of secrecy
Because of protesters, a veil hangs over crop even during a press visit
By Christian Schwägerl
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The green shoots poking out of the brown soil look just like any other
plants you see around Germany. But the crop is quite exotic by this
country's standards: It has been genetically modified in a way that is
supposed to eliminate the need for pesticides.
But the crop's appearance is not welcomed by everyone. Activists, who
see the plants as a symbol of powerful, profit-oriented agriculture
giants, intend to stop it.
So the crop remains cloaked in secrecy, even during a press event at
which the farmer and his seed suppliers want to show why genetically
modified crops are a good thing. The field's exact location in the
eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt must remain unmentioned. The steeples of
the nearby town and the wind turbines are also off-limits for any photos.
“Please do not include too many details in your picture,“ says Anja
Matzk, who heads the regulatory affairs division at seed producer KWS.
The farmer, too, said he would rather be photographed from behind, just
like undercover agents or shamed victims of violence.
The farmer and the company have good reason for their reluctance to go
public with their project. Just recently, a test field of the
agrochemical company Syngenta was destroyed at night. The company was
conducting research on a wheat variety that had been made resistant
against cancer-causing fungi through genetic engineering.
Saxony-Anhalt is by no means the only state where a genetically modified
crop has been planted. The cultivation area covers 300 hectares (741
acres) at 30 locations in seven states. But ever since Saxony-Anhalt's
minister of agriculture, Petra Wernicke, and the state's economic
minister, Horst Rehberger, started a “biotechnology offensive“ in
November, the state has become the principal arena for the battle over
agricultural genetic engineering. This has started a game of
hide-and-seek that has reached bizarre proportions, at times.
Since the exact location of test fields is not being disclosed, the
environmental group Greenpeace is now resorting to modern biotechnology
to find them. The group deployed an official genetic engineering
opposition representative to the region when the biotechnology offensive
was proclaimed. The university student, Jan Michael Ihl, took a semester
off from his studies and set up camp in the area to raise opposition
among the general public against the field trials and to coordinate
activities in the region.
During the next few weeks, he will spend a lot of time checking corn
leaves, filing them and sending them to Gene Scan, a biotechnology
company in Freiburg. Gene Scan will examine the leaves, which have been
gathered throughout the region by activists and other citizens, for
genetic modifications. In this manner, the group hopes to find the
fields where the crops are growing.
And if the secret is disclosed? “We never announce our activities
beforehand,“ Ihl says.
On the field targeted by the activists' search, the farmer in a gray
work shirt who has soil beneath his fingernails has a look around. He
says he does not understand all the fuss. He has told all his neighbors
that he is taking part in the testing of gentically modified crops, even
the local organic farmer. The neighbors did not get angry, the farmer
says. After all, they all have other things weighing on their minds, he
Georg Folttmann, the head of corporate communications at KWS, says he is
not happy about the secrecy surrounding the project. “We would like to
be more open,“ Folttmann says.
He also says that the company does not want to force the use of genetic
engineering. “But without genetic engineering, we will not remain
competitive around the world,“ Foltt-mann says.
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