25 February 2000
Greenpeace boards GM soya ship

By FWi staff

A SHIP thought to be carrying 60,000 tonnes of genetically modified soya has been boarded by environmental protestors off the Welsh coast.

The bulk carrier Iolcos Grace had dropped anchor off Point Lynas off the north coast of Anglesey to await a pilot to guide her to Liverpool Docks, when Greenpeace volunteers boarded from inflatable dinghies.

The action is part of a Greenpeace campaign to prevent GM crops being imported into the UK.

Greenpeace spokesman Jim Thomas told the BBC six demonstrators were on board – one talking to the skipper and five others attached to anchor chains.

The ship is unable to lift anchor as this would injure the protestors.

A banner has been placed on the front of the ship with the message “Europe says no to GM”.

Greenpeace says it is not going to allow the ship to continue on its journey while it is carrying the GM grain, which they claim is destined for the food chain.

Meanwhile, UK biotechnology companies are providing nearly 500,000 to a scientific panel to make a case for GM crops.

Funding for the group – called CropGen – comes from a consortium which includes Aventis CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto and Novartis Seeds.

But the BBC reports that sponsors have signed an undertaking not veto any scientific positions taken by the panel.

Members of the panel include specialists in agriculture, plant science, microbiology, ecology and in consumer affairs.

None works for any of the sponsoring companies, and each is paid “an honorarium in line with rates recommended by professional bodies”.

CropGen, which is chaired by Vivian Moses, visiting professor of biotechnology at Kings College, London, says it will “make the case for crop biotechnology, not the biotechnology industry”.

Biotech company funding of 460,000 over 12 months will pay for a consumer information line, a website, an office and an administrator.

In the long term it will promote research on crop biotechnology – provided its been both published and peer-reviewed.”

CropGen says it will be “able to offer a perspective on key issues in the GM crop debate such as human health, environmental impact and how we assess the benefits versus the risks”.

On Monday (28 February) scientists, regulators and consumer groups will gather in Edinburgh to consider GM foods at an international conference starting on Monday.

The three-day event, organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, will focus on the science, safety and regulation of GM food.

The event, chaired by Food Standards Agency chairman Sir John Krebs, is expected to attract 400 delegates from 14 countries.

“The philosophy is to try and identify, through having a diversity of views and an open debate, areas of greater convergence and areas of lesser convergence, Sir John told Reuters news agency

Professor Arpad Pusztai, whose controversial research sparked an international row about the safety of GM food, will attend.

Another delegate is president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Gordon Conway, credited with convincing biotechnology giant Monsanto to stop using its “terminator gene technology.

“I have tried to get as many of the people who are concerned about GM technology into the conference.

“Nobody can accuse us of sidelining the worriers, said Sir John.

Members of the public can listen to the speakers and submit questions which will be presented to the delegates.

Sir John said one idea that may emerge from the conference is a global approach to biotechnology.

Sir John will report the findings of the conference to a Group of Eight big powers meeting in Okinawa in Japan in July.