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Australian Greenpeace activists destroy GM wheat crop

GP02GGG_press.jpgPosted on behalf of Marian Turner.

Three Greenpeace activists broke into a scientific farm near Canberra overnight on 14 July and destroyed a crop of genetically modified wheat (see photo). The farm belongs to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australian national science agency, and the crop was part of research into developing genetically modified crop plants with enhanced nutritional value.

Suzanne Cory, president of the Australian Academy of Sciences, issued a statement in which she condemned the attack. “For an organisation that claims to be dedicated to the protection of the environment, this is an unconscionable act,” she said.

Greenpeace claims the research puts Australia’s $4.7 million wheat industry at risk of ‘inevitable’ contamination. According to a Greenpeace Australia report published on 6 July, the CSIRO trials, which include consumption of the wheat by human volunteers, pose serious health, economic and environmental risks. The organisation says that the CSIRO had rejected their request for documents outlining the health, safety and ethical parameters of its human trials.

But the Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, which oversees experiments using genetically modified organisms, had already approved the trials and rated them as posing a ‘negligible’ risk to humans or the environment.

The wheat crop had been engineered to have a lower glycaemic index and higher fibre content. CSIRO chief director of Plant Industries Jeremy Burdon told ABC news the attack was “a setback to an important global food security program”.

Other Australian scientists expressed their anger at Greenpeace Australia’s actions via Twitter. They used publicity photos released by Greenpeace to accuse the organisation of hypocrisy, saying such attacks are far more likely to lead to the release of GM materials than controlled scientific trials. They asked whether Greenpeace disposed of the destroyed plants in compliance with government regulations. @GreenpeaceAustP has posted an FAQ on the action, and says it will hold a live Q&A session on Monday 18 July at 19.00 Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Image courtesy of Greenpeace.


  1. Report this comment

    Neil said:

    A dreadful pity. When are people going to realise that GM crops could save millions of lives?

  2. Report this comment

    Eric Baumholder said:

    This is an ideal opportunity for Nature to editorially stand up for science in agricultural biotechnology.

    Might as well republish Greenpeace press releases. Everybody knows Nature is against agro biotech.

  3. Report this comment

    Nat said:

    What is the food security dimension of a GM wheat designed to make commercial refined white bread higher in resistant starch given that wholegrains are higher in RS than the planned wheat already (not to mention carrying numerous other health benefits) and a conventional version of the high RS wheat is also in development that would carry less restrictive patents (and less commercial return!)?

  4. Report this comment

    mal said:

    i question any altruistic motivaton of ‘feeding the world’.

    The farmers who grow half the world’s food can’t afford to buy seeds year after year, they can’t afford the to buy relacement food at markets if they are encouraged to grow monocultures instead of a diversity of crops that will feed their communities, are vulnerable to constantly rising global food prices, don’t have access to water required, etc

    The FAO has shown that if these women small scale farmers, who grow their food on plats about the size of the MCG, were given even the same support as their male counterparts, they would lift 100million people out of hunger.

    This support would be access to the basics that exist already – appropriate tools, water collection, shared seeds, weather information.

    Invent these crops if you want, but don’t try and use a moral argument to justify a wholly profit-making enterprise.

  5. Report this comment

    Harald T-H said:

    Saying GM crop is all good, is as unreflected as saying GM crop is all bad.

  6. Report this comment

    luddite exterminator said:

    Disgusting. Most of these people have lived sheltered comfortable middle class lifestyles and are only doing this to satiate some defense mechanism, they have been given every opportunity in life yet they use it to throw a hissy fit and deny the same material opportunities to others which they wasted. The educated middle class is important for keeping the purpose of human civilization focussed on technological progress but unfortunately it means a few ignorant individuals still have political and economic power as well as physical access to important infrastructure where they can do harm, they need to be suppressed.

  7. Report this comment

    Lalit said:

    This is absolutely wrong and let the researchers do their work. Such activists are still living in dreams. We see people are dying in large part of Africa, Asia and other third world countries due to hunger and GM crops might be an answer for our future.

  8. Report this comment

    TRC said:

    I understand the need to feed the millions of people here on earth and believe the motivation is in the right place.

    However, I don’t think there has been enough studies on the long term effects of GMO crops. Perhaps more studies need to be done on how the crops affect the health of humans and animals that may eat them.

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