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Greenpeace Protesters Paint Field of Genetically Altered Soybeans

October 11, 1996

ATLANTIC, Iowa (AP) _ Greenpeace protesters occupied a test plot of genetically altered soybeans Thursday, raising a ``biohazard″ banner and trampling and spray-painting the plants to form a giant ``X.″

Asgrow Seeds, owner of the 60-acre ``concept farm″ where the 12-hour protest took place, waited out the demonstrators. Law enforcement officials knew nothing of the protest until contacted by reporters.

``I’m just shocked that they would go into one of our research plots and destroy a year of research,″ said Wayne Hoener, soybean product manager for Asgrow, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co.

The field contained genetically engineered soybeans marketed as Roundup Ready, a brand resistant to the Roundup herbicide manufactured by Monsanto, which reportedly spent $100 million engineering the resistant strain.

Monsanto spokeswoman Karen Marshall said the Roundup Ready soybeans have been proved safe. She said they reduce fieldwork, increase yields and have been approved by regulators around the world.

``This is risk assessment based on ignorance,″ said Wolfgang Pekny of Greenpeace Austria, one of the protesters at the soybean field. ``They are taking sloppy safety assessments for granted.″

Greenpeace spokeswoman Tzeporah Berman said 30 volunteers entered the field about 1 a.m. Thursday. About 20 protesters, dressed in white biohazard suits, masks and goggles, sprayed milk-based, nontoxic paint on the plants.

``The reason we’re doing this is to demonstrate the hazard of genetically manipulated food products,″ Berman said.

The group spray-painted the words ``Biohazard Monsanto″ on the plants, and trampled some to make the letters more prominent, lying down on the ``X″ in the field when photographers flew over to take pictures.

The protesters also erected a 300-foot banner that said ``Biohazard″ and ``Greenpeace quarantine″ before leaving.

In Carlisle, visiting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said protests against genetically engineered crops are misguided. ``Time marches on,″ Glickman said. ``The fact of the matter is that these crops are safe.″

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