By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The destruction of a trial planting of genetically modified sugar beets at Shanagarry, Co. Cork, has been condemned as an "outrageous, anti-democratic, cowardly act" by the Monsanto chemical company, which is sponsoring the trial.
"The site was completely vandalized when trespassers chopped up the entire trial," according to Dr. Patrick O’Reilly, Monsanto’s business manager in Ireland.
He warned the company would take "whatever legal avenues open to it to bring the perpetrators to justice."
The latest incident was the first in Cork but the fourth sabotage attack on sugar beet trial plantings.
Opponents of genetically modified crops marched on the Cork site in early August and held a peaceful protest. After a two-hour discussion with O’Reilly, no damage was done to the site and the protestors left.
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O’Reilly said the cost of the destruction to trial sites so far was about £120,000. He described the saboteurs as "faceless people who clearly have a Luddite view of the world."
He said trials last year had been successful and 40 percent less pesticide was used. This meant a major reduction in environmental contamination and increased yields.
"Our opponents are obviously trying to deny farmers, consumers and the public this important information," he said.
The American Monsanto company is currently sponsoring four genetically modified sugar beet experiments in Ireland. The sites each cover about a third of acre.
A Monsanto beet planting in Wexford has been attacked several times; a gasoline-based chemical was sprayed on it earlier this month. Two other plantings, in counties Meath and Carlow, have not been damaged.
In September 1997, a trial was destroyed at Teagasc at Oakpark, Co. Carlow. In June 1998 a trial at Arthurstown, Co Wexford, was vandalized.
Last March, seven people were found guilty in New Ross District Court of forcible entry and six were convicted of criminal damage.