| OXNARD, Calif./KANSAS CITY, Mo. Sept 12
OXNARD, Calif./KANSAS CITY, Mo. Sept 12 (Reuters) -
O pponents of genetically engineered foods on Wednesday blocked
shipments and deliveries at Monsanto Co's vegetable seed
company in California that developed a new genetically modified
sweet corn that will hit stores this fall.
The protesters, who want to remove all so-called genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) from the food supply, say their action
is a preview of about five dozen other events planned for
countries around the world next week.
They also hope to drum up support for a California ballot
measure that would require food sellers to label a broad range
of products, including soup, soy milk, breakfast cereals and
chips, that contain GMOs.
Monsanto and other developers of these biotech crops say
they are safe. But U.S. regulators do not require any
independent safety tests that would put a lid on doubts raised
by consumers and some scientific and health groups.
More than 40 countries around the world have some
requirements for labeling foods containing ingredients from
genetically modified crops. But U.S. regulators have rejected
requests by many groups for similar labeling rules, and as a
result many Americans do not know that they have been eating
GMOs for years.
At the protest on Wednesday, about a dozen people organized
by a network of anti-GMO activists called Occupy Monsanto
stopped trucks from entering or leaving Monsanto's Oxnard,
California-based Seminis for nearly six hours.
The activists, some dressed in biohazard suits, blocked
truck entrances with cars and chained themselves to the
Police arrested nine of the protesters and charged them with
trespassing, organizers said.
Seminis' biotech sweet corn is one of the newest GMO crop
products to make it to market. The corn was altered genetically
to withstand dousings of a common weedkiller and to ward off
"We deserve to know what we are eating and we should put GMO
crops back in the lab and off the kitchen table," protester Rica
Occupy Monsanto is not affiliated with the backers of a
California proposal to label foods that are made with crops or
from animals that have had their genetic makeup altered in the
Monsanto did not directly address Wednesday's events but
said the company's work helped improve farm productivity and
"We respect each individual's right to express their point
of view on these topics," Thomas Helscher, a Monsanto spokesman,
said of the Seminis protest.
DIFFERENT VIEW IN EUROPE
GMOs are deeply unpopular in Europe and many other
countries, but they eventually came to dominate key crops in the
United States after Monsanto in 1996 introduced a soybean
genetically altered to tolerate Monsanto's Roundup weed killer.
Using genes from other species, Monsanto and rivals
including DuPont and Dow Chemical have since
introduced an array of genetically altered crop varieties.
The most popular genetically engineered crops in the United
States include corn, soybeans, sugar beets and canola - staple
ingredients in a wide array of popular packaged foods.
Proponents of GM crops say they make farming more efficient
by making plants resistant to pesticides, pests and harsh
growing conditions, such as drought. They say genetically
modified crops are no different from conventional types and that
increasing demand for food, biofuels and livestock feed can only
be met with help from the biotech industry that Monsanto
Critics say GM crops have not always lived up to their
promise and that the benefits to farmers do not outweigh myriad
risks to human and animal health and to the environment.
Assessing such risks is difficult in the United States. The
government does not require GMO crops to undergo independent
safety testing before they are approved, and it does not require
labelling for GMO content which makes it next to impossible to
track any links to human health problems.
The World Health Organization says "individual GM foods and
their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis."
Recently, some U.S. scientists have raised alarm bells over
what they see as potentially dangerous implications from overuse
of GMO crops.
Among the concerns is the fact that the rapid adoption by
U.S. farmers of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton
has promoted increased use of herbicides, which critics say has
triggered an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds and more
chemical residues in foods.
This week, the Center for Food Safety vowed to sue the U.S.
government if it approves a new type of genetically altered corn
developed by Dow.