Spanish protesters invade GM maize fields

ARANJUEZ, Spain, September 15, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- (Reuters): Spanish farmers and ecologists on Saturday invaded fields of genetically-modified maize to protest against cultivation of the crop in the only European country where it is grown on a commercial scale.

Around 80 protesters, some dressed in white suits that mimicked the protective outfits scientists wear to clear up biological hazards, picked corncobs, cordoned off GM plants, unfurled banners and spray-painted slogans on walls at three GM trial sites throughout Spain.

The protests were timed to coincide with demonstrations at the World Trade Organization (news - web sites) meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun, where agriculture has been one of the main sticking points.

Organizers said this was the first time farmers have risked arrest by interfering with GM crops at a protest in Spain, where 20,000 hectares of genetically modified maize were cultivated in 2002, out of a total of 460,000 sown to all maize.

"I'm here to demonstrate my repulsion at genetically modified crops," said one 24 year old co-operative member. "We want to spark a debate on GM crops, because in Spain there is silence on this issue."