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Case #6

Pulling up Monsanto GM beets in Ireland


On 5/1/97, the Irish EPA granted Monsanto license to plant genetically modified (GM) "Roundup Ready" sugar beets. The Irish group "Genetic concern!" obtained a judicial review and an injunction against the planting, but on 5/27 the injunction was lifted and the beets were planted. A judicial review was granted but scheduled for December - after the first GM crop would have been harvested.

For Monsanto, the stakes were high. They had invested tens of millions of Pounds into genetic technology development. For local people, the stakes were higher - to protect their land and themselves from the potential hazards of GM organisms.

On the night of 11/16/97, a group from the Gaelic Earth Liberation Front (GELF) took their spades and dug up a 20-acre field of the GM beets. The ensuing publicity was not good for Monsanto. They are facing large-scale debate in the media, and any attempt to sneak GM crops into the environment have been thwarted.


The legal approach - injunction and review - was not effective. The injunction was too brief, and the judicial review was too slow to be useful. The direct action was quite successful, perhaps because of the surprise factor and because it was done immediately, before the crops could be harvested.

The legal effort might have prevailed with a more sympathetic judge, or if the timing were more suitable (longer injunction, shorter wait to review). On the other hand, the digging action would likely have failed if Monsanto had been forewarned and had posted guards.

A relevant factor is that the average person can readily grasp the danger of Monsanto's efforts to introduce GM crops. The company is now branded around the world as a pusher of bad technology, and so it is vulnerable to citizen outrage and direct actions such as this.

Similar actions have taken place in England, Germany, Australia, and India. (While this case is interesting, we do not recommend engaging in property destruction or other illegal activities.)

(full text not available)
Location: Ireland
Action: Legal, Direct
Setting: Semi-Developed, Agricultural
Extent of Action: Local
Issues: Agriculture
Year(s): 1997
Outcome successful for now
Source: 8 Ecologist 29 #1, Jan-Feb 98


Monsanto, local farmers, GELF, Genetic Concern!
Prepared By: alb 2/00
Rating: 1
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