GMO activists stage protest outside Greenpeace’s Brussels office


GMO activists have launched a campaign to get EU approval for genetically engineered crops, staging a protest outside a Brussels office of environmental group Greenpeace today (23 January).

A few protesters gathered outside one of the Greenpeace offices in Brussels at 11 a.m. and held up banners describing the environmental group’s position against GM crops as a “crime against humanity”. The aim was to use the environmental NGO's own tactics against it.

The protest was led by Patrick Moore, one of the founding members of Greenpeace, turned pro-GMO activist. Moore argues that the potential for GM crops such as 'Golden Rice', a vitamin A enriched form of the dietary staple, could prevent millions of deaths as well as blindness from malnutrition in the developing world.

Moore is a controversial figure among some environmental circles. He left Greenpeace 28 years ago though he still refers to his ties with the organisation in speeches about the benefits of GM crops. Moore has denied that humanity has played a large role in climate change and has advocated the logging of tropical rainforests.

Yesterday, the British environment minister, Owen Paterson, Moore and members of the GMO industry said that the EU was missing out on the potential of GM crops at a conference in Brussels.

“I firmly believe in the benefits of GM crops to the consumer, farmers and the environment,” the conservative minister said, while he conceded that they were “not a panacea”.

At the conference hosted by the bio-tech industry association EuropaBio, Paterson said the EU risked “sending a message that we’re anti-science, anti-innovation” by not approving GM crops for cultivation.

Paterson has said that the EU risks becoming a “museum of world farming” without making use of genetic engineering.

The minister condemned the destruction of Golden Rice test crops in the Philippines by people associated with Greenpeace last August.

“Scientific trials must be allowed to continue,” he said. “They trashed a genuine scientific trial. That was wicked.”

Moore told EurActiv that scientists were working hard to produce GM crops that had only benefits, such as Golden Rice, and that “every GM has to be treated on its own merits … you could have a bad GM. It would be easy to make one that would harm people”.

As part of the campaign, EuropaBio has launched a website to “highlight the broad based and growing constituency of interest in genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe”.

No people with a position against GM crops, including members of green NGOs, were present on the panel at the conference.

Genetic engineering ‘crude and old fashioned’

In emailed comments to EurActiv, Greenpeace’s food and agriculture director, Marco Contiero, said: “GM ‘Golden’ rice is, in fact, an expensive and risky experiment that for the past 20 years has failed to deliver a real solution for Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and diverts necessary funding from effective solutions that already exist and work.”

Contiero referred to a statement by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which said “it has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient, and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness.” The institute says it plans further research on the matter.

IRRI also added that Golden Rice would only be made available in the Philippines “if it is approved by national regulators and shown to reduce vitamin A deficiency in community conditions. This process may take another two years or more.”

Contiero countered Paterson’s assertion that without GM crops the EU risked becoming a “museum."

"Genetic engineering is a crude and old fashioned technology belonging in a museum. The science of plant breeding has moved on," said Contiero, adding that it would be wiser for governments to pursue alternatives.

“More modern biotechnologies such as Marker Assisted Selection are providing brilliant results. Drought tolerant wheat varieties and flood resistant rice varieties are already in farmers’ fields,” he argued.

The debate about GMOs has flared recently in Brussels, with a majority of members of the European Parliament voting against the market approval of a form of GM maize, Pioneer 1507.

External links: 

EU official documents

Industry associations

NGOs, think tanks and academia



Arn Eson's picture

"1 miljon Europeans can't be wrong - No GMO" proclaims Greenpeace as if they have to manifest their disdain for science. Well masses CAN actually often be wrong.

How about this:
" 4 miljon Americans can't be wrong - Join Ku Klux Klan". That was a long time ago of cause, but were they right then because of their numbers? No other parallels to be drawn to this case, but this: the number of supporter has NOTHING to to with right or wrong.

Poor argument, Greenpeace, poor. But hey, its all about emotions (and money).

Jup van 't Veld's picture

What protest?

Our office is located in the same building as Greenpeace's. None of us noted anything unusual.
Your article places a photo of a Greenpeace demo, but no visual evidence of the activity that Mr. Moore is claiming.
Of course, if a lone figure held up a banner for a few minutes, we may have missed it...

George Right's picture

Dear Jup van't Veld: You got it in one.

You didn't see any signs of the protest because it was held in front of the Belgian GP office in Schaerbeek and NOT in front of the GP Brussels office building which you share.

Also the photo used here is of an antigmo protest for a progmo protest????

SHAMEFUL reporting.

Vtedavid's picture

Very nice, there are protesters against Greenpeace and you put in your article a photo of a Greenpeace demonstration against GMOs? May I ask you what does it have to od with the text? I think you should have put a photo of the demonstration, but reading your article you give more voice to activists that destroy field trials in Asia rather than to the co-founder of Greenpeace.
Greenpeace is against science but no one seems to realize it

George Right's picture

p.s. how come the Greenpeace speaker who was interviewed in this article and belongs to the Brussels office didn't say that there had been no protest in front of his office?? Weird...

Patrick Moore, PhD's picture

This is one of the most disgraceful articles I have ever seen. No mention of the 5 GM advances reported to the meeting to improve nutrition in our food. Article says I "advocate logging tropical rainforest." How do you expect people in Indonesia to grow food crops if they don't clear some land? I support large areas of natural forest to be kept as wilderness, unlike Europe which has already destroyed 99% of original ecosystem. You give the wrong address for the demonstration and you use a phot of an anti-GM demonstration. Lazy, biased, crappy reporting.

Carolina Rossi's picture

You write that "No people with a position against GM crops, including members of green NGOs, were present on the panel at the conference."

Can you give me one example of a European-level anti-GMO event where someone with a pro-GM position, including a pro-biotech NGO, has been invited to take part in a panel?

I believe you will find that it has never happened.

By the way, I met people with positions against GMOs at the conference and everyone, including them, was offered opportunities to make statements or ask questions. Just for the record: they did neither.

The objective is to stop the sterile pro and anti debate and inject some facts into the discussion. I do realise that this may seem less than appealing to some....

frederic's picture

@ Vtedavid and George Right

The protest was indeed held outside the Schaerbeek office, we corrected the article accordingly. Choice of picture was also unfortunate and misleading to say the truth so we changed that as well. Thanks for keeping your comments constructive, gentlemen.


SK's picture

Hi, I have a question for the author: did you interview anyone involved in the event or event organisers? Just curious to know if the facts are balanced or not, as this article is quite confusing to me. For a start, there are only links to Greenpeace manifestos and anti- GM propaganda, no links or facts within the article to counter the argument, or help the reader learn more about golden rice or the protest. The arguement seems very weak and imbalanced to me. thanks

EU citizen, Dr. sc. nat's picture

Why didn't you speak up at the conference?
Did you just subscribe for the free lunch?
Why didn't you ask the scientists directly who presented decades of passionate expert work?
Why don't you inform the public about the positive examples that were given at the event?
Why didn't you go taking a picture from the demonstration?
Are your journalist fellows stupid or why did they provide substantial media coverage on the Allow Golden Rice Now campaign e.g. in Germany or the Netherlands?
I give a shit whether Moore is controversial or not, as this is not about him, it is about an autocratic organization that sells beliefs to its customers, well-knowing that it denies science.
There is broad scientific consensus about the beneficial potential of plant-biotechnology, yet greenpeace (and other activists) hinder the launch of a variety of products that would help improving the lives of millions of poor people. Why? Because poor people don't have a lot to donate!

Patrick Moore, PhD's picture

Dear F. Simon Editor, Your header states "GMO activists have launched a campaign to get EU approval for genetically engineered crops"

Our protest is named Allow Golden Rice Now. It has nothing to do with getting approval for GM crops in the EU. It is about getting rich European-based activists like Greenpeace to stop their opposition to Golden Rice in Asia and Africa. There, 2 million, mostly children, are dying every year from vitamin A deficiency.

Your article is a completely distorted report on both the EuropaBio meeting and on our campaign purpose. It should be entirely retracted and rewritten, taking into account the points made above by the people who are doing excellent work to improve the nutrition of our foods, especially in the developing countries.

Cary's picture

Typical alarmist and lazy article. Let science lead.