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French Rapeseed Destroyed as Mutated-Crop Trials Targeted

Activists destroyed experimental plots of rapeseed plants in southern France this week, the second razing in a month targeting field trials of mutated crops, national oilseed researcher Cetiom said.

Protesters tore up nine plots out of 45 at a Cetiom site in the Haute-Garonne region, Pierre Jouffret, head of the south region for the French researcher, said by phone today. The targeted plots were growing a rapeseed variety developed to be tolerant to herbicides through mutagenesis, the process of provoking crop mutations using laboratory procedures, he said.

The damage happened in the night of June 15, according to Cetiom. That follows protesters “completely” ruining trials across more than 1 hectare (2.47 acres) on a research plot in the southwestern Charente-Maritime region on May 19.

“A year of work is lost, a number of plots have been massacred,” Jouffret said. “We’ll probably file a complaint. It wasn’t as bad as what happened in Charente-Maritime.”

Mutagenesis is different from genetic modification based on inserting genetic material from a different species, relying instead on provoked mutations of genes already in the crop.

Genetically-modified crops have triggered hostility from consumers and governments in European nations including France. Monsanto Co. said last year it would withdraw applications to sow gene-modified crops in the European Union. BASF SE said in 2012 it would move its plant-science division, which alters genes in crops, to the U.S. from Germany.

The destroyed rapeseed plots were 10 to 15 days from harvest, and the razing means researchers won’t have “essential” data on yields, Jouffret said. All the varieties that were being tested are approved in Europe, he said.

Test Site

Details on what was being grown at the test site are published by Cetiom online, and the researcher had also organized open days at the targeted research station, Jouffret said.

“The reapers are trying to stop progress,” Cetiom wrote in an online statement. “The reapers seek above all to intimidate the agricultural world and to prevent access to innovations.”

Rapeseed is essential for crop rotation systems in Haute-Garonne, and farmers have limited options to use other crops, according to Cetiom.

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