Shortly before noon on July 21, officers from the Australian Federal Police raided the Sydney office of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, confiscating material but making no arrests.
The raid was conducted in relation to an “alleged trespass and property damage” on July 14, when Greenpeace activists in Hazmat suits used whipper-snippers to destroy a CSIRO trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat being grown in Canberra’s north.
Greenpeace claimed that the wheat was planned for secret human trials and had already caused allergic reactions in mice.
The CSIRO said the wheat was not transgenic (that is, it had no genes transferred from another species). It said the wheat genes had been slightly modified to lower the glycaemic index and increase fibre to improve bowel health and nutritional value.
Greenpeace also accused the CSIRO of a conflict of interest because two directors of Nufarm — the exclusive distributor for biotech giant Monsanto in Australia — sat on the CSIRO board when the wheat trial was approved.
Trials of GM wheat and barley have also begun near Narrabri in NSW, as well as in Western Australia. The Western Australian trials are being run by Intergrain, a company part-owned by Monsanto.
In South Australia, GM wheat trials are being run by the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics. Its board includes Joshua Hoffheimer — a lawyer for Monsanto — and former Monsanto employee Mark Tester.
Greenpeace disputed that the trials represent independent science, saying the US, Russia, Canada and the EU have already rejected GM wheat, and that “Monsanto and others are in Australia because our weak regulations give them free reign”.
Greenpeace campaigner Laura Kelly told News.com.au: “The only reason our CSIRO is putting it in the ground is because they've been bought out by foreign GM companies.”
Freedom Of Information requests by Greenpeace regarding the safety of human trials and details of commercial links between the CSIRO and foreign biotech companies were rejected as being “commercial in confidence”.
Greenpeace spokesperson Steve Campbell said in a statement that the organisation would cooperate with police, but called for more attention to be paid to the risks posed by GM crops and foods.