Protesters fell Finland's only GM tree study 

Thursday, June 24, 2004
By Reuters

Attackers have torn up 400 genetically modified birch trees 
in Finland, wrecking the nation's only research into the 
environmental impact of biotechnology on forests, officials 
said Wednesday.

Police said they did not yet know who was behind the attack 
on the Punkaharju site in eastern Finland or whether protesters 
opposed to genetic modification were involved.

The trees were chopped down or torn up by their roots over the 
weekend on the fenced but unguarded site.

Some environmental groups fear genetically modified trees might 
irreversibly contaminate food crops and wild species, an issue 
the study aimed to investigate.

"The research investigated the possible environmental effects 
of doing field studies using genetically modified materials. 
It would have been extremely important to find out about these 
issues," said research station head Juhani Haggman.

The 400 trees were part of Finland's only field study on 
genetically modified trees. The forestry industry hopes genetic 
modification could cut paper-making costs and improve products 
by producing trees with suitable traits.

"We lack research on how genes work," Haggman said. "We are 
talking about several hundreds of thousands of euros in losses. 
The highest estimates that have been aired have been close to a 
million euros ($1.21 million). Then there's the value the 
research results would have had," Haggman said.

The crime carried a maximum penalty of a four-year jail sentence, 
said Detective Chief Inspector Martti Kemppainen, who is heading 
the investigation.

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