Greenpeace campaign against ETH’s experimental release of genetically modified wheat

Wild West in Eschikon

  • Besondere Ereignisse

A field experiment with genetically modified wheat in Eschikon made waves in 2003. There was already a heated discussion in the run-up, and the researchers presented their point of view at information events for the public. A legal odyssey lasting several years finally ended in 2004 with the experiment.

An experimental release with genetically modified wheat at ETH’s Lindau-Eschikon research station was approved by the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (then SAEFL) at the end of 2002. A year earlier, it had rejected the researchers’ application. Despite strict conditions, there was much criticism of the experiment. There was also not only approval within ETH. An appeal was lodged against the permit, but in February 2003, the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) withdrew the suspensive effect of the appeals against the permit granted by the SAEFL. Greenpeace and other associations then appealed against the DETEC’s decision to the Federal Supreme Court. Even before the Federal Supreme Court’s negative decision on the experimental release was handed down, there was a Greenpeace protest campaign in Eschikon.

Two tractors, accompanied by around a dozen activists, gained access to the Eschikon-Lindau research station. ETH employees tried to stop the speeding machines, but stood no chance. The fence of the trial field was cut open by the activists and the cow dung from the trailer of one tractor was neatly distributed. There was some nastiness, ETH employees were pelted with dung, but also the activists were physically attacked. A messy affair.

On the left of the field next to the greenhouses, you can see the highly protected cage system that was set up for the experimental release.
(Photo: Burkhard & Lüthi Architektur GmbH)