Genetically-modified barley, which was being grown in-field for experimental purposes in Gunnarsholt, south Iceland, by start-up company ORF Genetics, was damaged by a group of activists in the early hours of Wednesday. There will be no harvest from the in-field experiment this fall.
Since 2003 ORF Genetics has been doing small experiments with in-field cultivation, but the company’s production is still in green houses.
CEO of ORF Genetics Björn Lárus Örvar. Photo by Geir Ólafsson.
“We are naturally shocked about this,” CEO of ORF Genetics Björn Lárus Örvar told visir.is, adding that the activists have caused ISK millions of damage to his company.
“For a small company like ours, which is struggling in the difficult innovation environment, this is a serious matter.”
By cultivating genetically-modified barley ORF Genetics creates valuable products for medical research, the cosmetics market and the development of pharmaceuticals.
The group of activists, which calls itself Illgresi (“Weed”), sent an anonymous email to the media, claiming responsibility for the sabotage.
The group argues that the ORF Genetics experiments will lead to the cultivation of other genetically-modified organisms in Iceland, which it considers dangerous to the environment and local animal life.
The group states that democratic discussions on the matter are lacking, accusing the institutions that granted ORF Genetics a permit to grow genetically-modified barley in-field of corruption.
Örvar dismisses the group’s accusations. “I don’t know what they are referring to. [Our operations] were given a very good and professional evaluation at the Environment Agency of Iceland and the Nature Institute. If we cannot trust our foremost scientists I don’t know who we should go to.”
“From now on genetic modification will not take place in Iceland without us interfering,” Illgresi threatened. The sabotage has been reported to the police.
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