Biotechnology battle
Apple trees destroyed

On 1 June 2009, 270 apple trees on a trial site owned by the Institute for Breeding Research on Horticultural and Fruit Crops of the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) in Dresden-Pillnitz were destroyed by unknown intruders. Most of the trees were genetically modified plants being grown in tubs in a special safety tent under field-like conditions. It is the first time that protesters have destroyed plants that were not being grown in the field.

The tent (safety level 1) that was cut open by unknown intruders

Destroyed apple trees

According to a press release by the JKI, the tent fabric was cut open and all of the trees, which were about seven years old, were either snapped by hand or cut with pruning shears above the graft. The institute estimates the cost of the damage to be around EUR 700 000. Around ten years of research work has been destroyed.

The institute in Pillnitz – previously the Institute of Fruit Breeding of the Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (BAZ) – has been working on the development of transgenic apple trees since 1997. One of the key areas of research is methods of controlling apple scab, apple powdery mildew and fire blight. Following the rejection in 2003 of a planned release trial with genetically modified apple trees, research work can now only take place on a reduced scale in closed tents corresponding to safety level 1.

Saxony’s Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, Frank Kupfer, who visited the site to see the damage for himself, was shocked by the vandalism: “What happened in Pillnitz was simply criminal.”

The JKI has reported an offence by unknown perpetrators.