Europe prepares for pull of GM lager

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Stand by for the genetically modified pint - and maybe a rather presumptive little GM claret as well. The biotech industry, desperate to win over sceptical European consumers, is trying to persuade us to swallow its argument by producing GM lager and, in future, wine.

Stand by for the genetically modified pint - and maybe a rather presumptive little GM claret as well. The biotech industry, desperate to win over sceptical European consumers, is trying to persuade us to swallow its argument by producing GM lager and, in future, wine.

A consortium of the world's largest biotech companies led by Monsanto helped to fund a Swedish brewer's new light lager that is produced with the usual hops and barley - and a touch of genetically engineered corn. Kenth has been launched in Denmark and Sweden, 4,000 bottles are on their way to Germany and the brewers say they are in talks with stores in the United Kingdom.

In France, where protests forced Moët & Chandon to uproot some GM vines in 1999, it has emerged that the National Institute of Agricultural Research plans to plant modified vines as early as next month. The news has provoked protests from French winegrowers.

The Kenth beer contains Monsanto-created corn approved for use in 1998, and grown in Germany. Its seed is spliced with a bacterial gene to resist the corn borer pest without the need for insecticides. DuPont, Bayer CropScience, Plant Science Sweden, Svalof Weibull and Syngenta are all involved.

Kenth Persson, the brewer, said he realises that selling a genetically modified beverage in the EU could be risky - especially when its label touts GM ingredients unabashedly. Greenpeace activists chased Kenth-laden beer trucks in Sweden and Denmark, discouraging store and tavern owners from buying the brew, when it was introduced, and Greenpeace continues to pressure big grocery store chains to avoid stocking it. The group said the protest encouraged ICA, a large Swedish grocery store chain, to remove Kenth from its shelves.

Kenth is now being sold through the Swedish state-owned liquor monopoly, Systembolaget, in southern Sweden and there have been no protests.

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