Protesters invade biotech firm's HQ

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The Independent Online
PROTESTERS OCCUPIED the offices of a company which has developed genetically modified foods, as the firm was preparing to hold a meeting of its shareholders yesterday.

A spokesman for the company, AstraZeneca, said a number of intruders went into the reception area and some ground floor offices in the building at Stanhope Gate, in the West End of London but they were removed within a few minutes by police.

The Genetic Engineering Network, which campaigns against GM food, said the protest was to highlight AstraZeneca's role in promoting plant genetic engineering. The firm was behind the development of genetically-modified tomatoes, which are used in tomato paste. A spokeswoman for the group said a number of the protesters were shareholders in the company.

One shareholder occupying the offices said: "If AstraZeneca really cares about people's health, it should pull out of GM crops and plant biotechnology."

There were further protests at the venue for the firm's annual general meeting, the Royal Lancaster Hotel, in Kensington. A protester said: "There are lots of people inside who will be airing their views."

Scotland Yard said later that police had attended the offices in Stanhope Gate shortly before 9am after reports of peoplechaining themselves to railings. They found three people chained to railings, and freed them with boltcutters.

A 21-year-old woman was arrested for breach of the peace and taken to West End Central police station. She was later released.