ACTIVISTS prevented staff entering BASF UK’s headquarters at Cheadle Hulme, near Manchester, this morning (Tuesday, May 6), in a protest at the company’s GM potato trials.

Earth First! said 30 of its activist had shut down the offices in order ‘to highlight the company’s role in pushing GM onto our plates’.

BASF is planning to run the UK’s only trial of GM crops this year featuring blight resistant potatoes.

The protesters arrived early in the morning and blockaded the gate to the headquarters by sitting in front of it and employing d-locks and other equipment. The protesters also hung a 30 x 10ft banner reading “No To GM”

No staff were able to enter the building until the protestors left at around midday, having blockaded the gate for several hours.

“They are successfully preventing any staff from entering and are demanding the company pull out of GM immediately,” a statement released by Earth First! said.

Mary Sunderland from Earth First! said: “GM has no part to play in our future: it’s a dangerous, unwanted and unproven technology geared towards maximising profits for multinational corporations such as BASF.

“It is not the answer to food shortages, hunger or climate change. The real solution is to change now to a sustainable farming system and to distribute resources fairly around the world.”

Around 200 BASF are based in the building, although none of them are involved in production or research work and none are working on the GM potato trials, according to BASF spokesman Chris Wilson, who, himself was stuck outside the building.

BASF issued a statement criticising the methods of the protestors. “We take seriously the concerns that some people have regarding plant biotechnology. We will do everything to provide answers to any questions people have and look for ways to discuss the issues with the public. We are seeking a matter-of-fact dialogue based on scientific fact.

“However, we have been concerned by the actions of protestors on a number of occasions. We are particularly disappointed that activists disrupt our daily business by protesting in front of our site – therewith hindering our colleagues from entering the site.”

“We hope that people will in future voice their concerns in a peaceful and constructive way.”

BASF said the potato field trial had received consent from the Government and was being carried out in strict accordance with the regulations laid down.

“There is no reason to expect that the genetically modified potatoes are any less safe than conventionally produced potatoes.

“When approval for a field trial project is granted by the authorities in charge, this approval confirms that the tested crops are safe to be planted using the management procedures to be followed during the trial.”