05.01.2004, Indymedia

Bayer Win Protection over GM Protests

The homes of thousands of employees of Bayer, the chemicals group, are to be protected from protesters opposed to genetically-modified crops by special exclusion zones. This marks the first time that anti-harassment laws have been invoked in the furore over GM foods.

A High Court judge on Tuesday granted a wide-ranging interiminjunction, which will create exclusion zones around employees' homes - ranging from 100 yards in most cases to a square kilometre in one - as well as around corporate buildings.

The order, which will run until a further court hearing on February 11, puts severe restrictions on the permitted protest activity by certain named campaigners and anti-GM organisations, and requires them to notify the police in advance. It also curtails photography and video footage of employees and clamps down on certain e-mail activity.

Bayer, which owns Aventis CropScience, is one of the leading GM players in the UK. Lawyers seeking the order on behalf of employees of Bayer and eight of its subsidiaries claimed there had been a sustained campaign against the group, ranging from e-mail "blockades" to site and office "invasions". They cited as examples the damage done to cars parked in one employee's driveway last month, and also the jamming of company locks.

Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, appearing for the claimants, told Mr Justice Treacy that the injunction was particularly necessary because a planned "week of activity" started on Monday. "I am satisfied that this is a case where it is appropriate to grant an interim injunction," said the judge, although he refused some provisions sought, such as the protection of former employees. Protection of on-site contractors - such as security guards or catering staff - will also only come into force if a further witness statement is provided this week.

None of the named protest organisations - which include Stop Bayer's GM Crops, Leeds Earth First, Bayer Hazard, Earth Liberation Front and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty - nor the six individual defendants were represented in court.

Bayer's success in getting an injunction marks a growing use of anti-harassment laws by companies keen to protect themselves.