"Potato activist" sacked by Leuven University

The Catholic University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven) has dismissed one of its researchers who was linked to the destruction of a field of genetically modified potatoes in East Flanders. The woman acted as a spokeswoman for the activists, but did not actually take part in the destruction of the field.

Last Sunday, a group of environmental activists destroyed a field of genetically modified crops in Wetteren, in East Flanders. Their aim was to prevent an experiment conducted by the University of Ghent (East Flanders) to grow genetically modified potatoes. Parts of the field can still be saved, but the action sparked indignation among researchers and a majority of the people.

It turned out that the group of some 300 activists also included three scientists working the K.U.Leuven. One of them was a woman who acted as a spokeswoman for the activists, explaining the action to reporters on television. She was doing research in the department of Architecture and Town and Country Planning.

The university calls her behaviour "unacceptable", despite the fact that neither she nor the other two did actually take part in the destruction of the field. The university says that the freedom of speech has limits and that the principle of free research has been harmed. "We spoke to her about the action afterwards, and she did not want to put things into perspective or change her position on the matter", a statement said.