VIENNA, AUSTRIA - Greenpeace has been forced to withdraw its hard-hitting, anti-PVC billboard advertising campaign in Austria following a ruling by the Vienna Commercial Court in which the judge slammed Greenpeace for portraying PVC as a ``useless product.'' The court said Nov. 8 that Greenpeace's claim that PVC is an ``environmental poison'' is not factual and is likely to cause undue fear, rather than clear understanding.
The case was brought to court by resin producer Solvay SA of Brussels, Belgium, and two processors with the backing of the Brussels-based European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers. In its summary, the court advised Greenpeace that it cannot demand protection under Austria's constitutional right of free expression. Greenpeace does, however, have the right to appeal.
Speaking by telephone from his home in Mont Sur Rolle, Switzerland, ECVM Director John Svalander said, ``When organizations [like Greenpeace] are driven by politics and a hunger for publicity, then the environment becomes a secondary interest.
``The environmental issue, and particularly the debate around PVC, is being clouded by misinformation. Simple scaremongering is counterproductive, and in the [Greenpeace] case, it is damaging a material which, in the opinion of the court and a huge body of independent scientific evidence, is a very versatile product,'' Svalander said.
Although Greenpeace appears to nurture a global ambition to banish PVC, the organization's various international offices appear unaware of obstacles experienced in countries other than their own.
As recently as Dec. 3, Kate Johnson, the United Kingdom press officer for Greenpeace, was ``not familiar'' with the Austrian development.
Nor was Bob Edwards, Greenpeace's London-based PVC expert, who said he did not wish to comment. When asked why, he said he had not received any details about the court ruling.
Greenpeace's Austrian PVC campaign leader, Thomas Balatzi in Vienna, was not available for comment.