Syngenta fail to inform public/GM activists destroy crops (2/7/2003)

1.Syngenta fail to inform public on status of GM trial
2.GM activists destroy crops
Syngenta fail to inform public on status of GM trial
2 July 2003
Immediate Release
Press Release
On 2 July activists responded to Syngenta's claim that they destroyed a crop which was not GM [1].  They stated that Syngenta had failed to keep the public informed as to the status of their GM wheat trial and are therefore in breach of DEFRA's Consent.

DEFRA's consent (section 29) stipulates that "local interest groups such as beekeepers and organic crop farmers will be kept informed".  But according to Doreen Wyatt [5] of the local campaign Green Watch, who supports the activists, at least two local farmers were not kept informed.  She said that nothing has been seen in the local press except that the debate about GM has continued through to June resulting in a public invitation to view GM research extended by Syngenta which certainly suggests that they had a GM trial.  She also said that vigils were being held every month yet nobody from Syngenta told them that the GM wheat trial was not being run.  Such "interested parties" should surely also include local press and local environmental groups.  Information was not displayed on the DEFRA web-site stating that the trial was withdrawn [3].

Activists have also pointed to numerous examples in which biotech companies have made false claims that trial sites which have been destroyed are not GM [2].  These false claims give every reason for activists to doubt Syngenta's claim.

Before carrying out the action activists visited the Research Station five times attempting to be certain that the right GM trial site was identified.  The trial was compared with information given in the Consent issued by the Advisory Committee on Releases into the Environment (ACRE).  The pattern and dimensions of the site corresponded with the information given in the Consent.  There was no other trial site at the Research Station that in any way resembled the pattern of the site given in the Consent [4].

Editor's Notes

1. Background: On 29 June 2003 approximately sixty activists participated in nonviolent direct action at Syngenta's Jealott's Hill Research Station. Their intention was to pull up a research and development trial of GM wheat which was growing in the open environment. Syngenta have alleged that the activists destroyed a crop which was not GM and that they did not run the GM trial. 
2. On previous occasions both companies and host farmers have made false claims that activists trashed "the wrong crop" in order to discredit them and their action.  Some examples:
· Chief Inspector Durman of Dorset Police stated "I can only apologise in this instant where an error was made" in a letter dated 18 August 2002 relating to an unlicensed GM crop from a government trial damaged at Hilton in Dorset.
· George Monbiot "Genes aren't the only things being manipulated by the biotech companies" in The Guardian, 5 April 2001.
· On 3 August 1999 Hugh Warwick (07815 042452), a freelance journalist witnessed AgrEvo (now Bayer) make a claim to press that a GM crop at Royston was not GM; he immediately confronted AgrEvo with evidence that this was false. 
3. The DEFRA website did not contain any notice to say that the trial had been stopped.  The website was last updated on 21 May 2003 when all mention of the GM wheat trial was simply deleted without explanation.  The DEFRA website has previously been criticised for numerous inaccuracies.
4. Companies undertaking research and development trials are not obliged by DEFRA to give a grid reference for the precise position of the trial; they only need to give a grid reference showing the research station, as was the case with this grid reference.
5. Doreen Wyatt can be contacted 01344 452893.
2.GM activists destroy crops
Reading Chronicle, Jul 1 2003
By James Ferguson, Midweek News

CAMPAIGNERS broke into a Bracknell research centre at the weekend to protest against trials of controversial GM crops.

Members of the group, which has no name, cut through two wire fences to get onto the Syngenta site at Jealotts Hill, Warfield, in the early hours of Sunday morning, where they destroyed an area of crop.

Syngenta said the crop destroyed was not a GM trial and condemned what it described as 'vandalism'.

There have been a series of protests from local group Green Watch at Syngenta, though none have involved trying to break onto the site.

Green Watch said it was not involved in the weekend's activities, however one of its members, Doreen Wyatt, supported the action.

She said: "Good for them. It is the pollution of the surrounding countryside that bothers us. They have no right to pollute just because of their financial investment in the area.

"Green Watch have not pursued direct action because there are other people out there better at it."

Protesters are worried about a whole series of issues concerning the crop. They say the safety of such crops has not been established and they are worried that the plants will contaminate other non-GM crops.

Syngenta has permission from the Government to carry out a trial of genetically enhanced wheat at Jealotts Hill.

However, the company said it is not planning any open GM trials at the site this year.

The company added that the crop destroyed at the weekend was non-GM and was part of research into how to tackle fungal disease in commercial wheat in Western Europe.

It added: "At a time when the UK Government is conducting a full and open debate on the pros and cons of GM crops and the possible benefits they might offer the UK, Syngenta is disappointed that a small number of people are resorting to vandalism and the destruction of research projects which are seeking to provide benefits to agriculture and for the future provision of food.

"This action has been particularly senseless as the plot destroyed was not a GM crop and its destruction has therefore not met the objectives of those involved."

For more see this week's Bracknell News

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