GM cargo ship protest defended (13/9/2005)

Activist defends GM cargo ship protest
icWales, Sep 13 2005
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An environmental campaigner involved in a two-day protest on a cargo ship claimed today that at the time he believed it was carrying illegal and unapproved genetically modified crops.

Greenpeace had claimed the MV Etoile, which was stopped from heading into Bristol in June last year was carrying genetically modified animal feed, a jury was told.

The 123,000-tonne Panamanian-registered ship, one of the largest sea-going bulk cargo carriers, was eventually able to dock.

Ten men and three women all deny a public nuisance charge at Cardiff Crown Court.

Ben Ayliffe, 28, a Greenpeace employee involved in researching GM organisms, today told the jury that the aim of the protest was to stop the shipment coming into Bristol and to get it to return to the US.

He said he believed this was reasonable, "given what we thought was on board the Etoile, absolutely".

He added: "I absolutely, 100% believed there were illegal, unapproved GM crops on the Etoile when we stopped it."

He claimed that in the US GM and non-GM crops are "thrown together" and the UK's Environmental Protection Act was clear that GM material had to be approved and "anything that is not approved is not allowed in".

Ayliffe said he did not believe the law was being enforced properly.

"My experience with the GM industry is that they tend to close ranks," he said. "They don't like studies leaking out to the public about crops that aren't meant to be there."

He said his experience with the industry was that "they are quite mendacious".

Prosecutor Jervis Kay QC previously told how the ship was on a voyage from the US to Britain when progress was impeded by Greenpeace protesters.

The vessel was forced to anchor and was unable to use her engine, he said.

"These foolhardy acts amounted to acts constituting a public nuisance," said Mr Kay.

Mr Kay said the incident was a "joint enterprise", with defendants boarding ladders on either side of the ship and near the rudder, with others acting as a "support team" in inflatable boats, giving press interviews.

"A great deal of pre-planning and preparation on the part of the members of Greenpeace had taken place," said Mr Kay.

Mr Kay said the impact of the defendants' actions was "substantial and wide-ranging".

The ship's cargo was delayed, costs of hiring the vessel were wasted and there were costs incurred in preparing the vessel to come into harbour.

He said the RNLI and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency had been involved and South Wales police had deployed more than 80 staff to deal with the incident. A police helicopter was deployed on two occasions.

The defendants include: Andrew Taylor, 35, of Stroud, Gloucestershire, Janet Miller, 49, and Huw Williams, 38, both of Buxton, Derbyshire, Tim Hewke, 45, of Sittingbourne, Kent, Nicola Cook, 37, of St Cross, Suffolk, and Cedric Counord, 28, of France, appeared with Allen Vincent, 42, of Peckham, south London, Michele Rosato, 33, of Bow, east London, Rachel Murray, 31, of Highbury, north London, Jens Loewe, 36, Richard Watson, 40, and Ayliffe, all of Islington, north London and Frank Hewetson, 40, of Kensal Rise, north west London.


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