|Plea to farmer to pull out of GM trial (25/4/2007)|
1.PLEA TO LOCAL FARMER TO PULL OUT OF GM TRIAL AS LOCAL OPPOSITION BUILDS
GM WATCH comment: According to this news report, BASF has now been given the go ahead for both UK GM potato trials (Hedon and Cambridge).
All the following items raise the issue of democratic deficit.
EXTRACTS: "We have been overwhelmed by the opposition to these trials. Neighbouring farmers, Graham Stuart MP, two local councils and the public don't want GM potatoes planted here." (item 1)
"...the British public are resolutely opposed to GM crops and will take action to resist their reintroduction into the UK." (item 2)
"I certainly wouldn't have been giving up my land to test them." - Neighbouring farmer whose field was mistakenly targeted in a protest (item 3)
1.PLEA TO LOCAL FARMER TO PULL OUT OF GM TRIAL AS LOCAL OPPOSITION BUILDS
Campaigners are today making a final plea to the Hedon farmer due to host BASF's GM potato trial to put the interests of the local community first and pull out of the trial. The call comes as the Government is expected to announce its consent for the GM trial any day, following the deadline for public comments on Friday (20 April).
The Government is expected to approve BASF's plans to trial blight resistant GM potatoes in Hedon. Planting could start within the next two weeks. However, it is understood that the farmer has still not signed the contract to allow the trial to go ahead and is concerned about the impact the trial could have on neighbouring borage farmers.
Hedon Against GM Campaigner Lee-Ann Williams said:
"We have been overwhelmed by the opposition to these trials. Neighbouring farmers, Graham Stuart MP, two local councils and the public don't want GM potatoes planted here. BASF have not considered the impacts on our community but we fear that the Government has already made up its mind and will give the GM potatoes the green light. Our main hope now is that the farmer due to host the trial pulls out. We urge him to change his mind and refuse to help BASF trial this product that no-one wants."
Some protesters at the rally on Saturday planted potatoes in a field near the proposed trial site. Hedon Against GM and Friends of the Earth were not involved in this action and were not aware that it was planned.
There is significant opposition to the trial:
*Both East Riding and Hedon Town Councils have voted to object to the trial taking place  *Neighbouring borage farmers fear losing tens of thousands of pounds if beekeepers do not bring their hives into their fields to pollinate the crop because of concerns around GM contamination of honey from the trial.
*Local MP Graham Stuart is backing the farmers and does not believe the trial should go ahead this year.
*Over 800 people have signed a petition objecting to the trial of which 600 are local people.
*Around 150 people joined a rally and GM-free picnic on Saturday to celebrate GM-free food *The British Potato Council and McCain do not want the trials to go ahead because of concerns over public perception of their products
 East Riding Council voted to oppose the trial on 4 April. Hedon Town Council responded to the public consultation as follows:
PROPOSAL TO TRIAL GM POTATOES IN A FIELD ON THE BOUNDARY OF HEDON EAST YORKSHIRE - CONSULTATION RESPONSE
This Council, having received information from, and discussed with experts from both sides of the argument, is strongly opposed to agreement being given to a trial of genetically modified potatoes being held in a field in Preston, bordering Hedon, East Yorkshire.
The reasons are that:
1. We cannot accept that there is any need for the development of a genetically modified potato intended to produce a blight free strain. As has rightly been pointed out here are several varieties of blight resistant potatoes existing at present. The growth of a large number of different potatoes throughout the country all minimises the risk of blight to a substantial degree.
2. The safeguards needed to protect a GM crop are inadequate.
3. This field is bordered to the north and west by a public highway; it is bordered to the south by a footpath(the old railway line from Hull to Withernsea) which is extensively used for recreational purposes; it has a designated footpath running through the middle of it. This must increase the risk of cross contamination, public exposure to an unknown pollen and vandalism of the crop.
4. The area is widely used for a wide range of arable farming. The danger of cross-contamination by inter-and transpollination cannot possibly be contained with the buffer zones required by DEFRA.
5. The area for miles around is extensively used by beekeepers to gather nectar for honey making. This has the benefit of pollinating many different crops in Holderness. The bees are often exposed to different fields at different times and are moved around the area for this purpose. The danger therefore of much wider contamination and effect on other closely related species cannot be ruled out.
6. BASF insisted that following the trials there would be no genetically modified potatoes left in the field. We are unconvinced by their reassurances on this point. Anyone who has grown potatoes knows that any scrap of plant material left on the bed can generate a new potato plant in the following season. There is general disbelief that the field an ever be completely cleaned and even if it were it would take a number of years for this to be effected. Commercial and economic pressures on the farmer to reuse the field would be intense. The two year condition imposed by DEFRA seems to us inadequate in this respect.
2.Extract from statement from mutatoes.org over the planting of organic potatoes
Despite a mistake being made [as to which field they were planted in] we believe it was far better that we went ahead and challenged the GM trials than stood by doing nothing. We clearly demonstrated the British public are willing to take on the multinationals / government on this issue. Though it was, and remains, our avowed intention to prevent the trials from going ahead, we are fully aware that these trials are as much a test of public opinion as a genuine scientific experiment. Consequently, although the wrong field was targetted we still achieved one of our primary objectives of demonstrating that the British public are resolutely opposed to GM crops and will take action to resist their reintroduction into the UK. The multinationals behind GM crops have bided their time since Bayer pulled out from the last trials three years ago. But they have been pressing ahead in the rest of the world. It is vital that we, as a movement, rise to the occasion, and demonstrate that resistance is as vigourous as ever. We are unapologetic for what we have attempted to do and we will not cease our efforts to keep the UK GM free. And as useful byproduct - we now know where the actual field is, thanks to the police.
3.GM protesters pick wrong field in bid to disrupt potato trial
The operation to sabotage the government's GM potato trial was planned with care and under conditions of great secrecy. Two hundred and fifty protesters swooped on the 16-hectare site outside Hull, armed with shovels and filled with indignation.
In less than an hour they had moved to invalidate the trial, planting thousands of organic potatoes. Mission accomplished. If only they had got the right field.
Activists from Mutatoes.org yesterday apologised to farmer David Buckton after it emerged that they wrongly identified his land as the site of the GM trial. The field they planted was sown with beans.
By the time Mr Buckton was alerted to the protesters on his land, it was too late to stop the direct action. The protesters were determined to move quickly on the basis that the land would be rendered unsuitable for the GM trials once other root crops were in the ground.
In a statement Mutatoes.org said: "With the information that we had and the short timescale available to us ... we sincerely believed this to be the correct field. The public were not given sufficient information by the government, who supplied only a four-figure grid reference for the location of the trial."
The group said they conducted extensive investigations within the area specified by the environment department and outside. "While it is regrettable that the wrong site and farmer were targeted, we would also like to make it clear ... that people will continue to disrupt the planting of GM crops despite the difficulties faced by this lack of full disclosure," the group added.
Yesterday Mr Buckton, 54, said the mix-up was the strangest event to have befallen his family in four generations of farming. He said the protesters were accompanied by two police officers on horseback.
"I told the police officers that it was a bean field but they said the protest seemed peaceful so we'd better let them get on with it. The beans are just about peeping through. The protesters should have been able to see that," he said.
Mr Buckton said he had no great enthusiasm for GM crops. "I certainly wouldn't have been giving up my land to test them," he said. The company BASF plans trials of GM potatoes at two sites: Cambridge, which already has government approval, and in the East Riding of Yorkshire.