ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  20 November 2000


GM crops dug up to save lives, says tearful activist
by Iain Laing- The Journal, 18 November 2000

A PROTESTER collapsed in tears yesterday as he told a court how he and four other environmentalists dug up a part of a field of genetically-modified crops.

The five-day trial of the protesters ended in uncertainty after a judge listened to the impassioned defence of the environmentalists, one collapsing in tears in court.

The protesters admit digging up and removing a small patch of genetically modified oil seed rape from a County Durham farm - the only GM crop trial in the region.

But they deny charges of criminal damage, claiming their actions were to prevent risk of contamination to other crops and the food chain.

Their defence rests on the legal justification that they acted in fear of immediate injury or death.

But District Judge Paul Firth said yesterday he wanted to consider "a number of legal machinations" before deciding on the case and would announce his verdict next month.

Darlington Magistrates' Court heard how the group went on to John Richardson's Hutton Fields Farm, near Barnard Castle, last October.

They tore up the oil seed rape he was growing as a controlled experiment for AgrEvo UK as part of the Government's nationwide tests of the ecological effects of GM crops.

Mr Richardson, who had been warned by the pro testers of their actions, called police and two were arrested.

They were Sussex lecturer Stephen Gordon and Manchester recycling company manager Hugh Baker.

Three other members of the group later turned themselves in to police.  They were writer Lorraine Exley, her daughter Zoey Exley, 23, both from Dorset, and Emma Henry, 22, of York.

Yesterday Gordon, 26, sobbed and at one point collapsed into his seat in tears, as he explained their defence and justified their actions.

"I am running out of things to eat and I'm not at all confident GM products will continue to be labelled sufficiently," he said. "We must exercise our responsibility for our actions or inactions to our environment, for our actions today directly affect everybody, both today and in the future."

Baker, 26, said the court had to weigh up the £2,000 worth of damage to crops with the threat from GM testing.


ngin bulletin archive