Why a Norwich group is fighting GM crops
Press article on why ngin is opposing GM crop trials
|NEWS FROM NORFOLK:
GM crop herbicide fears grow Brisley
GM crop to stay in Norfolk despite Swiss
Row over cancelled GM debate
Eastern Daily Press, October 27, 2001
The Government, Norfolk County Council and the agro-chemical industry were accused of running scared of public debate after a major GM conference planned for Norwich was cancelled.
Speakers on all sides of the contentious issue of genetically modified food were due to attend the event on Monday.
But leading national figures in the anti-GM camp were angry when they learned that the meeting would not be open to the public, more time was being given to pro-GM/government speakers and the venue would be the John Innes Institute, which has been at the forefront of GM research.
Yesterday, Norfolk farmer and ex-Greenpeace executive director and government minister Lord Peter Melchett said it was a "nonsense" that the meeting would have been behind closed doors.
He claimed it was "bizarre and unacceptable" that representatives from the chemical industry would not participate in a public meeting and said the John Innes Institute was a "highly partisan location".
Norfolk County Council, which had organised the event ‚ said it had never been intended as a public meeting.
The authority decided to cancel the conference after Lord Melchett, who is now national policy adviser for the Soil Association, Dr Sue Mayer, of GeneWatch, and Peter Riley, senior Real Food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, pulled out.
A county council statement said the authority was "very disappointed" that the conference had to be cancelled.
It had been organised to allow county, district and county councillors the chance to hear more on the topic from speakers from both sides.
The statement said: "The conference was never intended as an open public event, but as an opportunity for invited local representatives to get the facts from both sides in a forum where all speakers could be assured of being heard."
The council said the John Innes Centre was a "good-quality, accessible venue in Norwich which hosts all kinds of events unconnected with the work of the centre."
The statement added: "The council did not feel it could respond to the requests made by these particular speakers, which were not made by others taking part."
Lord Melchett said pro-GM speakers would have been given 40 per cent more time to speak.
He said a recent report to the Government from the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission had "strongly called" for all debates on the issue to be held in public.
Lord Melchett said it was "rubbish" to suggest that government speakers would be neutral as they were sponsoring the farm-scale GM crop trials.
Adrian Bebb, of Friends of the Earth, said they were suspicious about the reasons for cancellation.
Ingrid Floering-Blackman, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for the environment, made the decision to cancel the event.
She was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Mike Halls, head of environment at the county council's planning and transportation department, said it would have been difficult to control a debate with the public present.
He said the John Innes Centre was one of the best venues in Norwich.
JIC PROFESSOR NAMED IN LIBEL CASE
As part of a recent settlement of a libel case brought by Lord Melchett
and Greenpeace UK, the High Court in London was told of how a letter from
a professor in plant biochemistry, published in a Scottish newspaper, contained
"unfounded" allegations that Lord Melchett and Greenpeace had spread fears
about GM in order to further their own
for more on the John Innes Centre
Letter to the Evening News, 17 April 2001
Linking the peoples of 2 worlds
Agriculture and how we manage the land has always been a hot topic in
And it’s never been hotter than in the era of Dolly the sheep and Lucky
Last year we had the BSE report and front page images of a Norfolk
It is not only in this country, of course, that the future of
Their voice has an added poignancy for another reason. These are the
Meanwhile, back in the Indian countryside, the hungry rural poor and
Many of the experts who pushed the "green revolution" are now pushing
This week the people of Norfolk will have the chance to hear some of
This is a real opportunity to link the farmers and peoples of two parts
GREENPEACE 28 ACQUITTED IN GM TRIAL
"The time has come for Mr Blair and the chemical companies to stop
growing GM crops."
"Every one of them is intelligent, idealistic and committed to their
cause. All were willing to take direct action in support of it, with the
vital Greenpeace proviso of non-violence: they did not fight the police
who arrived to arrest them, the nearest thing to resistance any offered
being to go limp."
The judge also ruled that the prosecution pay all the costs of both trials
Daily Mail (21st September 2000) - front page banner headline "NOT GUILTY" subheading... "devastating implications for the Frankenstein food industry"
Eastern Daily Press (21st September 2000) - front page banner headline "Crop Trials in Chaos" and a very nice photo of the 3 Norfolk Greenpeace 28 defendants: Peter Melchett, Nicole Cook and Michael Uwins
DAILY EXPRESS LEADER (21st September 2000): GM farce is no
Wednesday 20th September 2000: Press release
28 GREENPEACE VOLUNTEERS ACQUITTED IN GM TRIAL
GREENPEACE WELCOMES VERDICT AND CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO END GM FARM
Twenty-eight Greenpeace volunteers were acquitted today of criminal damage at Norwich Crown Court. The volunteers had gone on trial on September 4th on charges relating to a Greenpeace action at Lyng, Norfolk, on 26th July, 1999, where part of an experimental crop of genetically modified (GM) maize was cut down and sealed in bags as part of a campaign to prevent genetic contamination of the environment.
Speaking immediately after the verdict, Peter Melchett, Executive Director of Greenpeace, said:
"We're extremely happy with the verdict which totally vindicates our campaign to prevent genetic pollution of the environment. We are delighted that an English jury was convinced that the Greenpeace volunteers were rightly acting to protect property and the environment when they cut down and bagged the crop of GM maize. We now call on Government to end the GM farmscale trials before any further genetic pollution of the environment occurs."
Peter Melchett continued:
"Greenpeace wanted to remove the GM maize in Norfolk because we believe that GM crops will inevitably contaminate the environment. The Government's own commissioned advisors - the John Innes Centre - told them that contamination was inevitable but they chose to ignore that advice. Since July 1999, crops of cotton in Greece have been found to have been contaminated by GM cotton and have had to be destroyed, the same has happened to oil seed rape and soya crops in France, and hundreds of fields of oil seed rape were contaminated in the UK and had to be destroyed.
The Government is currently reviewing separation distances imposed between
GM crops and other similar crops - separation distances which we said were
completely inadequate when we took action in July 1999. As a result
Peter Melchett concluded:
"The GM maize at Lyng was designed to be fed to animals, in the production
of beef, milk and other dairy products like butter and cream. There
is still GM material being used to feed farm animals in the UK, but retailers
such as Iceland have already announced that none of their 'own-brand' meat
or dairy products will come from animals fed on GM crops. Greenpeace expects
other major supermarket chains like Tesco and Asda to follow suit over
the next few weeks. Once this happens, the food chain in the UK will
be GM-free. In these circumstances the Government must stop promoting the
growing of GM crops so that British farmers can continue to sell products
uncontaminated with GM."
Greenpeace wins key GM case
GM crops are a threat to the very existence of organic agriculture because the possibility of long-distance pollen transfer means that it is very hard to guarantee that an organic crop is GM free if a GM site is anywhere in the vicinity.
This point was emphasised last year by a report commissioned by the Government from Europe's leading GM research institute, the John Innes Centre, and published just six weeks before the raid at Lyng. In essence, it said that it was impossible to guarantee that any foods grown in Britain could be GM free if GM crops were also grown here because of the huge distances pollen could travel.
That was the basis for the raid on Lyng, the Greenpeace activists say, to remove the maize before its flowering (which was imminent) and the consequent "genetic pollution" of other crops or countryside plants. It was the basis of their defence of "lawful excuse" for the damage which they freely admitted they had caused.
That, and his own local interest, caused Lord Melchett to lead the raid.
"I am a farmer in Norfolk, and if I didn't do it myself it might have seemed
that I was letting other people take action on my behalf," he said.
JURY CLEARS GREENPEACE OF THEFT AND FAILS TO CONVICT OVER CRIMINAL DAMAGE IN GM COURT CASE
For Immediate Release - Greenpeace press release:
Wednesday 19th April 2000
The Jury in the trial of the twenty-eight Greenpeace volunteers charged
with criminal damage and theft at Norwich Crown Court has acquitted all
the volunteers of theft and failed to reach a verdict on criminal damage.
The announcement, made today (19/4/00), means that the Crown Prosecution
Service must now consider whether to seek a retrial. The volunteers had
Speaking immediately after the announcement, Peter Melchett, Executive Director of Greenpeace, said: "The prosecution could not convince the Jury that these people were guilty of criminal damage and we are delighted that their honesty has not been called into question with their acquittal on the charge of theft. It is disappointing for all the defendants that the charge of criminal damage is left hanging over them but we will simply have to wait on whether the Crown Prosecution Service will seek a retrial. However, the Greenpeace campaign against the reckless release of GM crops into the environment continues and we will put particular emphasis on working with local communities to create GM-free zones throughout Britain. While we were sitting in court, over a 1000 GM-free zones were declared in Norfolk alone ranging from cottage gardens to large commercial farms."
While the Greenpeace 28 stood trial, GM technology continued to retreat in the face of popular opposition. Since April 3rd:
1) A fourth farm has withdrawn from the Government's GM trials programme in Tittleshall, Norfolk
2) The Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group recommended on 5th April that Church of England land should not be used for the Government's GM trials
3) On 13th April Austria banned T25 GM maize - the same maize that was cut down and bagged by the Greenpeace volunteers
4) Over a thousand GM-free zones were declared in Norfolk ranging from cottage gardens to large commercial farms
|EASTERN DAILY PRESS Thursday 14 September 2000
GM CROPS 'SHOULD BE DESTROYED'
South Norfolk Council is being urged to ensure the destruction of GMtrial crops, following claims that they were planted unlawfully.
The council's planning committee is to make the decision, after being told by physicist Dr David Goodman that change-of-use permission is required before genetically modified crops can be planted.
He is calling for the council to serve stop/enforcement orders for the immediate destruction of all GM crops in the district, and to require that in future the organisations involved submit planning applications.
Dr Goodman, of Fritton Common near Long Stratton, said a legal precedent had been established in 1965 in a court case between Dow Agrochemicals and tenants E A Lane (North Lynn) Ltd.
"The judge held that use of the land was not agricultural because any crops to which the chemicals were to be applied would be grown purely for research purposes and were not to be sold or otherwise enter the food chain," he explained at Monday's council meeting.
A petition from over 750 people, deploring the trialling of crops in the Diss area without public consultation was also presented.
Dr Goodman told the EDP he had raised the issue because of general concern about GM crops.
He said: "Two councils, in Scotland and Lincolnshire, have already decided that, in their opinion, planning permission is needed.
Dr Goodman said the controversy over the crops had united the community.
"Serious questions of environmental health are raised by the presence
of the farm-scale trials, and the planning laws are an appropriate way
for affected parties to express their views," he added.
|The Eastern Daily Press, Saturday 9 September
An area of more than 1150 sq.miles surrounding the Norfolk Broads should remain a GM-free zone, the Broads Authority looks set to recommend.
Environmental experts with the Authority want to keep genetically modified organisms (GMOs) away from the area because not enough is know about their environmental effects.
A report to the Authority's environment committee on Monday will recommend that release and use of GMOs be discouraged in the Broads zone.
The suggested area stretches around the river valleys of the Yare, Waveney and Bure, and the tributaries the Ant and Thurne.
It is ten times bigger than the Broads executive area of 116 sq. miles, as it takes in many tributaries which could feed into the Broads National Park.
Dr.Michael Green, chief conservation officer with the Authority, said
last night: "It's fairly obvious that insufficient is known about GMOs
and how they may interact with the environment. We are taking a
The report highlights the major environmental concerns about GMOs and their use, including:
* Genetic pollution between GMOs and related wild species;
It also points to the potential environmental benefits of GMOs, including reduction of herbicides and insecticides, energy savings resulting from a cut in pesticide use, retention of soil moisture by eliminating the need to plough, and reclamation of habitats.
The report details "position statements" from other environmental bodies including English Nature, the Environment Agency and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The English Nature position statement says the release of GMOs is only appropriate where risk assessments on natural habitats have taken place.
The Environment Agency also endorses a precautionary approach to ensure environmental safety. And the RSPB is calling for a moratorium on the commercial planting of GM crops until research into their impacts is complete.
The National Farmers' Union supports regulation of proposed introductions of GM crops, and says it is satisfied the Government has established the world's most complete and open regulatory system for the approval of growing GM crops.
Spokesman for the NFU's eastern region, Brian Finnerty, said: "We are
in favour of trials taking place to determine the effects, if any,
on the environment. It has always been up to the individual and that
is how it should be, but it is important that they do take place."
FEARS GROW over use of HERBICIDE
by Geoff Pulham
The Eastern Daily Press
Saturday 9 September 2000
Serious concern is growing in mid-Norfolk over a proposed trial crop of genetically modified oilseed rape which will be treated with a herbicide alleged to cause birth defects in animals.
A packed public meeting in Brisley was disturbed to hear that the trial of winter oilseed rap at Church Farm, Horningtoft, near Fakenham, will be near a stream feeding the River Wensum, north of woodland classified as a site of special scientific interest and within a mile of four county wildlife sites.
Developed by agro-chemical firm Aventis, it will be treated with glufosinate ammonium, which kills all greeen plants except those given tolerance by the GM process.
The herbicide, also developed by Aventis, is intended to save farmers money because it is used less than conventional chemicals.
People at the meeting were worried to hear that until now, the herbicide's use has been restricted to April to August, to reduce the chances of it contaminating groundwater.
It has been given experimental permission for the trial at Church Farm.
Dr.Jeremy Bartlett, a former scientist at the John Innes Centre who attended the public meeting, distributed documents stating that the herbicide has caused birth defects in animals, is toxic to several species of freshwater fish and inhibits the growth of soil fungi and bacteria.
Horningtoft resident Liz Logan said: "The site that has been chosen here is on high ground. It is also the headwater of a stream leading to the River Wensum. There are people who get their water from boreholes very near to that site, in two cases in houses actually adjacent to the field, and I should think these people are rather worried."
Although chairman Sue Beare refused to allow a final vote, it was clear the vast majority of the meeting was opposed to the trial taking place - at least in its current guise.
Richard Powell, of seed firm Novartis, based in Docking, said: "The safety of these crops should have been and was established before any trials were allowed. They must be as safe and as stable as current conventional crops otherwise the Department of the Environment, Trade and the Regions would not have consented to release them."
|This is a shortened version of an account by Caroline Clarke of the
American farmers meeting in Norfolk on 4th February
(4th February 2000) Three American farmers, each knowledgeable about different aspects of American farming, have come over to meet the British public and answer questions generated by GM and the farming crisis on both sides of the Atlantic.
With some 150 there, the room was full, and had a cross-section of the public. The Chairman, Professor Tim O'Riordan from the Environmental Sciences' Faculty at the University of East Anglia, introduced the principal speakers and set the tone, friendly, informal, positive.
Jim Goodman began. He and his family farm some 400 acres in Wisconsin. In the mid-90s they drifted into organic farming as they became increasingly dissatisfied with chemical farming. They all work and are making a respectable living based on SUSTAINABLE, LOCALLY PRODUCED, LOCALLY BOUGHT FOODS, AIMING TO CUT OUT TRANSPORT and MIDDLEMEN COSTS.
John Kinsman is Vice President of the National Family Farm Co-alition - which is currently among those suing Monsanto for not properly testing GM seeds. It means hard work, but he says his health turned around when he stopped using chemicals. He feels better now than he did 30 years ago. WE HAVE TO TALK TO EACH OTHER, WE HAVE COMMON INTERESTS - AMERICANS NEED OUR MARKETS, WE THEIR PRODUCE.
Corky Jones, on the executive of the American Corn Growers Association, has the most acreage - just under 3000 in Nebraska. In 1998 he grew both GM corn and GM soya, last year it was GM soya alone. He doesn't want to grow it again this year BUT DOESN'T KNOW IF NON-GM SEED WILL BE AVAILABLE. His other important points were that THE FARMER PAYS FOR THE SEED BUT IT DOESN'T BELONG TO HIM. Two Pinkerton detectives employed by Monsanto called on his farm to check up on him.
The audience were invited to put questions.
For more on the farming problems with GM
- the UK's public enemy no. 1 - on the move!
AgrEvo - the UK's public enemy no. 1 (as a result of its aggressive promotion of GE crops in the UK in the face of almost total public opposition) is due to quit East Winch Hall in Norfolk on Xmas Eve 1999. There's is still no news on whether AgrEvo has managed to find a buyer for its arable land contaminated by multiple GMO trials [see Contaminated land for sale?]
It's a move that is said to be part of the rationalisation following its merger with Rhone-Poulenc into the new agro-chemical/GE giant Aventis. However, the changes are very far from being all good news for Norfolk or the UK, as " Aventis has identified the UK as one of its four key global manufacturing centres" and this will involve expansion of an existing site at Norwich. This site has previously been associated with numerous pollution incidents and concerns particularly regarding impact on river water and potential impact on drinking water.
EDP, Friday December 17th 1999
Norwich site is pick of crop for Aventis [shortened]
The mega-merger of two of the world's leading life science companies was completed yesterday with news that Rhone-Poulenc's Norwich site would be part of one of four key global manufacturing centres.
The completion of the merger means that the city-based life sciences firm Rhone-Poulenc Agriculture, will now operate under the new name of Aventis Crop Sciencce.
Formed by bringing together Rhone-Poulenc SA and Hoechst AG, Aventis SA was formally created yesterday following overwhelming approval for the merger at a shareholder's meeting in Paris.
Focusing on human animal and plant health solutions, Aventis SA is now the world's largest life science company with more than 90,000 employees world-wide and sales of over 21bn euros ([pounds]13bn).
Rhone-Poulenc's work manufacturing crop protection, pharmaceutical and veterinary products and its formulation and packaging plant at Sweet Briar Road will now operate under the banner of Aventis Crop Science which will become the employer of the one-time May and Baker chemical site's 360 staff.
New site manager David Jones, who replaces US. bound Greg Townes, said: 'Aventis has identified the UK as one of its four key global manufacturing centres...'
For more on AgrEvo in Norfolk and elsewhere click
|GM BAN ON NORFOLK
COUNTY COUNCIL LAND
With the Government seeking 75 sites to host large farmscale trials of GM crops for the year 2000, a recent report (see below) to Norfolk County Council on GM trials highlights the fact that the Crown Estate, which is intimately tied in to the Governement, is anxious to not be seen to encourage such trials. The reason given is the need to demonstrate an "environmentally cautious approach to GM crops" in order to avoid legal liability. Other land owners take note! Norfolk County Council certainly has, as the article below the report 'TENANTS FACE GM BAN ON COUNCIL LAND' makes all too clear. As the article also makes clear: "Councils elsewhere have already brought in similar bans. Government-sponsored trials on land owned by the Church of England have also been vetoed by a powerful ethics committee."
COUNTY FARMS LETTINGS PANEL
COUNTY FARMS ESTATE
...1.2 It has been reported in the press that "the Crown Estate is introducing tenancy agreements that will discourage farmers from planting genetically modified seeds without permission
New tenancy agreements on Crown Estate's agricultural land will include a clause requiring farmers to ask permission before growing GM crops.
The move was sparked by a fear of legal action unless the estate adopts
what it terms an "environmentally cautious approach to GM crops. None of
the existing 460 tenants is actually growing GM crops." Estates Gazette
ENVIRONMENT: Farmers urged to consider effects on nearby fields
TENANTS FACE GM BAN ON COUNCIL LAND
By Chris Bishop
Farmers renting council owned holdings in Norfolk could soon be banned from growing GM crops without written permission from County Hall.
New tenancy agreements are being drawn up by the council to tighten controls.
Officials have already written to the county's 310 tenant farmers, asking if any have agreed to take part in GM trials.
The letter warns those approached should consider the possible effects on neighbouring growers and their own land before agreeing to take part.
County councillor Stephen Revell, a dairy farmer from Earsham, near Bungay and a member of the three-strong county farms letting panel said: "There Is a concern that if a tenant did agree to have a trial on their land there could be implications for neighbouring tenants and the value of land on the county council's estate. We would advise tenants not to do so, but we can't legally stop them so the proposal is to put a clause into tenancy agreements until the picture becomes clearer."
On Monday the letting panel will discuss inserting a clause in new tenancy agreements which bans tenants from taking part in GM crops trials without written permission from County Hall.
A report by Norfolk's director of property says the county council's land is not suitable for GM trials, because of its close proximity to the crops of other tenants and growers.
Environmental groups fear pollen from GM crops will spread and pollute other varieties, threatening the livelihoods of organic farmers.
Earlier this year, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warned growing GM crops could affect land values.
Last night Harry Haddaway, campaigns officer with organic growers' group the Soil Association, welcomed Norfolk's move.
"There is no adequate legislation covering the growing of GM crops at the moment, it's all governed by voluntary agreements," he said.
Jonathan Matthews, spokesman for the Norwich-based Norfolk Genetic Information Network, said: "Anything which tightens up the controls on GM crops has got to be good. Once GM crops have been grown on a farm, its GM free status could well be lost forever."
Councils elsewhere have already brought in similar bans. Government-sponsored
trials on land owned by the Church of England have also been vetoed by
a powerful ethics committee
|Why a Norwich group is fighting GM crops
Press article on why ngin is opposing GM crop trials
LYNG meeting: full transcript
LYNG FARMSCALE TRIAL
GM crop to stay in Norfolk despite Swiss ban
1. Villagers angry at lack of information
The following story from the press in Norfolk, UK, based on an afternoon talking to villagers in Lyng, the site of the GE farmscale trial targeted by Greenpeace 26th July 1999, reveals the strength of antipathy to the trial and resentment at the breakdown in any democratic process. A similar survey by Radio Norfolk revealed exactly the same sort of responses.
An emerging local boycott of other businesses run by the farmer hosting the trial (William Brigham), as a means of showing the local community's disapproval of his actions, is also refleted in one of the responses given here by a resident who has cancelled business worth hundreds of pounds.
Eastern Daily Press, 27th July 1999
Anger and resentment were revealed in an informal survey conducted by
Lyng residents voiced anger that the trial went ahead with a minimum
Jo Page, 39, a housewife from Lyng, helped organise a recent meeting
"We have tried everything democratic - written to our MP, councillors,
"It will affect the surrounding farms as well, and there are organic
"And everyone is keeping quiet about the issue of compensation if it's
• Phil Godfrey, 43, a general manager in an electrical shop at Lyng,
"At a recent meeting in the village we all agreed to keep it peaceful
"I accept the research needs to be carried out here, but why has it
•Mick Youngs, 50, a patent-maker from Lyng, decided to boycott William
Mr Youngs bought £688-worth of coal from Mr Brigham last year,
"I asked if he could say he was sure there were no risks attached. He
• Sue Campbell, 38, a chef, feared for her children's future. She said:
•Vic Ready, 68, a retired Norwich Union employee, said: "I kept an open
2. Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 27 July 1999 - Labour peer held in Greenpeace
raid on GM crop [shortened]
LORD MELCHETT, a former Labour minister and executive director of Greenpeace, was among 30 people arrested yesterday as protesters tried to destroy a crop of genetically-modified maize.
Several vehicles owned by Greenpeace and one owned by the Guardian were damaged after protesters were confronted by farmers driving tractors at Lyng, Norfolk.
...Lord Melchett, 51, who served as a junior minister in Northern Ireland in James Callaghan's government in the late 1970s, also farms land in Norfolk. He said before his arrest: "This is contamination of the countryside. It shouldn't be being grown. We're doing something which the public wants and is for the benefit of the environment. I don't think anyone should be arrested for this."
...The maize was being grown experimentally for AgrEvo. Its spokesman said the protesters were denying people the chance to find out whether GM crops were safe. He added: "AgrEvo and the industry grouping Scimac [Supply Chain Initiative for Modified Agricultural Crops] condemn this deliberate act of trespass and criminal damage upon private property."
3. Pre - court press release - Greenpeace - 27th July 1999
Twenty Eight Greenpeace volunteers, including Lord Peter Melchett, being
The 28 are being charged with criminal damage and theft and will plead
Greenpeace took non violent direct action to decontaminate the site
GM organisms released into the environment pose a risk because they
Scientific Advisors to the Government have admitted that cross
Sarah Burton "If contamination is inevitable and it is, the question
The farm-scale trial at Lyng is effectively owned by AgrEvo since the
For further information please contact the Greenpeace Press Office on
4. LIST OF LYNG 28 FOLLOWS:
The full list of those accused is:
Rachael Murray, 26, from Highbury, London
|GMO releases in Norfolk - pre-2001|
press release: for immediate release 30th March
Convicted GM giant in biggest ever GM trial in Norfolk
Danger of environmental pollution from commercially useless crop
Concern about nature reserve, Carbrooke Fen
• A company already found guilty of contravening the Environmental Protection Act over the running of a GM trial has now been given a license for the largest GM sugar beet trial ever run in the whole of the UK in a sensitive part of the Norfolk countryside.
• Jeff Rooker, the Food Safety minister, has claimed that the only GM trials till now have been no bigger than a dining room table. But now the giant GM corporation Monsanto has been given a license to run a 7.5 hectare trial at Ovington in Norfolk - see public notice which follows.
• The crop involved in the Norfolk farm trials for Monsanto is GM sugar beet genetically engineered to be resistant to its powerful broad-spectrum herbicide “Roundup”.
UK’s largest farming organisation rejects farm-scale trials
• On Tuesday 30th March 1999, the UK's biggest farming organisation, the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS), which farms 80,000 acres across the UK, pulled out of GM trials because it believes the design of this type of large farmscale trial will give rise to the very concerns about environmental damage that it is designed to research. CWS spokesman Bill Shannon said: "Our discussions with various parties led us to conclude that the design of this year's trials would do little to allay current environmental and consumer concerns."
Norfolk County Council’s concerns ignored
• Norfolk County Council recently raised their concerns with the government about the potentially damaging transfer from GM crops into the Norfolk countryside.
• Jim Shrimplin, joint chairman of the county council’s countryside subcommittee said, “We have been foremost in matters of conservation and to ignore this issue could be disastrous and something we could regret for all time.”
• Jonathan Matthews of NGIN commented, “When the CWS won’t have anything to do with them, this type of large scale trial in Norfolk should ring alarm bells throughout the county. This is also a slap in the face for Norfolk County Council which has tried to raise its concerns with the government. Exactly what the county council most feared - genetic pollution in the Norfolk countryside - is now looking a certainty.”
Points of concerns about environmental damage
• There are already serious environmental concerns about GM trials. The scale of this trial only intensifies these concerns.
A. Sugarbeet is a crop which has a long history of hybridisation and gene exchange with wild beet as a Department of Environment report has pointed out.
B. Horizontal gene transfer to other organisms, including plants, via soil micro-organisms is a problem too little understood for such trials to proceed safely, least of all on this scale. 
C. Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup can reduce the population of many animals, including harming beneficial insects, fish and birds.
• These concerns about environmental damage are exacerbated by the record of complacent regulation, widescale violations and poor policing of GM trials. 
Local concerns: Carbrooke Fen/adjoining land
• This field scale trial is taking place close to a locally-prized nature reserve, Carbrooke Fen. The contours of the land will cause all drainage from the area of the trial to flow into the fen - see letter from local naturalist attached.
• Adjoining land owners to this trial may also be concerned by this large scale trial given the recent warning to the government from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) that the growing of GM crops could have the same damaging effect on land values as contamination and disease.
Giant risks for commercially useless crop
• British Sugar, the monopoly purchaser of all UK sugar beet, has already committed itself to not using GM sugar beet in its products.
• Jonathan Matthews of NGIN commented, “It is particularly ludicrous that the government is rushing ahead with such a huge trial when British Sugar won’t have anything to do with GM beet. The government is taking giant risks with the Norfolk countryside to trial a crop that has absolutely no commercial future!”
NGIN Media contact: Jonathan Matthews -
contact details as above:
 On Feb 17th Monsanto and another company, Perryfields Holdings Ltd were found guilty of contravening the Environmental Protection Act. Monsanto was fined £17,000. Monsanto has already been named by Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, in relation to another serious violation.
 Parts of the public notice read less like public information than an advertisement for the Monsanto’s products . Interestingly, a report leaked last month from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) condemned Monsanto’s GM advertising campaign in the UK for “wrong”, “confusing”, “misleading” and “unproven” statements. Details of the 6 points of complaint upheld by the ASA can be forwarded.
 “Land prices fear over GM farming,” Eastern Daily Press,15th March 1999
 A Department of the Environment report has commented, “Even without hybridisation the transgene [ie an inserted gene in a GM crop] may be able to persist in weed beets derived from bolters or volunteers" and goes on to say; "Thus escape of the transgene to a crop weed, and perhaps to a lesser extent to a weed of disturbed habitats, is entirely plausible." Sugar beet is a crop renowned for bolters which pollinate early.
 It is impossible to know the precise frequencies for such horizontal gene transfer under natural conditions as very few actual studies have been carried out! Nor has horizontal gene transfer been seriously monitored in previous field trials or releases. NGIN believes that horizontal gene flow should have been thoroughly investigated at the stage when genetically engineered plants were being developed in greenhouses. Current field trials still do not include tests for this risk.
 According to the US public awareness group Pesticides Action Network, Roundup can be directly toxic causing, for example, delayed development in earthworms. In other cases, (small mammals and birds, for example) Roundup reduces populations by damaging the vegetation that provides food and shelter for the animals.
 A report in mid-December by the Health and Safety Executive, who “police” the trials, showed that 1 in 5 GM crop trials that the Health and Safety Executive had managed to monitor were breaking the regulations. Most GM sites are not even being monitored! Last year only just over one third of licensed sites were even inspected. In fact, the HSE only has one full time inspector to cover hundreds of trials across the UK.
Why a Norwich group is fighting GM crops
|The following story was
widely reported in the local media and made the front page of Professional
Pensions magazine. Norfolk County Council's current investments, it emerged,
come to over £11million pounds in Zeneca and Novartis. The shares
in Monsanto have been sold, presumably because of falling prices.
Norfolk County Council claim to have an ethical investment policy. In the
light of what ngin has disclosed about Norfolk's investments, the
Green Party have committed themselves to a nationwide investigation of
other council's GM investments.
ngin press release: for immediate release 1st March 1999
leading Norfolk councillors privy to unethical investments
Chair of Education faces conflict of interest
• Norfolk County Council, which has lagged well behind many other councils across the country in getting ‘Frankenstein foods’ off the menu, is believed to have made a multi-million pound investment in the giant corporations behind GM foods.
• Its pension fund, which covers not only its own employees but those of Norfolk’s seven District Councils and 103 other bodies, is known to have purchased more than 9 million pounds worth of shares in companies like Monsanto, Novartis, and Zeneca as well as having further holdings in a Biotechnology Venture Fund. 
• Jonathan Matthews of NGIN said, “With many in the scientific community warning about environmental and health hazards arising from this dangerous technology, and with massive public opposition to GM foods, it seems scandalous that tax and rate payers money is being invested in this way - all the more so after the Local Government Association has just unanimously voted to get these foods out of all council catering.” 
• NCC’s investments are overseen by an Investment Sub-committee. Most of its members are leading Norfolk councillors. They include John Holmes, Chair of the Education Committee. The Education Committee has drawn repeated criticism over its lack of vigour in ensuring the removal of GM ingredients from school meals despite longstanding bans by many other County Councils.
• NCC’s biotech investments may be increasingly unattractive even in straight financial terms given the escalating global concern over the environmental and health impact of GM crops. Jonathan Matthews of NGIN commented, “Even from a perspective of pure self-interest, Norfolk should ditch these dubious investments now.”
• Apart from the environmental and health worries over GM foods, biotech companies like Monsanto and Zeneca would fail established ethical investment criteria relating to issues such as serious environmental damage or unacceptable animal testing.
• Research shows employees overwhelmingly do not want unethical pensions, and according to EIRiS - the Ethical Investment Research Service - “Local authorities are at the forefront of the drive to bring ethics into the heart of their pension policies.” Yet Norfolk County Council, in addition to investing millions in the giant ‘Frankenstein food’ corporations, also holds other highly dubious investments, most notably shares in British American Tobacco which are among its top 20 holdings.
NCC’s biotech company investments, if taken together, are also understood to fall well within its “top 20” biggest holdings.
2. On February 24th 1999 the Local Government Association's public protection committee took its unanimous decision (voting 60-0) to advise English and Welsh authorities to ban GM products from their catering for 5 years, after receiving a report detailing health concerns. The report, by the head of consumer protection and environmental health, Ian Foulkes, said that scientists did not "fully understand what happens when they fuse genes into the DNA of an other organism", and urged the Government to take "an even more precautionary approach" because of the uncertainty of the long-term health impact. The recommendation affects about 500 councils and almost 10 million children in 26,000 schools in England and Wales as well as 1.5 million local government workers and thousands of people receiving meals-on-wheels.
3. Monsanto is the company which developed and produced both the chemical warfare agent “Agent Orange”, which was used with disastrous consequences in Vietnam, and a substantial proportion of the world's polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a group of chemicals recognised as so hazardous that their further production has been banned.
Zeneca: Matthew Harragin of the ethical research unit at stockbrokers Rathbone Neilson Cobbold believes that there is "no excuse for an ethical fund holding Zeneca” because “It fails on the animal testing criteria which have been in place for years before GM food became an issue. Any fund found to have Zeneca would have faced a stream of investor complaints long before now." Quoted in The Guardian, “Mutants not to our taste,” 20/2/99
4. 73% of employees say ‘yes’ to ethical pensions according to a national poll conducted by NOP for EIRiS - the Ethical Investment Research Service - in September 1997.
5. ‘Local authorities are leading the way’, The Ethical Investor, November/December 1997, p.iii
“Pensions minister John Denham has proposed that retirement funds should take ethical questions into consideration.” The Guardian, “Mutants not to our taste,” 20/2/99
6. As at the 31st March 1997,
NCC held shares totalling £6,405,414 in BAT Industries.
|The following story
was widely reported in the local and national media.
ngin press release: for immediate release 28th January 1999
less than a year after England’s first ‘crop squat’ there are to be no more GM trials on the Colman estate
• There will be no more GMO trials on a private family estate which until now has almost topped the league table for deliberate releases of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on private land in the UK. 
• ‘Crown Point Farms’ which belongs to Sir Timothy Colman and members of his family (descendants of the founders of Colmans Mustard) was due to continue trialling GM crops for Novartis and Monsanto until the years 2002 and 2003 respectively.
• The news that Sir Timothy is pulling out of the trials is being welcomed by environmentalists who regard the regulation and monitoring of the UK’s GM crop trials as derisory. There have been innumerable violations and one of the companies that’s been involved in the Crown Point trials - the American biotech giant Monsanto - is now facing criminal prosecution over breaching biosafety regulations. 
• Jonathan Matthews of Norfolk Genetic Information Network said: “Up till now the Crown Point Estate has been heavily involved in these trials and so this news will be very warmly welcomed by anyone concerned for the environment. We hope that other farmers and landowners will show a similar sense of responsibility and not get involved with this dangerous technology.”
• National attention was drawn to Sir Timothy’s estate in May 1998 when a “crop squat” took place there over several weeks in protest at the environmental risks arising from the deliberate release of GMOs.
Media contact: Jonathan Matthews - details as above plus home tel: 01603 625188
The farm manager for Crown Point Farms (office at Hill Farm) is Tim Cane 01508 492853
1. Over a period of 4 years there have been 7 deliberate releases of GMOs at Crown Point Farms (Hill Farm and Crown Point Estate) at Kirby Bedon in Norfolk. This is more than on any other privately owned estate or farm in the UK, bar only one.
2. The register compiled by ACRE - the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment - lists the following trials of GM sugar beet as being due to continue:
ACRE register no. 97/R21/05
trials for Novartis Seeds Ltd
ACRE register no. 98/R22/12
trials for Monsanto
3. A report by the UK's Health and Safety Executive in mid-December showed that 1 in 5 GM crop trials that they had monitored had been found to be breaking the regulations. Both Monsanto and another company, Perryfields Holdings Ltd, are facing prosecution, accused of contravening the Environmental Protection Act. The case against the companies will be heard on February 17th 1999 in Lincolnshire.
for more on GMO releases in Norfolk
Why a Norwich group is fighting GM crops
[This ongoing campaign met with major success after M&S went largely GM free]
Marks and Spencer, Norwich: December 17th (late night shopping) 1830 rendezvous outside food hall in Rampant Horse Street and December 18th (daytime) rendezvous at ICS, 26 Pottergate, Norwich at 1430. Ring 01603 624021 (daytime) for further info or e-mail.
65% of M&S customers want GE ingredients banned from M&S.
So what are M&S doing to meet their customers concerns and make sure that they are not exposed to potentially hazardous ingredients?
Almost nothing is the answer - certainly
in comparison with their key competitors. Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tescos,
ASDA, and above all Iceland, have all made effforts to exclude GE ingredients
from their own brand foods. Butwhile these other stores are ensuring their
suppliers help them achieve greater customer protection, M&S have refused
to make any such moves, claiming it is simply impossible - despite clear
evidence to the
Is it really surprising that sales are so badly down at M&S?
While M&S is in the doldrums, Iceland has experienced an 18% rise in sales since banning all GE ingredients.
It’s time for M&S to wake up and start giving their customers what they want - protection from unwanted, unnecessary and unsafe GE foods.
FOR CURRENT POSITION OF M&S AND OTHER
RETAILERS - CLICK HERE
|Evening News, Monday, October 26, 1998
More than 20 people marched to the Colney Lane site on Saturday and sat outside the main gate in a downpour to eat a picnic of organic food.
Police and security guards stood by as the group devoured organic apples and fruit juice in the protest against the development of genetically engineered crops at the centre.
Paul Gill, one of those on march, said: “There haven't been any long-term tests on genetically modified food.
"The John lnnes Centre has just entered a £50 million deal with Zeneca to develop new products and people need to realise this could eventually lead to the food supply falling into the hands of just a few companies."
The John Innes Centre has more than 850 staff and students, with experts from across the world working there.
Centre spokesman Dr Ray Mathias admitted deals had been made with Zeneca and DuPont recently, but added: "Partners are one route to ensure that taxpayers' support for science is turned into added value for consumers.
Autumnal demonstration and picnic at John Innes Centre (JIC), Colney Lane, Norwich - Saturday October 24th
*The supposedly independent and publicly and charitably funded John Innes Centre (JIC) has recently got into bed with 2 big biotech companies, one of them the patenter of the Verminator - a new version of Monsanto’s much feared Terminator Technology aimed at destroying poor Third World farmers vital age-old practice of saving seed.
*John Innes’ biotechnicians sit as independent scientists on key regulatory committees . They had 4 scientists on the Royal Society’s working group on biotechnology alone. That group has recently produced an influential statement reassuring Government ministers that concernsabout GE are overstated!
*John Innes’ biotechnicians are independent only in the sense of being increasingly independent of public funds, not to mention the public interest and the public good!
LET THEM KNOW WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE
GENETIC MODIFICATION OF OUR FOOD AND
THE INDUSTRIAL ALIGNMENT OF ‘INDEPENDENT’ SCIENTIFIC ADVICE
COME AND PROTEST OUTSIDE THE JIC.
MEET OUTSIDE THE CHAPLAINCY AT THE UNIVERSITY
(UEA) AT MIDDAY
NO SEASONS OF MISTS AND MUTANT FRUITLESSNESS
Dr Antoniou in NorfolkOn November 7th 1998 at the Friends Meeting House inNorwich, Dr Michael Antoniou, senior lecturer in Molecular Pathology at Guy’s Hospital and head of a research group there investigating possibleapplications of biotechnology in medicine, of which Dr Antoniou has about 17 years experience, spoke on the genetic engineering of food crops.
Dr Antoniou, like a number of medical and other scientists, is highly concerned about the use of biotechnology to modify living organisms released into the environment and the food chain, and he feels governments, the food industry and the public are not being given accurate information about the limitations and the dangers of such a useof this technology, given the irreversibility of the consequences. Dr Antoniou is a scientific adviser on biotechnology to a number of organisations, including Iceland stores.
GMO releases in Norfolk
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