ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

3 May 2002


1. Councillor calls for total destruction of GM crop
2. UK village takes on government over gene crop test
3. Villagers vote to oppose GM crop trials


1. Councillorís GM call

The Scotsman, 2 May 2002

A SENIOR councillor has called for a genetically modified crop to be totally destroyed in an organised day of direct action.

Police were last night in talks with the procurator-fiscal [prosecutor] and leaders of Highland Council following the remarks by Dr Michael Foxley, a Lochaber GP and the chairman of the councilís land and environment committee.

Dr Foxley said he was not concerned he could possibly face criminal charges.

Superintendent David OíConnor, of Northern Constabulary, said: "We have noted the comments Dr Foxley has made, and we are consulting with the procurator-fiscal and also having discussions with the Highland Council."


2. UK village takes on government over gene crop test

Reuters, May 3, 2002
LONDON - The people of a village in southeast England flexed their muscles against the British government this week with a vote rejecting plans for a trial of genetically modified maize in their backyard.
As thousands filed into London for May Day protests over wider political concerns, a poll held by Weeley parish council in the county of Essex resulted in 95 percent of votes being cast against the test site planned by the government.

The proposed test is part of the final year of government trials aimed at measuring the environmental impact of planting genetically modified  (GM) crops.

Anti-GM campaigners in the village, backed by environmental group Friends of the Earth, said they would write to Britain's environment minister Michael Meacher to demand that the site, announced by him in March, be withdrawn.

Friends of the Earth said 1,300 ballot papers had been issued for the poll and the turnout had been 40 percent.

"We are delighted with the high turnout in this ballot. The Government has said it will consult the public on the future of GM and people in Weeley have made their feelings very clear," said Lynne Priest, a campaigner who lives near the proposed test site.

Public opinion in Europe, bruised by food safety scares over mad cow disease and the chemical dioxin in recent years, is wary about GM foods and there is a three year de-facto ban in place in Europe on approvals of new gene spliced varieties.

Britain has been under steady pressure from environmental groups, particularly over the distances between gene crops and other varieties, due to fears of cross-contamination.

The government's independent biotechnology advisers, the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, has called for a public debate on the possible commercialisation of gene-spliced crops.

The chairman of the watchdog, Malcolm Grant, warned last month that there was potential for conflict in rural communities if the decision on commercial planting is mishandled.



3. Villagers vote to oppose GM crop trials

The East Anglian Daily Times
May 2, 2002 06:14

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to a GM crop experiment taking place in an Essex village have won a "landslide" victory in a residents' poll.

Just over 95% of villagers who voted in a referendum registered their opposition to the GM maize trial at a local farm, although 60% of residents chose not to vote on the controversial plans.

The referendum was organised by Weeley Parish Council in response to protests after a local farmer agreed to take part in the final year of GM trials.

The farm-scale evaluations are intended to provide data so the Government can make a decision on whether genetically modified crops should be commercialised.

A total of 1,373 Weeley residents received ballot papers asking, "Are you in favour of GM crops being tested in Weeley?"

Villagers returned a total of 547 ballot papers, with 520 people voting "No" and 16 voting "Yes". Eleven papers were classified as spoiled. Of those who voted, 95.1% were opposed to the trials taking place.

John Turkie, a member of the newly-formed Weeley Action Group, said the campaigners would be meeting today to discuss their next step following the results of the poll.

"What you have is 16 people in the whole of the parish of Weeley who have voted for the tests to take place," said Mr Turkie.

He acknowledged that people not concerned about the tests might have been among the 60% majority who declined to vote.

But added: "We have no idea what those 60% of people feel. It could be they feel disenfranchised and feel the tests will take place no matter what they say or do."

Mr Turkie feels the next step for the campaigners could be to link up with other affected villages and co-ordinate a national protest to be directed at Whitehall.

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the GM trial site locations were announced by the Government but selected by a panel of scientists.

He added that the farm at Weeley Lodge, along with Sunnymead Farm in Wivenhoe, had been selected, with the farmers' permission, to gather findings from a range of locations across the UK.

Wendy Leiper, the wife of Weeley Lodge farmer William Leiper, has insisted the farm-scale evaluations are not dangerous.

Previously she told the EADT: "This is progress. My husband has been farming this land for 60 years. He started at 15. This farm is his life. Do you really think my husband would do something against his land? It is not dangerous."

Pete Riley, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "This ballot illustrates the strength of public feeling against GM. People do not want to eat GM food and they do not want GM crops growing in their countryside. The Government must listen to what the public has to say."

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