ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

30 April 2002


The Herald, Glasgow, 30th April 2002

THE strongest plea yet for a halt to be called to GM testing comes as five campaigners yesterday pled guilty at Dingwall Sheriff Court to vandalising crops on the Black Isle at the weekend.

Highlands and Islands Council asked the question of Ross Finnie, rural development minister, who insists he has neither the power nor reason to intervene. But the council believes that not only does he have the power, he has recently been given a good reason by the government's own advisers.

David Green, the council convener, said the arguments for halting the controversial trial at Munlochy on the Black Isle were becoming "overwhelming".

He called on Mr Finnie to use his clear powers under the Environmental Protection Act (1990) to bring the experiment to an end because of the lack of independent scientific research into the risks of GM technology.

Mr Green said: "This is the latest in a succession of compelling reasons why the minister must end the trials.

"Initially, the concern was that the executive did not adequately inform or consult with the local community about the issues.

"This was compounded by the executive failing to fully take on board the independent advice of the Agriculture Environment and Biotechnology Commission, that further data must be gathered and a full public debate take place before commercial GM crop growing can be considered.

"Now there is this further concern expressed at the scientific research carried out by the government's watchdogs, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre)."

Councillor David Alston, Black Isle North, said: "Mr Finnie claims that his hands are tied because there is no scientific evidence that the trials pose any threat to health or to the environment.

"The government rely on advice from Acre but it has now emerged that safety tests on genetically modified maize currently growing in Britain were flawed.

"Lord Alan Gray, Acre's chairman, has admitted he believes the research should have been re-analysed and that safety tests were not good enough to give a true picture of the risks  involved. The value of Acre's advice and the methods they use must be re-assessed. Only if adequate research has been completed can we be confident that there are no risks."

Meanwhile, at Dingwall, five anti-GM campaigners had sentence deferred for six months for good behaviour and were banned from going within 100 metres of the crop field.

Among them was Iona Henderson, who was made MBE in the New Year honours list for services to animal welfare by running a sanctuary at Munlochy.

She had marked her 47th birthday at the weekend by joining other campaigners armed with sticks and sickles taking part in the protest, and then being remanded in custody for two days until her court appearance yesterday.

Also appearing from custody were Simon Cann, 21, of Lady's Walk, Inverness, Gillian Williamson, 46, of Strathpeffer, Rory McEwan, 40, of Oban, and Tom McCaig, 21, of Bonawe, Argyll.

Honorary Sheriff David Neill said the five had crossed the line between peaceful and non-peaceful protest, but the court recognised their motives in doing so.
- April 30th

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