ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
26 Pottergate Norwich NR2 1DX
Tel: 01603 624021 - Fax: 01603 766552

Why a Norwich group is fighting GM crops
Press article on why ngin is opposing GM crop trials







South Norfolk urged to destroy GM crops 


GM crop herbicide fears grow Brisley

Transcript of the Brisley public meeting 


AgrEvo - the UK's public enemy no. 1 - on the move!

AgrEvo becomes Aventis



GM crop to stay in Norfolk despite Swiss ban
Press article on the Lyng farmscale trial 

Convicted GM giant in big GM trial in Norfolk (Ovington)




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.


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
financial interests[1]. The academic named as the source of this libellous letter, Prof Anthony Trewavas, serves on the Governing Council of the John Innes Centre[2].

Greenpeace wins damages over professor's 'unfounded' allegations
Staff and agencies
Education Guardian, Research
Monday October 8, 2001


for more on the John Innes Centre

Letter to the Evening News, 17 April 2001
Linking the peoples of 2 worlds

Dear Sir

Agriculture and how we manage the land has always been a hot topic in
the county of Robert Kett and Turnip Townsend.

And it’s never been hotter than in the era of Dolly the sheep and Lucky
the lamb, as our industrialised agriculture lurches from crisis to

Last year we had the BSE report and front page images of a Norfolk
farmer ploughing up the GM contaminated Oil Seed Rape crop neither he
nor his customers wanted on his land. This spring's crop of pictures are
of culling and funeral pyres, distressed farmers and mud-bespattered

It is not only in this country, of course, that the future of
agriculture is a vital concern.  And nowhere is it more vital than in
India, one of the hungriest nations on the planet. Here the very
existence of millions upon millions of small farmers depends on the
crops they grow and the land they manage.

Their voice has an added poignancy for another reason. These are the
farmers who were betrayed by the "green revolution" of the 1960s and
'70s, which had the effect of concentrating wealth, land and power in
the hands of the few who were able to afford the expensive new seeds and
chemicals. This contributed to the migration of millions of farmers to
the cities -- the new urban poor who often continue to starve even when
the granaries are full to bursting.

Meanwhile, back in the Indian countryside, the hungry rural poor and the
environment have often been the ones to pay the price of the new more
industrialised agriculture with its unsustainable demands on eco-systems
and on scarce resources such as water.

Many of the experts who pushed the "green revolution" are now pushing
the "gene revolution". But what do those at the sharp end really think?
Will their voices be heard in this heated debate? Will they be offered
choice and sustainable options for development, or will it once again be
a case of the imposition of the will of the corporations and the
technical elites?

This week the people of Norfolk will have the chance to hear some of
these normally little heard voices, and to discuss the various options
for the future of global agriculture. A group of Indian agriculturalists
are touring arable farms in the county, and will be discussing their
needs and their perspectives at the University of East Anglia (Lecture
Theatre 1), this Wednesday at 7.30p.m.

This is a real opportunity to link the farmers and peoples of two parts
of the world where the future of food is a passionate concern, and to
help discover what kind of informed future we all want for the year 2020
and beyond.

Jonathan Matthews
The 2020 Vision Collective


"The time has come for Mr Blair and the chemical companies to stop growing GM crops."
 Peter Melchett outside Norwich Crown Court 20th September 2000

"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." 
Judge David Mellor after hearing the Greenpeace 28 give evidence

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 joke 
The Daily Express has never condoned direct action against genetically modified crops. But the Norwich Crown 
Court verdict yesterday, which saw Greenpeace's Lord  Melchett and his team cleared of criminal damage after 
destroying trial GM crops, reduces the Government's policy on GM testing to a farce. The Greenpeace activists had  already previously been cleared of theft of crops. What was really on trial here was GM. No jury is going to convict protesters when they too share concerns about such produce being grown in this country. Already, £250,000 of taxpayers' money has been wasted bringing these activists to court. Surely the Government does not need any more show trials to get the message? It must learn a sharp lesson from this verdict, rethink its policy and ban GM testing - at least until the risk of cross-contamination can be eradicated. 

Wednesday 20th September 2000: Press release



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 of the
GM contamination that has occurred this year, and the subsequent review of these buffer zones, a Government Minister has now been forced to admit that the Government may have to order the de-flowering of GM oil seed rape crops which are currently being planted, before they flower next spring."

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."
Here's some press coverage of the story:

Greenpeace wins key GM case,3604,371076,00.html
Greenpeace GM crop attack declared legal
GM trials face chaos as court clears Melchett and followers
Beauty therapist and accountant united by belief in their cause
Unlikely radical continues family tradition of 'doing the right thing'
Labour's GM spin team reassigned to Dome [they've given up!]
Unlikely radical continues family tradition of 'doing the right thing' [shortened]
The Independent, 21st September 2000

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.

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 gone on
trial on April 3rd 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 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 

by Celia Wigg         [shortened]

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.
Dr Goodman's proposal was referred to the planning committee, which meets on September 27.

The Eastern Daily Press, Saturday 9 September 2000

by Helen Ashworth

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
precautionary position until matters are clarified by  the Government."

The report highlights the major environmental concerns about GMOs and their use, including:

*  Genetic pollution between GMOs and related wild species;
*  GMO invasion of habitats;
*  Potential impacts through disruption of ecological food webs;
*  Changes in land use detrimental to wildlife.

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."

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." 

Transcript of the Brisley public meeting

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

AgrEvo - 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 here


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."

December 1999

GM Crops
Report by the Director of Property [section 1]


...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 17/7/99. 
Eastern Daily Press (EDP) Friday Dec 10

ENVIRONMENT: Farmers urged to consider effects on nearby fields


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

The LYNG meeting: full  transcript
Transcription of Meeting to Discuss GM Farmscale Trial
At  Lyng Village Hall, Norfolk on 10th July 1999 (commentary on some of the more outrageous claims
made at the meeting can be found in 'False reports and the smears of men')


GM crop to stay in Norfolk despite Swiss ban
Press article on the Lyng farmscale trial

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
Villagers angry at lack of information

Anger and resentment were revealed in an informal survey conducted by
the EDP.

Lyng residents voiced anger that the trial went ahead with a minimum of
public consultation. Many only heard about the trial after it had begun.

Jo Page, 39, a housewife from Lyng, helped organise a recent meeting to
discuss the issue

"We have tried everything democratic - written to our MP, councillors,
held public meetings," she said. "But they still won't listen, they
won't stop the trials.

"It will affect the surrounding farms as well, and there are organic
farms in the vicinity.

"And everyone is keeping quiet about the issue of compensation if it's
found to be dangerous."

• Phil Godfrey, 43, a general manager in an electrical shop at Lyng,
said he was against GM crops but did not agree with Greenpeace's

"At a recent meeting in the village we all agreed to keep it peaceful
and then Greenpeace come storming in like this. Although everyone here
is against it, we were not part of this demonstration and don't want to
be associated with it.

"I accept the research needs to be carried out here, but why has it been
done with no regard to anyone who lives here?"

•Mick Youngs, 50, a patent-maker from Lyng, decided to boycott William

Mr Youngs bought £688-worth of coal from Mr Brigham last year, an order
he cancelled on learning of the trial.

"I asked if he could say he was sure there were no risks attached. He
wouldn't give me a straight answer, which said so much."

• Sue Campbell, 38, a chef, feared for her children's future. She said:
"I have three girls and you don't know what you give them is safe to

•Vic Ready, 68, a retired Norwich Union employee, said: "I kept an open
mind but so far I haven't heard anything that reassures me about these
crops. I'm alarmed by the £3 million figure that people are saying the
Goverment has spent on this - I'm sure there are much better uses for
the money. But you don't know what to believe."

2. Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 27 July 1999 - Labour peer held in Greenpeace raid on GM crop  [shortened]
- by Charles Clover, Environment Editor 

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
held in police custody for decontaminating a genetically modified (GM)
farm-scale trial are appearing in Norwich Magistrates Court today. 
Before adjourning for lunch, the Magistrate denied Lord Melchett bail
until August 5th, the remaining 27 will be heard after lunch.

The 28 are being charged with criminal damage and theft and will plead
not guilty.  Greenpeace Campaign Director Sarah Burton explained that
this issue is about the defence of public rights.  She said, "the public
has the right to a safe environment and food-chain free from GM
contamination.  If the authorities, in this case the Government, fail to
uphold those rights it is legitimate for others to do so.  We took
urgent action to defend those public rights."  

Greenpeace took non violent direct action to decontaminate the site
early yesterday (Monday) morning.  Greenpeace, which has campaigned
against genetic engineering for ten years, believes that farm-scale
trials are a direct and unjustifiable threat to the environment.

GM organisms released into the environment pose a risk because they are
a form of  'living pollution'.  They can self-replicate; the potential
damage is irreversible; it is a threat to organic food and removes
genuine choice for the consumer.  Sarah Burton said, "We already know
this crop is a threat, so much so that the Swiss Government banned it
from open air trials (1).  It is a danger to the environment and to the
food chain and once that crop has flowered the contamination is

Scientific Advisors to the Government have admitted that cross
contamination is an inevitable consequence of growing GM crops in the
environment.  Greenpeace argues that testing at a farm-scale level is
therefore meaningless and a political rather than a scientific act.

Sarah Burton "If contamination is inevitable and it is, the question is
simple, do you want your environment and food contaminated or not. If
you don't and over 90% of the British public don't, testing is
meaningless, you simply don't put GM into the environment."

The farm-scale trial at Lyng is effectively owned by AgrEvo since the
farmer is paid for the use of the site and cannot sell the crop.


(1) The Swiss Government recently banned open air trials of the same GM
maize in Switzerland because it contains an antibiotic resistant marker
gene.  The maize could cross pollinate and is therefore not containable.

For further information please contact the Greenpeace Press Office on
0171-865 8255/6/7/8


The full list of those accused is:

Rachael Murray, 26, from Highbury, London
Lisa Wetherly, 30, from Chessington, Surrey Margaret Weaver, 43, from Sandhurst,Berks,
Malcolm Carroll, 43, from Stratford, Staffs,
Iain McSeveny, 36, from Gillespie Road, London
Emma Hargreaves, 28, from Tooting, London,
Christopher Holding, 21, from Cardiff,
Stokely Webster, 28, from Malpas Road, London
Timothy Copley, 41, from Harpenden, Herts
Spencer Cooke, 31, from Derby
Michael Uwins,53, from Wymondham, Norfolk,
Emma Protz, 27, from Seymour Avenue, London,
Andrew Tait, 28, from Arsenal, London,
Andrew McParland, 32, from Epsom, Surrey,
Joanne Melzack, 51, from Manchester.
Alaistair Beveridge, 30, from Aberdeen,
Nichola Cook, 31, from Diss, Norfolk,
Simon Hackin, 33, from Edinburgh,
Simon Bowens, 32, from Leeds,
Adrian O'Neil, 25, from Beverley, Yorks,
Keith Dawson, 26, from Stamford, Lincs,
Paul Bellotti, 57, from Devonshire Gardens, London,
Michael Waldram, 38, from Ravenstone, Leics,
Jacqueline Westwood, 41, from Mexborough, Yorks,
Timothy Hewke, 39, fromHighbury, London, Martin Porter, 29, from Harrogate, N Yorks
Lord Peter Melchett, 51, from Hunstanton, Norfolk,
Brenda Ramsey, 33, from Wanstead, London.

GMO releases in Norfolk - pre-2001
ngin press release:  for immediate release 30th March 1999
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[1] 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.[2]

• 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.”[3]

• 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.[4]

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. [5]

C. Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup can reduce the population of many animals, including harming beneficial insects, fish and  birds.[6]

• These concerns about environmental damage are exacerbated by the record of complacent regulation, widescale violations and poor policing of GM trials. [7] 

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.[3]

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: 
T: 01603 624021 (work) 01603 625188 (home)

[1]  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. 

[2]  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.

[3]  “Land prices fear over GM farming,” Eastern Daily Press,15th March 1999

[4]  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.

[5] 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. 

[6] 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.

[7] 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.

GMO releases in Norfolk

Why a Norwich group is fighting GM crops
Press article on why ngin is opposing GM crop trials

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. [1]

• 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.” [2]

• 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.[3] 

• Research shows employees overwhelmingly do not want unethical pensions[4], 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.”[5] 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.[6] 

NCC’s biotech company investments, if taken together, are also understood to fall well within its “top 20” biggest holdings.

1. According to its annual report issued during 1998, at the 31st March 1997 NCC held:

Novartis: £2,655,405.62 of shares
Zeneca:  £6,266,568.75 of shares
Monsanto: £291,184.53 of shares
Biotechnology Venture Fund: £174, 286.94 of shares

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. [1]

• ‘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.[2]

• 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. [3]

• 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
Release Date: Spring/Summer 1998 - Autumn/Winter 2002 (at Hill Farm amongst other farms)

ACRE register no.  98/R22/12 trials for Monsanto
Release Date: March to May in the Spring, and September to January of the following year, 1998 to 2003  (at Crown Point Estate amongst other farms) 

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
Press article on why ngin is opposing GM crop trials

Mark the M&S contribution to contaminating the Xmas feast!
[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
contrary - and that all they can do is try and label it!

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.


Evening News, Monday, October 26, 1998
SPIRITS UNDAMPENED: protesters tuck into a picnic of non-genetically modified food (above) after arriving at the windswept and rainy John Innes Centre (right).
CAMPAIGNERS who braved torrential rain to demonstrate against genetically modified food at the John Innes Centre today proclaimed their "picnic protest" a success.

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. 

"Over the years John Innes Centre science has resulted in many varied products."
for more on the JIC see 
Genetic Network News 3
Professor Bullsh*t
False reports and the smears of men

(18th Oct 98)

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!

(for more on this see  Genetic Network News 3  Professor Bullsh*t
False reports and the smears of men)

Children welcome - All welcome - Bring food - Warm clothing - Music etc.


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