No evidence for Harrington claim
2.Jonathon Harrington - spinprofile
NOTE: The findings of this enquiry clearly support the doubts about pro-GM lobbyist Jonathon Harrington's veracity.
EXTRACT: Jonathan Harrington who farms near Hay-on-Wye, Powys, said in January he had grown two varieties of the maize and passed the seeds onto other farmers. But Powys council said there was no evidence GM crops had been circulated to farms or fed to stock in the county [as Harrington claimed]. (item 1)
Questions arose among some of Harrington's neighbours in Wales as to whether he is a farmer at all, and if so, whether he actually planted the GM maize as he claimed. Western Mail journalist Steve Dube wrote in his blog, "it appears that Mr Harrington himself may not be all he claims to be..." (item 2)
1.'No evidence' GM crops circulated
BBC News, 5 August 2009
An inquiry has found no evidence a farmer who grew genetically modified cops affected two other farms.
Jonathan Harrington who farms near Hay-on-Wye, Powys, said in January he had grown two varieties of the maize and passed the seeds onto other farmers.
But Powys council said there was no evidence GM crops had been circulated to farms or fed to stock in the county.
Wales has a restricted GM crop police [GMW: policy!]. Mr Harrington of Tregoyd, has been unavailable for comment.
By growing the maize, Mr Harrington defied a Welsh Assembly Government vote to keep Wales free from genetically modified crops.
Following comments made by Mr Harrington on BBC Radio 4's Today programme in January, the assembly government said it could not legally ban GM crops, but had a restrictive GM crop policy.
He denied breaking any laws, but anti-GM campaigners said he had done by failing to register with the authorities.
Powys council's trading standards service said it fully investigated claims Mr Harrington had passed GM crops onto other farmers to use as animal feed, but had found no evidence GM crops had been circulated to other farms.
Councillor Graham Brown, who is responsible for public protection, said: "This was a serious claim which caused considerable concern in the farming community and was fully investigated by officers.
"I would like to reassure the community that we found no evidence that GM crops were circulated to any farms in the Powys area or fed to any stock in the county."
The council said it had followed up "numerous complaints concerning cross contamination and crops being fed to stock".
Earlier this year, Mr Harrington chose from an European Union-approved list of crops which he said was approved for growing anywhere in the EU.
He claimed as he was growing crops commercially and not as a trial, he was not required to inform the authorities of the location.
Jonathon Harrington is a director of the "specialist consultancy for progressive agriculture" Optima Excel Ltd., which is based in Wales. Among the company's services are "advice on all aspects of crop biotechnology" as well as sourcing and supplying "a range of commonly-used agrochemicals". The company also claims to be "the sole UK distributors" for "The Truth about Organic Food" - a book by Alex Avery, a fierce critic of organic farming and a well known supporter of GMOs. Harrington is the only named contact for Optima Excel.
The demand for Optima Excel's "advice on all aspects of crop biotechnology" is likely to be highly limited amongst its customers in Wales, given the declared policy of the Welsh Assembly government of keeping Wales entirely GM-free. But Harrington hit the headlines in January 2009 when a Guardian article reported that he had planted GM maize on his Welsh farm, in defiance of the Welsh Assembly .
The article states:
An unrepentant Harrington said he had resorted to the secret planting after the Welsh Assembly, which voted unanimously for GM-free status in 2000, refused to have any meaningful discussions over its policy.
Harrington is quoted as saying he wanted "to facilitate the introduction of a new and valuable technology [GM] into Welsh agriculture". He states of GM:
It can of course be used for a variety of purposes: to give plants immunity from pest attack or resistance to disease or more recently the ability to withstand drought. There are a number of potential benefits the technology could offer Welsh farmers if the assembly government showed a more positive attitude towards it.
But just how this GM maize is supposed to save Welsh agriculture is unclear, given that even Harrington admitted it performed badly. He told The Guardian of his GM maize plants: "It was a poor summer, so they didn't do terribly well."
Harrington is described in The Guardian as an agronomist and farmer. He is a member of the biotech industry-funded lobby group CropGen.
* 1 Questions about Harrington
* 2 Criticism of Harrington
* 3 Affiliations
* 4 Publications, Contact, Resources and Notes
o 4.1 Publications
o 4.2 Contact
o 4.3 Resources
o 4.4 Notes
Questions about Harrington
Questions arose among some of Harrington's neighbours in Wales as to whether he is a farmer at all, and if so, whether he actually planted the GM maize as he claimed. Western Mail journalist Steve Dube wrote in his blog:
"it appears that Mr Harrington himself may not be all he claims to be. He lives so high up a mountain that even conventional fodder maize (let alone a Mediterranean GM hybrid) would not produce a decent crop. And as he is also sadly disabled, he cannot have planted or harvested the crop himself. It makes you wonder whether the whole episode was a con by Harrington and CropGen, in order to embarrass the Welsh Government. Has Mr Harrington actually grown GM plants at all? His neighbours think not."
Criticism of Harrington
Dr Paul Benham, a pioneer of modern organic farming, the director of the Centre for Sustainable Food at the Primrose Earth Awareness Trust, and a farmer neighbour of Harrington, criticised Harrington's GM maize stunt in an article in the Western Mail. Benham wrote:
"The integrity of our organic and sustainable system is now being jeopardised by the actions of Mr Jonathon Harrington, who is subversively growing GM crops within one mile of Primrose and says he plans to grow GM crops with 30 other farmers this year.
Our farm has held a Soil Association organic symbol for 23 years and the SA has made it absolutely clear that no GM contamination should occur. The Primrose Transition food production model is central to the education message of the adjacent Centre for Sustainable Food and thus its important education work is being threatened.
I therefore welcome the introduction of the Welsh Assembly’s recent legislation to hold GM farmers liable for transgenic contamination to neighbouring farms."
Former TV gardener and president of the Soil Association Monty Don, whose organic farm is near Harrington's property, told the Western Mail:
"The real damage of a secret stunt like this is that if repeated it could damage trust in Welsh food and farming more generally."
Don points out that Harrington breached European law designed to safeguard conventional and organic crops from contamination.
Harrington is a member of the pro-GM lobby group CropGen. On the Times Higher Education website he stated, "I am also a member of The CropGen Panel but this group does NOT (as far as I aware) receive any funding from the biotech industry." Among the reader responses was this:
"This is from CropGen's home page: "CropGen receives limited support from the biotechnology industry..." It continues "but acts entirely independently." However, the 2001 version of its website stated that "while ultimately funded by industry, CropGen's panel members are free to express such views as they consider appropriate. The funding companies cannot veto the panel's position on any issue." That's good to know. There is no indication that it is now funded by anyone other than the biotech industry, and other members of the CropGen panel have in the past admitted being paid an "honorarium" for their services by the industry. The domain name for the group's website was registered by the PR company Countrywide Porter Novelli. The behind the scenes running of CropGen is now undertaken by Lexington Communications who perform the same task for the biotech industry's official lobby group the Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Curious that Mr Harrington knows so little about who he's working for."
Harrington has also said, "I do act as a consultant for various individuals and groups in the food supply industry." It has been alleged that he is a paid consultant for Syngenta and Monsanto.
1. "Services from Optima Excel", accessed 28 April 2009
2. "CONTACTS at Optima Excel", accessed 28 April 2009
3. Caroline Davies, "Farmer's secret GM crop defies green rulebook", The Guardian, 25 January 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
4. Caroline Davies, "Farmer's secret GM crop defies green rulebook", The Guardian, 25 January 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
5. Jonathon Harrington, "Why I planted genetically modified maize on my Welsh farm", The Guardian, 28 January 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
6. Caroline Davies, "Farmer's secret GM crop defies green rulebook", The Guardian, 25 January 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
7. Jonathon Harrington, "Why I planted genetically modified maize on my Welsh farm", The Guardian, 28 January 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
8. Jonathon Harrington, "Why I planted genetically modified maize on my Welsh farm", The Guardian, 28 January 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
9. Steve Dube, "Farmer or faker?", UpCountry: An insider's view of Welsh rural life, 4 February 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
10. "Organic pioneer fears his farm is being jeopardised by neighbour’s GM crops", Western Mail, 14 April 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
11. "Organic pioneer fears his farm is being jeopardised by neighbour's GM crops", Western Mail, 14 April 2009, accessed 27 April 2009
12. "Charity guide criticised for not declaring GM interests", first comment, Times Higher Education, 19 February 2009, accessed 28 April 2009
13. "Charity guide criticised for not declaring GM interests", seventh comment, Times Higher Education, 19 February 2009, accessed 28 April 2009
14. "Charity guide criticised for not declaring GM interests", first comment, Times Higher Education, 19 February 2009, accessed 28 April 2009
15. "Why I planted genetically modified maize on my Welsh farm, comment at 28 Jan 09, 4:43pm: "Harrington's stance would be more believable if he was not a paid consultant of several biotech firms - Monsanto, Syngenta"; comment at 28 Jan 09, 10:13pm: "He also works for Syngenta and goes round to local schools, where he gives the kids Syngenta hats as a reward for listening to his propaganda. He also works with Monsanto.", The Guardian, 28 January 2009