1. Farmers'war plans on GM crop trials
2. GM crops row
3. Manipulating the facts - Monbiot
1. Farmers rally to draw up war plans against nearby GM crop trials
By Tony Black
Aberdeen Press and Journal
April 4, 2001
THE Nairnshire farming community met last night to discuss ways of halting the latest Highland GM trial in their own back yard. After fruitless appeals to the Scottish Executive and to Aventis Crop Science - the French seed company conducting the trial at Park Farm, Nairn - neighbouring farmers are contemplating a direct appeal to the farm's owner, Steven Barclay. Mr Barclay's neighbours say he led them to understand that, if the majority were against the trial on his land, then it would not go ahead.
After anxious meetings with Avensis and a scientific expert from the University of Newcastle into the affects of the crop on the area, neighbouring farmers claim the trial should be stopped in its tracks. Tractors spotted in Mr Barclay's fields in the past few days have accelerated fears that GM seeds could be sewn imminently. Partner in neighbouring Foyensfiend Farm, Deirdre Mackintosh, whose land bounds the proposed GM site, called last night's meeting after talks with worried neighbours.
She said: "The feeling I get is that the neighbouring farmers are very concerned, and they want it stopped.
"Especially in the present climate with foot and mouth, to proceed with the trials is seen as irresponsible. "These tests could run for years and everybody needs to know morebefore these things are carried out. Mrs Mackintosh added: "The meeting is to see if we are all in agreement about the way forward. "If that means petitioning Steven Barclay then that's what we will do. "He has inferred that, if enough were against it, he would halt the trial. "We find it disappointing that one of our neighbours doesn't care enough about the farmers in the area to heed our views."
The Press were excluded from last night's meeting of Nairnshire farmers. Steven Barclay was unavailable for comment.
GM crops row
DAILY MAIL (London) April 4, 2001
THE Government sparked outrage last night by pressing ahead with GM crop trials despite appeals to suspend the programme because of the epidemic. Farmers had asked ministers to halt tests on fields of GM maize, oilseed rape and beet because of the dangers which would be posed by teams of scientists trooping across the countryside. They pointed out that during the last outbreak in 1967, all agricultural research was suspended for a year. But last night the Environment Department said the GBP 4million trials would not be delayed. Ministers announced 25 new sites where vast fields of GM maize will be planted at the end of this month. They include farms in eight counties which have had cases of foot and mouth: Cheshire, Essex, Herefordshire, Berkshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, West Yorkshire and Oxfordshire.
Three sites two in Essex and one in Cheshire are very close to infected farms and are classified as dangerous areas. The Tories said the decision to press ahead with the trials was 'staggering and very scary' at a time when movement in the countryside should be limited. Friends of the Earth's Carol Kearney accused ministers of 'breathtaking hypocrisy'.
Manipulating the facts
Thursday April 5, 2001
On the evening of March 27, six anti-genetics protesters knocked at the door of a farmer called Jeremy Courtney. They had come to plead with him not to allow his fields in East Hoathly, East Sussex, to be used for a government trial of genetically modified rape. The farmer was out, but his wife said she would pass on their concerns. The protesters went home. Though the six campaigners didn't know it, they were pushing at an open door. The following day, Jeremy Courtney contacted the local newspaper, the Crowborough Courier, to announce that he was withdrawing from the trial, as he was worried that the scientists conducting it might bring foot and mouth on to his property.
This was surely a sensible precaution. Though the field testing of non-GM crops has been suspended, though the countryside has been closed and the general election postponed, on Tuesday the government announced, bizarrely, that a new series of GM field trials would begin at the end of this month.
Mr Courtney assured the Courier that his decision had nothing to do with the protesters. "I'm not bothered about the antis. I enjoy a good debate," he said.
A few hours later, he faxed the paper a rather different statement. He was pulling out, he now claimed, "due to the unbearable level of intimidation and threatening behaviour that has been targeted towards me [and] my family".
Protesters, he alleged, had also damaged his machinery. The statement's content was not its only curious feature. At the top of the sheet there was not one fax identification line, but two. The first was Jeremy Courtney's. The second said, "From Aventis Crop Science". Aventis is the biotech firm whose crops were to have been tested on Mr Courtney's land.
On Tuesday I phoned Aventis and spoke to its press officer. Why, I asked him, did his company's name appear on the top of the farmer's fax? "I'll leave you to work it out for yourself," he replied.
"You're not prepared to tell me why your name was on top of the statement?"
"I don't believe I need to give you an explanation," came his reply.
"Did Aventis write the statement?"
"It's the farmer's statement."
"That's not a direct answer to my question. Did Aventis write the statement?"
"It's the farmer's statement, Mr Monbiot."
I rang Mr Courtney and asked him what intimidation he had suffered and what had happened to his machinery.
"I'd rather not talk about it," he told me.
"Why ever not?"
"I'm not prepared to go into it," he said.
The Courier asked Mr Courtney why he had changed his position. His answer was revealing.
"This is the way the government wishes to tackle this," he said. "It's agreed it will be handled by the government point of view." Further questioning established that Mr Courtney believed that Scimac - the industry body representing the companies testing GM crops in Britain - was the government. It is an easy mistake to make as the government has given Scimac extraordinary concessions.
All this is rather puzzling, not least because the advocates of GM research, Scimac and Aventis among them, frequently accuse their opponents of manipulating facts. The government appears similarly reluctant to stick to the high principles it demands of other people. The press release the department of environment issued on Tuesday, announcing the new field trials, insisted that "all of the seeds in the trials have been through years of rigorous safety tests". This is simply untrue. A survey for Science magazine found only four peer-reviewed animal feeding trials of GM products, anywhere in scientific literature.
The government's insistence that the field trials will not contaminate surrounding crops relies on a similarly scrupulous adherence to the facts.
While ministers warn that foot and mouth disease can travel for miles on the wind, they also assure us that pollen from GM crops obediently stays where it's told. There is surely no clearer sign of the government's resolve, against all precautionary advice, to press ahead with genetic engineering than the special exemption from foot and mouth restrictions it has granted for GM crop testing.
If foot and mouth disease has taught us anything, it's surely that once a living organism is out of the bag, there's not much we can do to stuff it back in again.
One day, some rigorous GM safety tests might finally be conducted. And those tests might show us that there is, indeed, a problem. By then, GM pollen is likely to have contaminated conventional crops almost everywhere, and there will be nothing we can do to recall it. Having manipulated the facts they claim to defend, the government and the biotech companies will have no one to blame but themselves.
BIOTECH SENTRIES - GENETIC STATE:
"amid strong protests..Monsanto officials..Air Force guarding..40 tons..U.S.-based Monsanto..denied reports.. military area.. concealed.. tightly guarded..barred..security reasons..reporters and photographers.. must back off.." - THE JAKARTA POST March 17, 2001 'Genetically modified cotton seed arrives in Makassar from S. Africa'