Leading Article: Greenpeace takes direct action against its own credibility
Wednesday 28 July 1999
But while allowing that direct action in contravention of the law can on occasion be justified, in this case it is not. In the past Greenpeace has based its campaigns on the findings of science, and this has carried weight with the public. It has not always been proven right; its opposition to the sinking of the Brent Spar oil rig did not in fact win scientific consensus, and scares about dioxins have never been supported by longer- term scientific studies. But in a free society, where information is plentiful, consumers can make their own decisions. The problem comes when Greenpeace and other eco-activists ignore both science and the wider democratic process.
Greenpeace points to surveys showing huge numbers of the British public opposing GM trials, and they cite the local meeting it held, where many attenders said that they opposed the trial. But on the first point, it is elected government, not opinion polls, that rules in a democracy; and on the second, it is obvious that few GM proponents will go to an event where they can be sure of being shouted down. The democratic case against carrying out GM crop trials has yet to be made.
Greenpeace's destruction of the test crop looks more like that of someone who has lost the argument. It claims that the running of GM farm-scale trials to evaluate the effects of acres of GM crops on surrounding animals and plants is anti-democratic. Yet those trials' very existence indicates how much ministers feel they must cater to the concerns of the general public.
By law, ministers could have given the green light to commercial planting at the end of last year. But, in response to concerns raised by the public and by English Nature, the official advisory body on environmental matters, the go-ahead was delayed so that these farm-scale trials could take place. That seems to us like active democracy. The idea that this Government sets its face against the public will is laughable, given that there has probably never been an administration more worried about how its policies will play with the voters.
Is the whole of the British environment so threatened by seven - now four - GM crop trials? Is the threat so immediate that it necessitates destroying part of a farmer's livelihood? GM crops may not prove to be the solution to the world's needs for food. They might have an awful effect on the environment. However, if we tear up the plantings in a Luddite frenzy before the trials are completed, we shall never know.
It would be a retrograde step were the attacks on these sites to encourage the Government to keep their locations secret. The progress and results of these trials should be open, and checkable by every interested party; Michael Meacher should pledge that the sites of the locations will remain publicly available.
Perhaps, in turn, Greenpeace could pledge to assign scientists to monitor what is happening around those sites. That would be a means of winning the argument. But don't tear up the trial crops. Leave them alone. They will either condemn or acquit themselves.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 2 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 3 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
- 4 Exclusive: Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse
- 5 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor 'wheel on people who have mental health problems' says comedian Jo Brand
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Orange Is The New Black season 3: Pornstache isn't coming back
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss