Greenpeace GM crop attack declared legal

A A A

Greenpeace protesters who attacked a field of genetically modified crops were not breaking the law, a jury decided yesterday. The verdict, which deeply dismayed the GM industry and the Government, appeared to clear the way for further attacks on trial sites.

Greenpeace protesters who attacked a field of genetically modified crops were not breaking the law, a jury decided yesterday. The verdict, which deeply dismayed the GM industry and the Government, appeared to clear the way for further attacks on trial sites.

The 28 Greenpeace activists, led by their executive director, Lord Melchett, raided William Brigham's GM maize crop on his farm in Lyng, Norfolk, in July last year. They had a "lawful excuse" for their actions, the jury of seven men and five women decided at Norwich Crown Court after deliberating for five hours.

Under the Criminal Damage Act, 1971, property can be lawfully damaged if the action is to protect other property, and the jury accepted the Greenpeace contention that the maize was attacked so that its pollen could not "genetically pollute" other crops near by, and that the action was therefore legal.

Mr Brigham's field was part of a network of farm-scale evaluations of GM crops being sponsored by the Government to test the effects on wildlife of the powerful weedkillers the new crops are genetically engineered to tolerate.

English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds support the evaluations, believing they may produce evidence that prevents GM crops ever being grown commercially in Britain, but more radical environmental groups, led by Greenpeace, feel the risk of contamination of the environment from the evaluations themselves is simply too great for them to go ahead.

The verdict came after an 11-day retrial A first trial in April ended with a jury unable to agree on the charge of criminal damage, although it cleared the "Greenpeace 28" of the accusations of theft of the crops. They had intended to cut them down, bag them up and return them to Aventis, the chemical company that owns them.

The latest verdict was greeted with delight by Greenpeace, with defiance by the Government, with gloom and foreboding by companies developing GM chemicals, and with resentful anger by Mr Brigham. "Greenpeace is a massive environmental pressure group," Mr Brigham said. "We are a small family farm. It used bully boy tactics to get its own way and today the bullies have won.

"This raid on our farm happened during the early hours of the morning and was a frightening experience for myself and my family," he said. "Those who carried it out now appear free to do the same again with impunity."

Lord Melchett hinted that Greenpeace was indeed contemplating further raids if the trials programme was not halted by the Government, as he demanded.

"We took this action to defend the British countryside and British farms from GM contamination," he said. "We were right to do that. And now the time has come for Mr Blair and the chemical companies to stop growing GM crops."

His demand was brusquely rejected by the Government. "The crop trials will continue," said a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. "If we halted our strictly controlled research then there would be widespread GM crop planting, without us getting the real scientific evidence we need. Our top priority is to protect the environment and human health."

The Crown Prosecution Service sounded a warning that the verdict did not mean there would be no prosecutions in the future. Peter Tidey, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Norfolk, said: "Criminal damage is a serious offence and allegations that an offence was premeditated and carried out by a group of people are taken into consideration when deciding whether to prosecute. Each case is unique and we will continue to review each case on its merits."

Scimac (the Supply Chain Initiative for Modified Agricultural Crops), the body representing the GM chemical companies said it was "surprised and concerned" by the verdict. "We're disappointed that an extremist minority didn't have enough confidence in the scientific strength their own arguments to let the science decide," said a spokesman.

The defendants were awarded their costs for both trials, estimated at £100,000.

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran