06 August 1999
GM firm begs for government help

By Farmers Weekly reporters

THE company which has seen three of its trial sites for genetically modified (GM) crops wrecked in the past two weeks, has called for government support.

AgrEvo, which is hoping that as many as 75 farm-scale trials will be carried out next year, wants ministers to help it to protect the trial sites.

AgrEvos biotechnology communications manager Clive Rainbird told reporters at a press briefing this week that the company had made a plea for help.

It had been in discussions with government officials over whether site locations should be kept secret, or security guards introduced to protect the trials.

The possibility of moving trials either on to government land or overseas, have already been discussed, but it is thought unlikely they would be implemented.

Mr Rainbird said he was confident that a solution to the problem of protesters targeting GM crop sites would be found in time for next years trials.

But he conceded: “There is a problem in that government has made it clear it wants to be open and transparent and none of the options put forward so far fit in with that.”

With the map reference of each of the trials already in the public domain, those involved in trials are conscious that it is too late to try and keep site locations secret.

And although the company has employed security staff at some of the trial sites, even this might not be enough, admitted Mr Rainbird.

If enough protesters turned up at a site, it would be difficult to stop them ripping up plants, he said.

Meanwhile three anti-GM crop campaigners could face jail after they openly admitted pulled up GM oilseed rape plants at Chishill Orchard Farm, Royston, Hertfordshire.

AgrEvo was granted an injunction in April to prevent the three activists from the campaign group GenetiX Snowball from uprooting the companys GM plants.

But members Jo Hamilton, Martin Shaw and Rowan Tilly removed three large bags of plants from trial sites owned by AgrEvo on Tuesday this week.

The three delivered one of the bags to AgrEvo headquarters at Kings Lynn, Norfolk, and could now face a prison sentence of up to two years for breaking the injunction.