7 April 2000

Jury in GM attack trial is warned to disregard politics

By David Green

THE jury in the trial of Lord Peter Melchett and 27 other Greenpeace supporters has been warned not to consider the politics behind an attack on a GM crop site.

Lord Melchett who farms at Ringstead, near Hunstanton, and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty when they went on trial at Norwich Crown Court this week charged with criminal damage and theft.

The charges follow an attack on a four-acre plot of GM maize being grown for Aventis on the farm of William Brigham of Lyng, near Dereham in Norfolk, last year.

The court heard that Mr Brigham became aware that a group of people were on his land early in the morning of July 26.

Police found a tractor-mounted cutter and strimmers being used to cut the crop.

Judge David Mellow said the case involved a major public controversy. However, the jury did not have to decide whether GM crops were good or bad.

"It is not and cannot be about which side is in the right in one of the great debates of our time," he said.

John Farmer, prosecuting, said the case was a criminal trial, not a political or scientific debate.

Although the defence would argue that the attack on the fields was carried out with lawful excuse, allegedly to protect the environment, the crop was being legally grown, he said.

Mr Brigham, appearing as a witness for the prosecution, said he had spoken to Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace UK, at the scene of the attack.

"I said to him that he ought to be ashamed of himself carrying out such action and told him to stop his fellow conspirators from carrying out what appeared to be a giant publicity stunt," he told the court.

The trial continues. &#42