Greenpeace lord in court over GMs

3 April 2000

Greenpeace lord in court over GMs

By David Green in Norwich<>/I>

A JURY has been asked to decide whether an attack on a field of GM maize was criminal damage or a lawful act to protect the environment.

Lord Peter Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, and 27 other people appeared at Norwich Crown Court on Monday (3 April).

They were charged as a result of an attack on a field at Lyng in Norfolk where a trial crop of GM maize was being grown for Aventis.

Lord Melchett and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty today for charges of criminal damage and theft on land belonging to farmer William Brigham.

Mr Brigham, on whose land the GM crops were grown, became aware early last July 26 that people were on his land and police were subsequently called.

They found people in white overalls using a tractor -mounted cutter and strimmers to cut the crop, part of which was being bagged and loaded onto a lorry.

Judge David Mellor told the jury that the case, which is expected to last for three weeks, involved a major public controversy.

But the jury did not have to decide whether GM crops were good or bad.

He said: “It is not about which side is right in one of the big debates of our time.”

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

He said Lord Melchett organised a public meeting about the crop trial at Lyng and subsequently wrote to Mr Brigham setting out the case against GM crops.

The Greenpeace director suggested that farmers should destroy the trial crop because of the danger that non-GM crops would be contaminated, the court heard.

Mr Farmer said the defence would argue that the attack on the field was carried out with a lawful excuse. But the crop was being grown quite legally.

“The mere fact that you do not approve of what is grown on your neighbours land does not entitle you to ride roughshod over your neighbour,” he said.

“You are not entitled to go round and destroy it.”

The case continues.

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