Document Directory

11 Aug 99 - GMO - GM food ads found to mislead
11 Aug 99 - GMO - American firm criticised over adverts for GM crops
09 Aug 99 - GMO - GM 'superfish' face ban in British waters
08 Aug 99 - GMO - Sainsbury in fresh storm over GM food
08 Aug 99 - GMO - GM technology to restore the lost elm
05 Aug 99 - GMO - Drunken fox threat to GM crop study
05 Aug 99 - GMO - Release of GM crop to get official approval approved for release
05 Aug 99 - GMO - Test fields of conflict
05 Aug 99 - GMO - GM crops under threat as pests start to fight back
04 Aug 99 - GMO - Test experts paid by GM firm
03 Aug 99 - GMO - Church ban on GM crop trials
03 Aug 99 - GMO - GM rices may improve ailing children's health
03 Aug 99 - GMO - Organic farms' grant cash runs out
03 Aug 99 - GMO - GM rice in Third World diets
02 Aug 99 - GMO - Attacks on GM crops spread to US and France
02 Aug 99 - GMO - GM maize is found in baby foods
01 Aug 99 - GMO - GM soya milk gives children herpes, senior surgeon tells the Government
01 Aug 99 - GMO - GM food protesters tear up wrong crop
01 Aug 99 - GMO - 45 Charged With Damaged Crops Plot
01 Aug 99 - GMO - GM killer bugs developed as defence against germ warfare
31 Jul 99 - GMO - Spread of fear that creates a coalition
31 Jul 99 - GMO - Baby food giant cuts out GM products
28 Jul 99 - GMO - Trampling crops can be fun
27 Jul 99 - GMO - Peer arrested after raid on GM crop
27 Jul 99 - GMO - We'll hold GM trials in secret, ministers warn
27 Jul 99 - GMO - Professor's trees can cut use of chemicals
27 Jul 99 - GMO - Greenpeace Chief Refused Bail
26 Jul 99 - GMO - Labour peer arrested at GM farm
26 Jul 99 - GMO - GM crops protest - hundreds put their food where their mouths are
26 Jul 99 - GMO - Flowers' genetic 'switch' found
26 Jul 99 - GMO - Plant pest experts support GM crops

11 Aug 99 - GMO - GM food ads found to mislead

Linus Gregoriadis

Guardian ... Wednesday 11 August 1999

Four complaints to watchdog upheld, while nine are rejected Monsanto, the US based food company, has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading the public about its genetically modified food and crops.

In a report published today, the authority has upheld four complaints made by environmental groups about Monsanto's 1998 UK advertising campaign.

One complaint was over wrongly suggesting that GM potatoes had been approved by government regulatory agencies in 20 countries including the UK. Another complaint upheld concerned a newspaper advert which could have given the impression that the benefits of GM tomatoes were proved.

The company was also ordered not to say it had carried out tests measuring the impact of GM techniques on human and environmental safety for the past 20 years, and not to claim as fact that cross-species gene transference to plants was an extension of traditional cross- breeding. The authority did not uphold nine other complaints about Monsanto's advertisements.

Chris Reed, an authority spokesman, said yesterday: "When dealing with GM foods, advertisers have to be very wary consumers are given precise and factually correct information. If there are holes in their adverts, then pressure groups will find them. Although many of Monsanto's claims have been found to be true, those complaints that have been upheld will cause damage to Monsanto's reputation. In such an emotive area, they must be more careful in future."

Monsanto yesterday defended itself in a statement: "It was not our intention to mislead or deceive, and we apologise to anyone who might have misunderstood these advertisements."

Thirteen complaints were filed with the authority by pressure groups and charities, including GeneWatch, the Soil Association, the Countryside Restoration Trust and the RSPB.

Monsanto noted that most of the complaints had been dismissed: "Among these are our statements about important issues such as the environmental benefits of plants biotechnology, on which the authority's council decided that we have provided enough evidence to support our opinions."

The company admitted that it had not originally made clear that genetically altered potatoes and tomatoes had not been approved in the UK, and said it had changed its advertisements before being notified of the complaints.

The authority found the company had provided evidence that it had conducted safety testing on its techniques for 16 years, rather than 20 as it had claimed .

The adverts were placed last summer in newspapers including the Guardian and the Observer.

Harry Hadaway, campaigns officer at the Soil Association, said: "It is good to see the complaints system works. It is important to stop this kind of advertising going ahead."

The Soil Association had complained it was unproved that GM tomatoes needed fewer pesticides. Mr Hadaway said: "Recent data released by the US department of agriculture support our claim that crops such as these need the same or more pesticides than conventional crops. The benefits are unproved."

Sue Mayor, of GeneWatch UK, said: "The advertisements were a disgrace."

Four claims rebutted :

Claim : Monsanto's confidence in the safety of its potato, soybean and corn seeds was matched by government regulatory agencies in 20 countries including Britain. "All have approved our seeds," one advertisement stated.

Response : The Advertising Standards Authority said potato seeds had not been approved in the UK.

Claim : A picture of a GM tomato and the statement : "The farmer can spray substantially less insecticide on to his fields."

Response : The ASA said the effects of GM tomatoes had not been fully assessed.

Claim : Monsanto implied its techniques were merely an extension of traditional cross-breeding methods.

Response : The ASA found this to be a matter of opinion.

Claim : Monsanto had been testing the safety of GM foods for 20 years.

Response : The ASA said the company could provide evidence for only 16 years of safety testing

11 Aug 99 - GMO - American firm criticised over adverts for GM crops

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 11 August 1999

Monsanto, one of the leading companies developing genetically modified crops, was criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority yesterday for making misleading claims in newspapers about its potatoes and tomatoes.

The authority upheld four out of 13 complaints from environmental groups about the contents of an advertising campaign mounted by the company to allay public fears about GM crops. The American food biotechnology company had "wrongly suggested" that GM potatoes had been approved by government regulatory agencies in 20 countries including Britain, the authority said.

It asked Monsanto to ensure future advertisements featuring GM crops did not give the impression that they had been officially approved when they had not. One advertisement showed a photograph of a tomato and listed the benefits of the fruit before any potential risks had been fully assessed.

The ASA upheld objections to the implication that modified products were merely an extension of traditional cross-breeding methods. But nine other complaints about the advertisements were rejected.

09 Aug 99 - GMO - GM 'superfish' face ban in British waters

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Telegraph ... Monday 9 August 1999

Genetically modified fish being developed for commercial production in America and China would dominate and replace natural strains within a few generations if they were released into the wild, scientists have found.

The results of two studies led English Nature , the Government's conservation advisers, to issue a warning yesterday that it would oppose the release of GM fish in Britain unless they were made infertile.

The discovery of how to transfer growth promoter genes from other species, even humans, has led to a number of research projects into the potential for making fish farming more efficient. Salmon, carp and tilapia are the main species being studied and it has been found that injecting a gene into salmon eggs can make them grow at up to 50 times the rate in the wild . But many, including a House of Lords select committee which called for a treaty to ban the release of GM fish, are concerned about the effect of unintended release on wild populations.

A study at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, has found that GM, or transgenic, males are likely to have a fourfold advantage in breeding because larger fish are preferred as mates by females. The study, which looked at the effects of Atlantic salmon and chicken growth promoter genes on the Japanese medaka, a non-commercial fish, also found that the transgenic progeny were 22 per cent larger on average than their non-transgenic siblings.

Researchers looked at the result of natural body size variation on the medaka's breeding success, from which they estimated the differences likely to occur in the wild between wild and transgenic males. Results showed that large males obtained 80 per cent of the matings, against 20 per cent obtained by small males.

The researchers concluded that an initially rare introduced gene could spread quickly in a population of fish. The number of transgenic males in a population might start out at one in 100,000, but it would become 50 per cent of the population within 16 generations. If the number of transgenic fish was one in 1,000, half the population would be transgenic within 11 generations.

Another study of concern to English Nature was carried out into Channel catfish given salmon growth promoter genes by researchers from Auburn University, Alabama, and Stanford University, California.

This showed that some transgenic fish were better at avoiding predators than their natural counterparts . They concluded that family differences between strains of catfish were responsible. If genes were transferred into families with superior abilities at avoiding predators, then the "superfish" could proliferate in the wild population and change the balance of nature by out-competing other species.

Brian Johnson, genetics adviser to English Nature, said: "If you make fish bigger, they will mate preferentially with wild stocks. If bigger fish are more successful in breeding, then transgenic fish would spread very successfully throughout the wild population.

"We would say that if transgenic fish are to be developed , we should expect the industry to ensure that they were infertile and that this sterility could not be reversed. We would also prefer to see contained farming and not sea farming of GM fish."

In Britain all experiments on GM fish were halted after an experiment on salmon in tanks beside Loch Fyne caused alarm that rules on containment were not strict enough.

English Nature is not aware of anywhere in the world where GM fish have been released into the environment or are farmed where they could escape. It says that China appears to have a much stronger ethical code than America on genetic engineering, believing that it is only ethical to use fish genes in fish rather than genes from other animals, including humans.

English Nature points out that genetic pollution has occurred already in classically bred fish. The escape of fish from Scottish fish farms in bad weather or because of vandalism has already changed salmon stocks, not necessarily for the better.

Salmon and trout are known to have evolved distinct genetic strains specific to the river where they are found. These strains contain the genes likely to be the most successful at surviving in that environment.

Some conservationists believe that the escape of farmed fish hybridised with heavier and more docile Norwegian salmon may have had an effect on their ability to survive in small, steep west coast rivers and be a factor in the wild salmon's decline .

08 Aug 99 - GMO - Sainsbury in fresh storm over GM food

Staff Reporter

Telegraph ... Sunday 8 August 1999

Lord Sainsbury the multi-millionaire science minister who has invested millions in biotechnology companies and research into genetically modified crops, has been put in charge of drafting new laws to boost the industry , writes Joe Murphy.

The minister, who has attracted intense controversy for his personal support for GM products, has written a government report proposing new planning rules to foster the growth of biotechnology companies. While preparing the report, The Telegraph has established, he paid official visits to a string of companies that produce GM crops and products.

Earlier this year, the Government insisted that Lord Sainsbury would play no part in GM food policy . Opposition MPs and pressure group Friends of the Earth said there was a clear conflict of interest because of Lord Sainsbury's investments in biotechnology companies, all of which are currently held in a blind trust.

Last week, a Department of Trade and Industry spokesman insisted that the report did not relate to the GM industry and that it sought to promote mainly companies in the medical field, such as those researching cures for Parkinson's Disease. The spokesman also said: "Lord Sainsbury did not visit any GM food companies and does not take any part in decisions relating to GM food or crops."

However, it has now emerged that the minister visited a number of companies involved in GM products in a tour of biotechnology sites in April and May. These included Axis Genetics, in Cambridge, a world leader in GM vaccines, which has also produced disease resistant crops and the genetically modified potatoes used in research by the sacked "whistleblower" Prof Arpad Pusztai.

Lord Sainsbury's report has signalled a change in planning laws to prevent local authorities blocking the development of the industry , which has sales of £9 billion a year. John Redwood, the Conservative spokesman for Environment, Transport and the Regions, said: "Once again, Lord Sainsbury seems to have strayed into the GM field. This is unwise for a minister who has a long track record as a proponent of GM crops and as an investor in the GM industry . I want a final explanation of whether this minister is involved in GM policy making or not. It appears that he is up to his neck in it."

08 Aug 99 - GMO - GM technology to restore the lost elm

By Mark Rowe

Independent ... Sunday 8 August 1999

Scientists working on the genetic modification of trees believe they will soon have the technology to restore Britain's lost landscape, with the reintroduction of trees decimated by Dutch elm disease and a new breed of infection-resistant oaks.

They will soon be able to transfer genes between tree cells to make them resistant to diseases which can wipe out native species. Earlier this year, experts warned that another favourite English tree, the common oak, is dying at an alarming rate as a result of a mystery unexplained disease.

The technology is being developed by conservation-minded scientists but the multinational companies involved with GM crop production are also looking to work with trees. Yesterday, Friends of the Earth warned that modifying trees could be an environmental disaster , with the big companies using the technology to create vast plantations of high-yield trees for the timber industry.

Conservation scientists are carrying out pioneering work on the black poplar, which is so rare that scientists know the exact location of each tree. They are gathering cuttings from the tree, one of Britain's oldest species, dating back more than 10,000 years. The cuttings are stored in a "clone bank" of genetic information.

Initially, the clone bank will be used to grow and reintroduce a wide diversity of trees in Suffolk. If this works, as they are convinced it will, planting could start anywhere in Britain.

They will carry out DNA analysis on the cuttings to identify as many different individuals as possible in order that they can seed trees with a greater genetic diversity.

Friends of the Earth are not impressed. "Companies are already exploring the creation of trees that grow faster and that are resistant to insects," said Sarah Tyack, forest campaigner for FoE. "GM crops have huge implications for biodiversity and this will only be exacerbated if we have GM trees grown en masse. Trees take longer to grow than crops so have longer to cause genetic pollution."

The black poplar, which leans drunkenly over rivers and streams in lowland Britain and is identified by its heavily ridged dark bark, was a favourite subject for the landscape artist John Constable. But today, numbers have fallen to around 7,000 across the country and in Suffolk a third of the recorded black poplar trees have been lost, as its habitat of damp mud on riverbanks has been largely obliterated by the destructive canalisation of rivers.

The problem has been exacerbated because the black poplar can be male or female but not, like many trees, both sexes at once. Most of the surviving individuals are male, possibly because the white woolly seeds produced by female trees have been considered messy so fewer female trees are planted. As a result, the only way a tree can reproduce itself is as a clone from a fallen branch, meaning that several individuals on a river could be genetically identical, increasing their vulnerability to disease.

"The DNA work is critical because it will allow us to get more trees planted," said Sue Hooton, ecologist with Suffolk County Council, who is chairing the project. "The existing poplars will disappear by the end of the next decade and we have to do the DNA programming because otherwise we could be planting hybrid trees all over the palace."

DNA-profiling of trees has traditionally been difficult, according to Dr Keith Kirby, forestry and woodland officer with English Nature, which is part-funding the project. "Trees present more problems than animals and other plants because they have tougher cell walls and it is difficult to extract the DNA for analysis," he said.

"It is good to have a genetic mix among trees in case you get a serious disease. If you have trees of one genetic type then if a disease appears, every tree will be susceptible. If you have a mixture of genetic composition there is a chance one or other will be more resistant," he added. Dr Kirby says Dutch elm disease is a clear example of how genetic modification can be beneficial. "Other species of elm are relatively resistant to Dutch elm disease so it would, in theory, be possible to try and isolate that gene and introduce it to the English elm."

05 Aug 99 - GMO - Drunken fox threat to GM crop study

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 5 August 1999

A fox with a drink problem threatened to wreck an experiment on genetically modified crops.

The young dog fox raided insect traps filled with alcohol and ate the beetles and bugs which had fallen into them. The experiment was designed to show how GM crops can encourage wildlife and reduce the amount of pesticide farmers use.

When researchers checked the traps, to compare the population of insects in a variety of GM and conventional crops of sugar beet, which were each subjected to different weed control techniques, they found that the fox had eaten the evidence.

He had 108 pitfall traps - plastic beakers containing alcohol, which are placed with their rims at ground level - to choose from in an exerimental field in Lincolnshire. The field had escaped the attention of anti-GM crop activists.

The local farmer and researchers at the Government-backed Institute of Arable Crops Research at Broom's Barn, Cambridge, sometimes saw the fox stumbling home afterwards. The fox was eventually chased off with dogs and the traps were fitted with plywood covers to allow insects in but keep foxes out. The trial is continuing.

Dr Alan Dewar, an entomologist at Broom's Barn, said yesterday: "This young fox obviously liked drinking the alcohol, eating the pickled insects and getting fairly drunk in the process." Dr Dewar was angry about the destruction by activists of two field trials he was working on. He said: "These people don't want the research to continue because they are afraid that the results may not support their point of view."

But he was philosophical about the fox raids. "It was just one of those things that can happen," he said.

05 Aug 99 - GMO - Release of GM crop to get official approval approved for release

Staff Reporter

Times ... Thursday 5 August 1999

The government is set to defy environmentalists by approving the Europe-wide commercial release of a genetically modified crop currently being tested in the UK.

The Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions will next week vote at the European Union to allow so-called Part C approval of GM oilseed rape The herbicide-tolerant crop, being developed by biotech giant AgrEvo, is part of current farm-scale trials devised by the Government to test the safety of the technology. France, Denmark, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg will all vote against the application , which aims to allow the crop to be used in animal feed and to be planted commercially.

But the UK Government is poised to vote "Yes" following the advice of its scientific advisors, The Independent has learned. It is understood that the Government believes that it has not legal grounds to refuse approval, but other EU countries claim that there is "unacceptable uncertainty" to allow the application. Environmentalists claim that the vote, which will be made ahead of a meeting of environment ministers, undermines the whole system of trials backed by ministers.

Friends of the Earthclaimed that it proved that ministers had not changed their stance of supporting the GM industry despite recent attempts to reassure the public. Charles Secrett, FoE's director, said: "The Government has been sneaky with the public. In Britain, they tell us loudly that they haven't made up their minds, yet in Europe they are voting the way the industry wants."

A spokesman for the Government's specialist GM press unit refused to comment on the way it would vote next Tuesday.

05 Aug 99 - GMO - Test fields of conflict

Julia Finch

Guardian ... Thursday 5 August 1999

Consumers are concerned, eco-warriors are on the warpath and British agribusiness is on the run. The scare over genetically modified food which blew up a year ago shows no sign of abating and companies the length of the food supply chain are responding.

The issue is threatening to explode into a transatlantic trade war which could dwarf the recent EU-US conflagrations over bananas and hormone-treated beef. The GM food scare, prompted by research which claimed to have found a link between tumours in mice and genetically modified potatoes , and since discredited, is swiftly becoming a huge corporate liability. Fresh concerns and protests about the potential health and environmental impact of GM crops are reported almost weekly.

Within the past 10 days:

Lord Melchett, director of Greenpeace, was imprisoned after an attack on a genetically engineered cornfield in Norfolk.

• A university professor claimed that GM soya milk was the cause of her young daughter's herpes . (There was no scientific evidence but the mother was a respected academic and her fears attracted publicity.)

• An agrochemicals company, AgrEvo, which is testing GM crops, had a large section of one of its GM oilseed rape test-fields in East Anglia ripped up, bagged up and delivered back to its offices .

• Then on Tuesday the pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca admitted that it was considering selling its agrochemical business - which has also been targeted by protesters.

Only six months ago, AstraZeneca was boasting its GM achievements and prospects. Michael Pragnell, the agrochemicals chief executive, explained that the company had tested GM tomato puree on supermarket shelves and was planning to develop GM bananas. However, this week AstraZeneca's group chief executive, Tom McKillop, made it clear that the GM business was a sideline it could do without: "There isn't the management resource to devote to everything." The supermarkets were the first to react to mounting consumer concern. "We are in the firing line," said a senior executive from one of the big four chains. "Consumers make their feelings known to us much more than to the food producers and far more than to companies like Monsanto which are at the forefront of this research. When the tabloids started talking about 'Frankenstein foods' our postbag just took off. It was bordering on hysteria, though we compounded the problem by seizing on the issue and using it for competitive advantage." The big four groups, along with other retailers, rushed to be able to declare that their own-brand foods were GM-free and, although so far only Sainsbury among them has achieved it, Safeway, Tesco and Asda are expected to follow suit shortly.

"The international food producers are a problem. They don't understand why GM has become such a big issue in the UK, and many are reluctant to change ingredients for UK consumers. But, shortly after Tesco annouced it would go GM-free, Unilever and Nestlé announced they were working towards elimination, too".

Northern Foods , whose products range from Pork Farms meat items to Fox's biscuits and M&S ready-meals, has also said it will be GM-free - even though the company is headed by Lord Haskins, a close ally of the prime minister, one of GM's staunchest defenders.

David Gamble, director of the risk managers' association Airmic, said that companies should not underestimate the impact GM could have on their business, even though there is still no scientific proof that it is damaging.

"The public perception is that every type of GM food is potentially dangerous. The fact is we've been eating hybrids for years but now there is complete uncertainty about whether genetic changes could wipe out entire crops or cause unknown illnesses. Given some of the problems we've had with other scientific developments, we have to make sure we get this right because there will be no way back.

"The main risk is a potential loss of sales as consumer pressure has prompted all big supermarkets to stop stocking GM foods; so anyone out of line could suffer. But if a company was importing GM foods it could find itself liable if customers developed health problems." He added that many companies now run the risk that their business could be damaged, either unwittingly or maliciously, if they are accused of importing, producing or selling GM foods. It is a lesson that United Biscuits has already learned. When tests revealed that some of its Linda McCartney range of veg etarian foods contained GM soya, sales dropped dramatically . "Shops would be wise to have some sort of [insurance] cover in case someone claims they have GM foods in stock," said Mr Gamble. "Damage to reputation is what companies are really worried about and allegations of breach of trust with consumers could injure a business badly."

One agribusiness executive said the industry was fighting on two fronts - to get regulatory approval and to win acceptance of the technology . The arguments are likely to come to a head in November when the next round of global trade liberalisation talks begin in Seattle.

Americans guzzle foods laden with GM soya and hormone-injected beef. US farmers churn out genetically engineered crops and there is no UK-style safety debate . Most GM soya used in food originates in the US and the farming lobby there is unlikely to take kindly to any restrictions on trade.

Brussels and Washington have fundamentally different approaches to such matters, with the Americans looking to the World Trade Organisation to resolve disputes between countries about food imports on strictly legal grounds while the Europeans juggle competing national views and put more emphasis on consumer protection. As the hormone-treated beef problem has shown, Europeans are prepared to flout international trading agreements rather than be forced to accept food imports they believe may be hazardous to health.

If GM food becomes the subject of a dispute between the two trading blocs, its repercussions would dwarf the rows over beef and bananas - and the efforts of environmental protesters. Additional reporting: Lisa Buckingham, Mark Milner and Mark Atkinson

05 Aug 99 - GMO - GM crops under threat as pests start to fight back

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Thursday 5 August 1999

Pests may become rapidly resistant to GM crops, undermining the benefits of moving to the new agricultural technology, scientists claim.

Tests indicate that insects resistant to pesticides produced by GM plants are far more likely to mate with each other. This means that insect resistance to the crops is likely to spread far faster through a population of pests than had previously been supposed .

The findings, published in the journal Nature, have been made by the University of Arizona. It studied the way cotton bollworm larvae interact with cotton plants that have been gene-altered to produce a toxin using the bacterial gene, Bacillus thuringiensis. Their findings bring into question strategies aimed at cutting the chances of pests developing immunity to the gene-altered plants. Farmers are supposed to mix fields of GM crops with conventionally grown varieties. The idea is that moths, beetles and other pests which have evolved immunity to the GM plant toxins will mate with those which are not immune. It means that resistance will be endlessly diluted, maintaining the ability of crops to keep most pests at bay. But the scientists have found that this is less likely to happen than supposed.

They have found that the resistant moth larvae take more than five days longer to develop than the non-resistant ones. The moths have a window of around three days to mate and produce offspring.So the two types emerge at different times increasing the likelihood that the resistance trait will persist.

04 Aug 99 - GMO - Test experts paid by GM firm

John Vidal and James Meikle

Guardian ... Wednesday 4 August 1999

Two scientists responsible for ndependently verifying the safety of the government's controversial GM food trials are also being paid by a leading GM company , it emerged last night.

Bob May and Alan Dewar of the Institute of Arable Crops Research , an organisation subsidised by the government, were appointed in June to help lead a team of "world-class scientists" to look at the potential adverse impacts of the farm trials.

They had earlier been commissioned by Norfolk-based GM company AgrEvo to look for the environmental benefits of the company's crops. Dr May and Dr Dewar are testing AgrEvo's crops for the department of the environment.

In the past year the government has made great play that all official GM committees should be seen to be completely independent , after it was shown that many of its advisers had direct involvement with the biotech industry.

Yesterday the cabinet office , now handling all GM matters, was unrepentant . "It is inevitable that some of them will have worked on industry funded projects," said a spokesman.

But Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace called for the scientists' resignation and the winding up of the farm-scale trials, several of which have been partly destroyed by anti-GM activists and one of which was abandoned by the farmer.

"How can scientists be working for the biotech companies on the benefits of the crops even as they are supposed to be carrying out independent research on their risks?" said Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth. "The farm-scale trials are becoming a farce."

But Dr Les Firbank of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, the overall leader of the scientific team drawn from three of Britain's leading research institutions, defended his team: "There are individuals doing work funded by companies but that does not detract from the independence of the science."

He added that Dr Dewar and Dr May "are part of the overall scientific leadership but the independence of the tests is guaranteed by the independent steering group [which includes representatives from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and English Nature]. They have managerial and scientific input but they themselves do not have primary responsibility for writing the report."

Earlier this week Dr Dewar, an entomologist, was furious that some of his research for AgrEvo had been destroyed by activists. He helped devise experiments to show that bugs and insects could be attracted to GM crops, which need less weedkiller.

"One sixth of a site was destroyed," he said. "We decided to harvest it two months early. Destroying these crops is destroying knowledge. We can answer some of the questions asked by the green lobby if we are allowed to. I do not exactly think they are benign."

AgrEvo has appealed to the government for help protecting the crops from activists. Another of their small trials was destroyed yesterday morning in Hertfordshire. Three activists from Genetix Snow ball admitted responsibility.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth said yesterday that the government farm trial tests were inadequate.

Mr Bebb said: "These trials are creeping commercialisation. They are not going to answer the questions people are asking. It will be difficult to find their effects in the few years they have allowed for the trials. They need to be longer and it will be difficult to establish their full effects without full commercial growing, by which time it will be too late for the environment."

Anti-GM activists are concerned that the trials will be dramatically expanded next year . Letters from AgrEvo to the government suggest it may test 12,000 acres of GM crops, compared with less than 100 this year . The company says this is the scale of trials government scientists suggested might be needed. "It doesn't mean that we will grow that much," said a spokeswoman.

03 Aug 99 - GMO - Church ban on GM crop trials

By Paul Waugh. Political Correspondent

Independent ... Tuesday 3 August 1999

The Church of England has refused to allow the Government to use its land to conduct genetically modified crop trials.

The decision, which was prompted by the continuing controversy over the morality and safety of the technology, will come as a huge embarrassment to the Government.

The Central Science Laboratory, the main research arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, asked to lease the land at a meeting with Church Commissioners. However, The Independent has learnt that the commissioners blocked the move pending a full-scale inquiry into genetic modification and its "theological implications".

After objections from Christian Aid, English Nature, Friends of the Earth and others, the church's Ethical Investment Working Group will now spend several months weighing up the whole issue.

Christian Aid, which has declared that American companies are "selling suicide" to the Third World by forcing GM crops on to them, welcomed the decision to freeze the government application.

As a practising Christian, the Prime Minister will take particularly hard their accusations that genetic manipulation of crops is "unethical" and will ruin the livelihoods of poor farmers . The church's decision follows intense internal debate over the warm welcome some of its senior officers had given to GM technology.

The church owns more than 123,000 acres of agricultural land in Britain, worth some £237m. At present, no church agricultural land is used for experimental or commercial genetically modified crops.

The science laboratory made the approach as the commissioners own the land surrounding its site in York, but fears over recent protests on GM trials are believed to have influenced their decision. Equally, it is understood the commissioners are worried the land may reduce in value because of bad publicity.

One church source confirmed that the inquiry will take several months and thus the ministry's request was unlikely to be granted. "GM trials are as controversial as any of the gay rights issues to hit the church in recent years. The church doesn't like confrontation and will avoid it if it can," he said.

A spokesman for the Church of England said that the working group needed "a period of further deliberation and reflection" before it could state a view about the Government's GM trials. "It wishes to deliberate further about this request, which is, if granted, likely to mean GM crop research on the land in question at some point in the future. The group is conscious that it is more important to come to a right view than a hasty one."

The Rev Paul Cawthorne, a vicar from Telford who has helped to sway the church hierarchy, welcomed the decision which, he said, accurately represented the views of most parishioners . "I'm pleased that the church has shown caution because expediting the commercialisation has led to a clouding of the moral issues," he said last night.

Andrew Simms of Christian Aid said: "We are not against trials in principle, but there are an awful lot of questions that have to be answered about them." Tim Cooper, chairman of Christian Ecology Link, said: "The use of farm-scale trials is premature and dangerous . Research should only be done in a closed environment for the foreseeable future."

Jim Thomas, GM campaigns officer for Greenpeace, said that the church's decision would be welcomed by nearly all churchgoers. "These farm-scale trials are very much a propaganda exercise by the Government and industry to make genetic pollution of the countryside inevitable. The church's caution is entirely in line with the public, who simply don't want these trials," he said.

Mr Blair has said he has an "open mind" on the issue, saying that the potential benefits should be investigated. He has warned that Britain could fall behind countries such as Germany, which are investing heavily to catch up with Britain's lead in biotechnology, and told Labour MPs earlier this year he was not prepared to kill off the GM industry.

03 Aug 99 - GMO - GM rices may improve ailing children's health

Tim Radford

Guardian ... Tuesday 3 August 1999

European scientists have produced genetically modified varieties of rice that could combat iron deficiency and improve childhood health.

One is rich in beta-carotene, the substance turned into vitamin A when eaten. The World Health Organisation says that between 140m and 250m children are deficient in vitamin A and at risk of xeropthalmia, the leading cause of childhood blindness.

Ingo Potrykus, of the Swiss institute for plant science, told the International Botanical Congress in St Louis, Missouri, yesterday that genetic engineers had also produced rice varieties to improve the supply of iron. Nearly 2bn people are anaemic.

The new rices have been financed by the European commission and the Rockefeller Foundation. They will not be made available to farmers until the nutritional and environmental properties have been examined, commission sources said night.

03 Aug 99 - GMO - Organic farms' grant cash runs out

James Meikle

Guardian ... Tuesday 3 August 1999

The amount of organically-farmed land in the UK increased fivefold last year, but a £6m government fund to help farmers change their methods has all been allocated, just four months after it was set up.

Public demand for organic food so far outstrips home-grown production that 70% has to be imported. Farmers are changing to organic production rate of 100 a month to cash in on the market.

But within four months of launching a new scheme to encourage the trend in England, the government has spent all the aid that was supposed to last a year.

Organic campaigners now warn that the overall market is growing so fast, Britain would still struggle to cut the level of imports. Produce cannot be sold as organic for three years after conversion, and while organically farmed land went up from 55,000 hectares to 275,000 in 1998, up from 0.3% to 1.5% of farmland, the total organic food market went up from £260m a year to £460m.

Over 500 farmers in England competed this year for a share of £6m state help following big increases in grants. This is due to rise to £8.5m next year, but much of that will go in further support to those who are successful this year.

Elliot Morley, the countryside minister, said: "I wish there was enough money to satisfy all the applicants. It is a fact that we haven't enough money to do all the things we would like to."

The Soil Association, a standard bearer for organic farming, warned that the announcement could severely damage its development.

Helen Browning, who chairs the association, said: "This is going to put the brakes on thousands of British farmers who are seriously considering converting to organic farming.

"The government has lost a crucial opportunity to revitalise the beleaguered farming industry in this country in a sector where the potential is obvious to everyone."

Ms Browning said the £52m a year with which the government was supporting the biotech industry was about five times the total aid being given to organic agriculture.

"Surely the public has made it clear that they want organic food, not GM technology."

03 Aug 99 - GMO - GM rice in Third World diets

Staff Reporter

Telegraph ... Tuesday 3 August 1999

Rice has been genetically altered to help tackle two of the leading causes of death in the developing world, the conference was told.

It has been modified to improve the supply of iron and vitamin A in the diet. The research into the new health-enhancing varieties received funding only from governments and not-for-profit organisations, including the Rockefeller Foundation, and will be freely available to national and international agricultural research centres.

The research results were announced by Prof Ingo Potrykus. A researcher with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's Institute for Plant Sciences, he was the principal investigator for the two teams conducting the vitamin A and iron research.

More than one million children die each year from illnesses associated with vitamin A deficiency. It is also the single most important cause of blindness among children in developing countries. The International Rice Research Institute, based in the Philippines, will be the researchers' immediate partner for further development of the GM rice into publicly available rice breeding lines.

02 Aug 99 - GMO - Attacks on GM crops spread to US and France

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Monday 2 August 1999

Direct action against genetically modified crops in Britain is inspiring similar raids overseas , it emerged last night, as police charged 45 people with conspiracy to damage crops in a bungled attack on a farm in Lincolnshire.

Campaigners said that activists in America and France have destroyed GM crops , giving as their reason solidarity with British protesters.

Yesterday, as police said 26 men and 19 women from all over the country had been charged with conspiracy to commit damage at a farm in Spital in the Street where government GM trials are being conducted, news came of the first attacks on US crops.

A group, basing itself on a British protest band called the Lincolnshire Loppers, has pulled up an acre of GM corn near Lodi, California . The Lodi Loppers said in a statement that the action was taken to send a message of solidarity to "organic farmers around the world who are resisting the genetic monster". It added: "By pulling their crops, the industry has been put on notice that it can no longer expect business as usual in the US nor anywhere else in the world." A second group, called the Cropatistas, uprooted another one-acre crop of GM corn in the area some time in the past seven days.

A spokesman for the Genetic Engineering Network in London said yesterday that at least two GM sites had been destroyed in France . One was of oil seed rape, the other rice.

The attack in Britain, which took place on Saturday at The Farm in Spital in the Street near the A15, is the latest in a string of direct actions against GM crops over the past week.

The protesters, who said they were not part of any organisation, had been hoping to ruin one of the Government's big field trials. But the operation backfired when the attackers mistook seven acres of conventionally grown maize for the GM test site.

About 60 protesters, dressed in white overalls, tore up the crop, causing damage estimated at £2,000 despite pleas from the landowner that it was a naturally grown maize.

Adam Duguid, the farmer, said yesterday: "It was normal maize that we would have used to feed cattle. I went to them and told them they were destroying normal maize, but they just carried on."

A police spokesman said all those charged last night would appear at Lincoln Magistrates' Court today. One of the men charged also faces an allegation of obstructing police. A 16-year-old girl has been referred to social services.

02 Aug 99 - GMO - GM maize is found in baby foods

By Mary Dejevsky in Washington

Independent ... Monday 2 August 1999

The US baby-food giant, Gerber, is rethinking its buying strategy after the environmental organisation, Greenpeace, discovered GM maize in its children's cereal products and made its findings public. The company said it will buy only "organic" maize from now on and will use the absence of GM grains as a marketing aid.

Gerber's action, disclosed by The Wall Street Journal, is the result of an inquiry to the company from Charles Margulis, a Greenpeace campaigner living in New York. Two months ago, he faxed a letter to Gerber's chief executive officer, asking whether the company used GM products in its baby food. If so, which products? and "what steps have you taken, if any, to ensure you are not using" GM ingredients? He asked for a reply within five business days.

Mr Margulis did not get his reply. But what followed, according to The Wall Street Journal, was a frenzied response that penetrated to the top of Gerber's parent company, the Swiss conglomerate, Novartis, in the space of four weeks and a change of policy affecting an established product worth $1bn (£625m) in annual sales.

Now, Gerber is abandoning some of its long-standing maize and soya bean suppliers . This will increase costs - both in broken contracts and the purchase of more expensive organic replacements. But baby food, as Greenpeace well understands, is an especially emotive issue.

The president of Novartis's US consumer health operation, Al Piergallini, said: "I have got to listen to my customers. So, if there is an issue, or even an inkling of an issue, I am going to make amends. We have to act pre-emptively." Whether Gerber will label the resulting products "GM-free" is another matter, however.

The view of the US Food and Drug Administration, which has approved licences for specific GM crops, is that they are safe and a potential boon to farmers and consumers alike. This assessment is now enshrined as official US policy.

But middle-class consumers are now asking whether they should not be worried about GM produce if Europeans feel so strongly about it , and American farmers, persuaded by manufacturers that GM seed will increase yields and reduce costs, now fear they could be landed with crops they cannot export at a time when agricultural prices are falling.

The first chink in the US adminstration's armour of confidence came last month when the Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman, announced extra regional monitoring of GM crops and a review of licensing procedures. While the pharmaceutical industry professed itself unconcerned, it is still adamantly opposed to labelling GM products as such . Indeed, the pervasiveness of GM soya and maize in the US make labelling almost impossible: there are so few products that can be guaranteed GM-free.

To establish that Gerber baby food contained GM produce , Greenpeace had to send samples to a laboratory in Britain. It was found that processed food in jars did not contain GM elements, but that the dry cereal did . With no response from Gerber by then, Greenpeace made the results public.

01 Aug 99 - GMO - GM soya milk gives children herpes, senior surgeon tells the Government

By Rajeev Syal

Telegraph ... Sunday 1 August 1999

A leading British surgeon is to give evidence to the Government that genetically modified soya milk triggered a herpes-related virus in her daughter .

The surgeon, from south-west London, will explain that cold sores repeatedly erupted on her two-year-old's face when she regularly drank the GM product and immediately cleared when she stopped .

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said last week that it would investigate her claims. The revelations coincide with worries expressed by the Prince of Wales earlier this year and a number of leading geneticists who believe that some GM products can trigger viruses in humans .

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter said she wants to make sure that a similar situation is not repeated with other children. She said: "I want the Government to look into this because I saw the change in my daughter - as soon as she was taken off the GM milk, her health dramatically improved . I, and my GP, have not found any other reasons why she became ill. My family previously ate GM products without worrying - but now we do not."

Tests have showed that the child is not allergic to soya milk , which her mother began feeding her in February 1998, when she was just a year old because she had developed an allergy to dairy products. The girl immediately began developing large cold sores which did not respond to treatment. She was drinking about four pints of the milk every day - and the sores were getting worse.

Her mother, a 38-year-old plastic surgeon in a London hospital, said: "I became aware that she was not getting better. There seemed to be three large, weeping sores on her face at any one time." So she spoke to a friend - who is also a hospital-based geneticist - who warned her that critics of GM products are worried that they could provoke viral infections .

She cut the amount of soya milk her daughter was drinking to half a pint a day and the sores cleared up overnight . She said: "The circumstantial evidence was there for all to see." Critics of GM foods believe that "virus promoters" - pieces of DNA in plants that can control activity in its genes - could be responsible for triggering the herpes virus. But other experts disagreed.

Prof Jim Dunwell, a plant biotechnologist from the University of Reading, who has been involved in producing GM plants, said it is highly unlikely that plant viruses could provoke reactions in human beings. He said: "It sounds highly unlikely that this child has had her herpes provoked by soya milk. It is more likely to be an allergic reaction."

01 Aug 99 - GMO - GM food protesters tear up wrong crop

Sophie Daniels

Times ... Sunday 1 August 1999

Dozens of protesters wearing white decontamination suits were arrested after mistakenly tearing up a crop of maize at a farm in Lincolnshire, believing it to be genetically modified.

More than 50 environmentalists waving black and red flags descended on Home Farm, in Spital in the Street, and destroyed the six-acre crop, which was growing in the same field as potatoes. The maize would have been used as cattle feed.

The protesters refused to talk to farmers who pleaded with them to stop and tried to tell them that they had targeted the wrong crop.

Police had warned farmworkers to be on their guard against the protest, which was organised on the internet. The protesters' website advertised a meeting yesterday afternoon at Cambridge, where the organisers are thought to have met to co-ordinate the attack plan.

The demonstration yesterday afternoon was largely peaceful. Police were called to break up the protest and 43 activists were arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and were detained at various police stations in north Lincolnshire. One police officer called to break up the protest is thought to have suffered minor injuries.

Adam Duguid, 27, the son of Ronald Duguid, a farmer who has worked in the area for more than 40 years, said: "We knew there was a chance that we could be targeted as the police had warned us that a field-size GM crop in Lincolnshire might be hit by campaigners. There is only one other farm with a field-size GM crop in Lincolnshire.

"They said details were on the internet. But if they knew what they were doing they would have known that you cannot get potatoes growing in a GM crop. It is staggering how they got it wrong.

"We are really angry about it. We were not frightened, as we were sort of prepared for it and they were not violent. But now we will have to buy cattle feed. They caused about £2,000 of damage, for which we are not insured."

He said 23 acres of the farm were dedicated to growing GM maize and 50 acres were taken up with non-GM maize.

A Lincolnshire police spokesman said: "As a result of damage to one of the fields of crops being grown at the farm, up to 43 of the protesters have now been arrested.

"The protest was essentially peaceful, but there was damage caused to crops."

Yesterday's action was the third last week, bringing the number of attacks on farm sites to 26 this year.

On Thursday a crop of GM sugar beet in Fakenham, Norfolk, was destroyed by protesters. Earlier last week 28 Greenpeace activists - including Lord Melchett, the group's executive director - were arrested after an attack on a field near Lyng, Norfolk. The group has denied any involvement in the latest demonstration.

Twenty protesters were arrested yesterday in Witney, Oxfordshire, during a sit-down protest against the breeding of cats for medical research at a nearby farm.

Four hundred people were bused in to the area for a demonstration at Hillgrove Farm in the village of Minster Lovell. Police said 200 of them were dropped off in Witney town centre and sat down in front of Boots, the chemist, between 1pm and 2pm.

Police arrested 12 men and eight women for public order offences after they refused to obey instructions to move on.

There were no arrests among the 200 demonstrators at the farm.

01 Aug 99 - GMO - 45 Charged With Damaged Crops Plot

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Sunday 1 August 1999

Police have charged 45 people with conspiracy to damage crops at a farm growing genetically-modified maize.

Lincolnshire Police said 26 men and 19 women had been charged with conspiracy to commit damage at a farm in Spital in the Street, Lincs.

A police spokesman said all those charged would appear at Lincoln Magistrates Court.

One of the men charged also faces an allegation of obstructing police during Saturday's protest, the spokesman added.

A female juvenile arrested by police has been referred to social services and not charged.

Those charged come from all over the country, including Leeds, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Devon, Huntingdon, Bristol, Norfolk, Sutton Coldfield, Hampshire, Brighton, Bath and Norwich.

Officers made 46 arrests after six acres of non-GM maize, worth £2,000, was damaged at Home Farm, Spital in the Street.

01 Aug 99 - GMO - GM killer bugs developed as defence against germ warfare

By Joe Murphy, Political Editor

Telegraph ... Sunday 1 August 1999

The Ministry of Defence has disclosed that it is creating lethal genetically modified organisms in a secret programme to prepare defences against a new era of germ warfare.

Tests of the potential of "GM supergerms" are being conducted at Porton Down, the headquarters of the Government's chemical and biological defence establishment. The research uses similar genetic engineering techniques to those that to create GM foods sold in supermarkets. It was launched to study the implications should such technology be developed for weapons of mass destruction by an enemy power.

The theoretical threat posed by GM germs has alarmed the MoD. Genetic techniques can make biological weapons more dangerous to humans and less easy to detect or counter It is already feasible to use genetic engineering to introduce a lethal toxin into a pathogen - an organism that attacks humans - to increase its killing potential. Organisms can also be modified to resist antidotes.

In future it may be possible to wipe out an army with mutant germs that would then be made benign by a genetic flaw, enabling an enemy force to invade in safety. An enemy may be more ready to deploy such "controllable" GM weapons than existing organisms such as anthrax. Ultimately, it may be possible to develop an "ethnic destruction" germ, that is, an organism that would attack the genes of a particular race.

In January a study by the British Medical Association warned that a plague or toxin designed to kill specific racial groups could be only five to 10 years away. Britain has signed treaties prohibiting the creation of biological weapons for military purposes. The sole reason for the research at Porton Down is to develop protection measures against any threat posed to the population or Servicemen.

An MoD spokesman said: "To perform this task our scientists have to be at the cutting edge of biological scientific knowledge, including the techniques of genetics." The Government has kept the experimental research secret but The Telegraph has learned that it has been going on for at least five years.

31 Jul 99 - GMO - Spread of fear that creates a coalition

John Vidal, Environment Editor

Guardian ... Saturday 31 July 1999

At least two and possibly more small-scale test sites of genetically modified crops - in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire - were reportedly destroyed in raids by activists in the past 48 hours.

The move takes the number of tests destroyed this year to more than 40 . The four remaining farm-scale government trial sites were, however, last night still intact.

The police, companies creating GM crops, and farmers face an almost impossible task in protecting the sites. There is a broad band of people trying to destroy the plants before pollen is naturally dispersed in the next few weeks.

Earlier this week, the government said it might have to test GM crops in secret, but this is seen as practically impossible and goes against industry and government guidelines which state that all growers near sites should be informed about the tests.

A spokesman for AgrEvo, the company whose GM maize crop was partially destroyed by Greenpeace this week, reported that a spring oilseed rape trial had been destroyed in Yorkshire but said the activists had not destroyed GM trials elsewhere.

Identifying the culprits in the febrile climate surrounding GM foods is becoming harder as a wide range of groups and individuals turns to ruining the trials. Protesters range from the middle-class strangers to activism and organic farmers, to students, anarchists and environmental and "genetic" groups. In the past few weeks, crops have been destroyed after public rallies, by people working by night and staying anonymous, by membership groups and by those openly seeking arrest.

The GM issue, along with globalisation of commerce, is top of the agenda for the burgeoning environmental justice movement in Britain . "This is developing into a broad social and civil democracy movement ," says Michael Mason, a north London university lecturer. "Its targets now range across global institutions, corporations and inner cities to transport, food, pollution, and all the traditional targets of environment groups.

"The movement is animated by social concerns. It is seeking broadly to stop the juggernaut of globalisation. There's a sense of people losing control of what is going on and reacting."

Mr Mason says that protest is coming from diverse sources and deals with many problems because links are being made between issues and contact is growing with other groups in the UK and worldwide.

"Any decision that might have environmental consequences is questioned. The environment has traditionally been defined in terms of wildlife or countryside, but people can see power concentrated in elite groups, and groups are taking on new issues."

The authorities are worried about the trend. A police report this week stated that the riots in the City of London on June 18, when violent individuals took action alongside peaceful environment protesters, signalled "a new era of violent protest".

31 Jul 99 - GMO - Baby food giant cuts out GM products

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Saturday 31 July 1999

One of the world's biggest baby food manufacturers has bowed to pressure from Greenpeace and will cut genetically modified ingredients from its products . The announcement came yesterday as Britain's biotechnology companies appealed for police help to boost security on the last genetically modified crop test sites.

Farmers are also employing more staff after intelligence reports gathered by the companies indicated that the weekend would be marked by a trail of destruction as campaigners tried to destroy crops before they are harvested in coming weeks.

Novartis, the Swiss biotech giant which has up to nine GM trials in Britain, is removing GM foods from its productsamid fears that environmentalists could destroy its grip on the American baby food market.

A Greenpeace activist sent the company a letter demanding to know which of its Gerber baby goods contained GM ingredients . While the company insisted last night that it still believed GM food was safe, it admitted it was seeking to make its baby food "organic".

"When you market a baby food, the consumer's primary concern is understanding the product and feeling good about it," said Kate King, a spokesman for Novartis's American consumer health unit. "We mean to eliminate any questions about GM for the consumer."

As the market leader in the US, Gerber baby food generates $1 billion (£613 million) a year in world sales. Department of Environment documents show that the company's nine GM trials sites in Britain are mainly sugar beet.

During the past seven days, up to five British GM trials have been damaged or destroyed . Roger Turner, of the British Society of Plant Breeders, said yesterday that more than 25 experimental crop sites had been hit this year .

Dr Turner said it was an increasingly sensitive time, with crops such as spring oil seed rape at or near maturity. He insisted that a lot of valuable data had been gathered, even at the damaged sites, but that it was important to conclude studies.

Alarm was heightened for this weekend with the circulation of a leaflet calling on activists to meet in Cambridge today. It is believed that they will fan out and strike across Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, where the last test sites are concentrated. One biotechnology official said yesterday: "It is horrendously difficult to defend sites in open farmland. But everyone is taking additional security measures."

Police were investigating attacks yesterday on GM crops in Yorkshire and Norfolk. Derek Lamplough, of the National Farmers' Union, said: "If people are going to destroy crops like this, how are we going to be able to test them properly. They are just mindless, stupid idiots."

28 Jul 99 - GMO - Trampling crops can be fun

Gary Younge

Guardian ... Wednesday 28 July 1999

It's the hit-and-run politics of ambush, conflict and adventure

The first slogan on the Activist Resource Network website says it all: "Action is what counts... Anything else is posing" . And so there they were, activists from Greenpeace, lying in wait in a field in the Norfolk dawn, ready to pounce on genetically modified maize and rip it from the ground, do battle with the police and make it to the front page of the national papers.

To the three Brigham brothers, the farmers at the centre of the dispute, they were publicity-seeking vandals. To the Labour party they are at best an irritation. But they are more than just the provisional wing of the environmentalist movement. What took place in the field in Norfolk represents the changing nature, speed and direction of popular dissent in Britain .

Whether it is camping up a tree to prevent the bypass in Newbury or occupying a Hawk jet to highlight the government selling arms to Indonesia the days of petitioning or marching to influence the government are in decline. Replacing them is the hit-and-run protest of ambush, conflict and adventure. It is not difficult to understand why.

I remember hiding behind a skip in a back street in Glasgow in the early 90s waiting for man I had never met before to wave his arm. It was the signal for 20 of us to go running down a small hill, through an open fire exit and into what was to be the Student Loans Building. Along with around 60 others we occupied the building to protest the government's plans to introduce loans; they turned up the heating; we left after an hour. That night we claimed victory because we were on the evening news; a year later they introduced the loans.

For a generation of would-be idealists who came of political age during the Thatcher years, this was about as good as it got; trying to make as much fun as you possibly could in the knowledge that you were going to make very little difference in the process. Demonstrations were useless because the Conservative government had proved they didn't listen. The alternative was waiting for Labour to win an election; but in order to win they felt they had to distance themselves from protest. All that was left was what we called "direct action" . At the time, it represented little more than a desire to make some noise in the sincere belief that anything was better than nothing. Today, as Greenpeace showed on Monday, it is proving far more effective .

As a form of protest this is not new. Sit-in protesters used to challenge segregation in the American south; it worked well for students 1968 when they went into college occupations. What is different is that these demonstrations used to run in par allel with more established alternatives. When the committee of 100 fell out with the peace movement during the 1960's over direct action peaceniks could at least choose from two alternatives.

Today direct action seems to be the only form of popular protest there is. Thanks to the internet direct action is also faster in response, broader in scope and more difficult to contain than ever before .

Nor is it hard to see why they are popular. Compared with carrying a placard through a town and chanting slogans, direct action is good fun and demands some response - even if it is a repressive one. Moreover, those who take part also have the unmistakable feeling that they are "doing something" . If you want to get rid of GM foods, destroying them with your bare hands must be more satisfying than writing a letter to your MP that will be politely ignored or waiting months for a report to be published.

This presents a challenge for the traditional left - the unions and pressure groups which were the champions of dissent in the 70s and maintain the potential to make a difference today. The foot soldiers of these fast-break protests are not organised in the workplace, and do not table amendments to motions at annual conferences. But they do know the meaning of debate - you can't organise a raid on field without some consensus - and they are skilled in building coalitions - you don't get thousands of people together in the City of London without knowing how to network. They chose their issues, find their targets and strike when they are sure they will make the most impact. It's the kind of vanguardism Mao Zedong would have been proud of.

But their strength is also their weakness. Just because it feels more effective to destroy GM foods than to challenge their production in conventional ways doesn't mean it is more effective. There has to be a strong moral case for bypassing established democratic structures where they exist and some consideration given to the consequences of doing so. Otherwise, the Active Resource network would do well to learn a new maxim. "Results are what counts... Action for its own sake is posing."

27 Jul 99 - GMO - Peer arrested after raid on GM crop

Nick Nuttall

Times ... Tuesday 27 July 1999

Third government trial ruined after Greenpeace protesters mow down field of maize, writes

Lord Melchett, the head of Greenpeace in Britain, was being questioned last night by police over his part in a dawn raid on a field of genetically modified maize which has left government trials in disarray .

A group of about 30 Greenpeace members, including the former Labour minister, used bolt-cutters to open padlocked gates and drove a tractor-towed mower in to estroy about a third of the crop .

The Old Etonian hereditary peer, Greenpeace's executive director, harnessed the mower to the tractor and uprooted crops by hand, the environmental group said last night.

Within minutes the activists were confronted by William Brigham, the farmer on whose land the maize was being grown, along with his brother and farm workers.

The protest, which began at 5.15am at Walnut Tree Farm, near Lyng, came to an abrupt end at 5.45am after Norfolk police arrested the protesters. No one was injured but Mr Brigham's brother collapsed with a suspected heart attack and was taken to hospital. He was later discharged and was "fine", the police said.

Walnut Tree Farm is the third of the Government's seven farm-scale test sites to be damaged or destroyed in recent months.

As he was being arrested, Lord Melchett, 51, who has an organic farm in the county about an hour's drive away, said: "The British public have made it very clear that they do not want these trials to go ahead."

Mr Brigham said yesterday: "I was woken to find people on the site with a tractor with a cutter on the back, trashing the trial. They have damaged about a third to a half of the crop, and I believe it may not be able to go ahead. They have cut and trampled it down."

Mr Brigham, 59, who is a supporter of GM testing , said: "This has nothing to do with genetically modified organisms - it's whether we want democratic government in this country or anarchy."

Jack Cunningham, Minister for the Cabinet Office, denounced the action as "reckless criminal damage of people's property". He said it jeopardised scientific research to find whether GM crops posed an environmental risk.

Greenpeace, which was taking its first direct action against GM crops in Britain , justified its raid by claiming that the maize being grown was identical to one banned by the Swiss recently because of risks to the environment.

The crop destruction came as up to 40 local authorities in Britain signed up to a campaign to ban GM foods and ingredients from schools, the meals-on-wheels service, retirement homes and council-run catering services. Shropshire County Council said that all its school meals are now GM-free. with other areas, such as retirement homes, to be made GM-free soon .

The action follows a recommendation by the Association of Local Government to its 170 members in England and Wales in February to phase out GM foods until they are proven safe.

Councils who have signed up include Derbyshire, Shropshire and Gloucestershire County Councils, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Torbay Unitary Council, North Dorset and Harborough District Councils, Wellingborough Borough Council and the London Borough of Harrow.

Earlier in the month protesters damaged GM oilseed rape at a government-backed trial in Watlington, Oxfordshire. Recently a field-scale trial, also of GM oilseed rape, was sprayed with weedkiller by a Wiltshire farmer after pressure from the Soil Association. Three out of seven government-backed farm or field-scale trials have been sabotaged in their first year.

27 Jul 99 - GMO - We'll hold GM trials in secret, ministers warn

By Paul Waugh and Charles Arthur

Independent ... Tuesday 27 July 1999

The government warned yesterday that it may be forced to conduct genetically modified crop trials in secret after the destruction of a GM plantation by the environmental group Greenpeace.

Thirty protesters, including Lord Melchett, Greenpeace's executive director, were arrested at around 5.30am yesterday as they staged a dawn raid on a farm-scale trial in Lyng, Norfolk.

The environmentalists said they had "decontaminated" a six-acre plot of GM maize by digging up the plants with a tractor, amidst violent scenes in which bystanders' cars were damaged by a digger.

The protest was the latest in a series of "direct action" raids by environmental groups against the trial crops. Only four of the seven government-backed "farm-scale" trials, which are essential before GM crops can gain approval for commercial growing, are still intact.

Jack Cunningham, the minister responsible for co-ordinating policy on the technology, said that the protests could force the United Kingdom to follow Germany in restricting information about its test sites . "Hitherto, we have always given detailed information and put into the public domain the specific location of trials and experiments," he said.

"But you have to ask yourself the question, if small minorities are determined by illegal methods to impose their minority view on the situation by taking premeditated, reckless action in this way, we may have to reconsider that."

The first "farm-scale" site to be destroyed was in Wiltshire, where last month the landowner ordered the farmer to remove it. The second, in Oxfordshire, was destroyed last week by eco-activists not allied with Greenpeace.

Yesterday, William Brigham, 59, of Walnut Tree Farm, near Lyng, said he woke up to find about 40 people on the site with a tractor with a cutter on the back "trashing the trial". He said: "They have damaged about a third to a half of the crop, and I believe the trial may not be able to go ahead. They have cut and trampled it down.

"This has nothing to do with genetically modified organisms, it's whether we want democratic government in this country or anarchy."

Mr Brigham's brother, John, collapsed in a field, and it was initially feared he had suffered a heart attack, but he was discharged from hospital later yesterday. A family spokeswoman said his collapse was partly due to the stress of events.

The crop was planted in May by the agrochemical company AgrEvo and was due to flower next week.

Biotechnology companies sought a change to rules on revealing GM trial locations last year, when Mr Cunningham was in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. At the time, many smaller GM trial sites were being destroyed by protesters. But the Department of the Environment said that it was obliged to publish details of test sites .

Mr Cunningham said the public wanted the trials to continue to allow them to make an informed choice on GM issues. He attacked the "violent intimidation" and criminal tactics of Greenpeace. "We want to see these trials continue. The problem with these people is that they don't want to sit down and discuss this," he said.

Lord Melchett said: "Now that three out of seven of the government farm-scale trials have been disrupted, the whole programme of commercialisation of GM pollution disguised as science is at risk ."

AgrEvo said yesterday that it wanted to conduct future experiments in secret . The alternative is 24-hour security for every trial site, but the Government, biotechnology companies and farmers disagree on who would pay for this.

Jim Thomas, a Greenpeace campaigner, said: "Our disagreement isn't with this farmer or these farm workers; it's with AgrEvo for producing this crop and the Government for letting it be planted."

Des D'Souza, of AgrEvo, said he did not believe the protest was peaceful. "If trespassing, criminal damage is peaceful and causing anguish to Mr Brigham and his family - his brother had to be taken to hospital, he collapsed in a field today as a result of the stress of all this - if that is peaceful, please someone needs to rewrite the dictionary books for me."

27 Jul 99 - GMO - Professor's trees can cut use of chemicals

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 27 July 1999

The potential of GM trees to make papermaking more environmentally friendly is shown by the development of aspen trees that can grow twice as quickly as normal.

An American team has discovered how to reduce the need for harsh chemical treatments used to remove lignin, a tough poylmer, from wood pulp before it is turned into paper. Reporting in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Prof Vincent Chiang and his colleagues at Michigan Technological University, Houghton, produced 400 aspens with their lignin content reduced by up to half.

Prof Chiang said: "Our work has proved for the first time that lignin can be reduced in trees in a very significant way." The findings could also potentially lead to higher wood production per area of land, which could be important for conserving natural forests and reducing the environmental impact of forestry.

When applied to more economically important trees, such as eucalyptus and pine, the technology could also have a significant impact on forestry - an industry that represents more than one per cent of the world economy. Prof Chiang said that major companies had shown interest in his work.

27 Jul 99 - GMO - Greenpeace Chief Refused Bail

Staff Reporter

Evening Standard ... Tuesday 27 July 1999

The executive director of Greenpeace UK, Lord Peter Melchett, was in custody after being refused bail by a stipendiary magistrate.

Lord Melchett, 51, was one of 28 Greenpeace activists arrested at a field of genetically modified maize at Lyng, near Norwich, Norfolk.

About half of the six-acre crop, planted as part of the Government's genetic testing programme, was cut down with a farm mower , causing an estimated £750 damage.

26 Jul 99 - GMO - Labour peer arrested at GM farm

Staff Reporter

Evening Standard ... Monday 26 July 1999

Lord Melchett was among 30 demonstrators arrested today during a demonstration at a farm involved in the production of genetically modified crops.

Lord Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace, was taking part in a protest at a six-acre GM maize site at Lyng in Norfolk. Demonstrators using a farm mower were reported to have been removing crops from a GM test site when the police arrived at 5.35am.

The Labour peer, himself an organic farmer in Norfolk, said: "The British public have made it very clear that they do not want these GM farm-scale trials to go ahead. It is vital that this crop is removed before it flowers, spreading GM pollution. "

The Lyng site was said to have been the subject of local opposition and was planted without public consultation .

The police were alerted by farm workers in the area who attempted to drive the protesters away from Walnut Tree Farm using a JCB. Those arrested were being detained at various police stations and were expected to be charged later today.

Farmer William Brigham said he had confronted the protesters on his land. He said: "I was woken to find about 40 people on the site with a tractor with a cutter on the back, trashing the trial.

"Lord Melchett said he was doing it because I didn't attend a meeting which he attended in the village (Lyng), but I was advised to stay away."

Mr Brigham a strong supporter of GM testing, said: "This has nothing to do with genetically modified organisms - it's whether we want democratic government in this country or anarchy."

The crop was planted in May by the agricultural firm AgrEvo and was due to flower in a week's time .

Campaigner Jim Thomas said today: "GM doesn't just threaten the health of the public and the survival of the environment , it threatens the future of the farming community. This is why so many farmers are very concerned about GM crops.

"If the Government insists on conducting this experiment against the public's wishes, it is up to organisations like Green-peace to act on the public's behalf.

"Our disagreement isn't with this farmer or these farm work-ers; it's with AgrEvo for producing this crop and the Government for letting it be planted."

A recent MORI poll commissioned by Greenpeace shows that 79 per cent of the British public are opposed to field trails of GM crops . The Government admits that GM pollution from farm-scale experiments could contaminate both organic and conventional crops .

The Walnut Tree Farm protest came as Greenpeace published details on its True-food web site, showing the location of all the GM farm-scale trials in the UK.

26 Jul 99 - GMO - GM crops protest - hundreds put their food where their mouths are

Staff Reporter

Guardian ... Monday 26 July 1999

Hundreds of people joined in a protest against genetically modified food and crops yesterday by taking part in what was almost certainly Britain's largest ever organic picnic , writes Paul Baldwin.

The picnic, held in the grounds of the National Maritime museum in Greenwich, south-east London, was organised by a coalition of anti-GM organisations, including Greenpeace and the Soil Association.

An array of celebrity protesters included Tom Parker Bowles, son of Camilla, and Zac Goldsmith, son of the late Sir James Goldsmith. The chemical-free feast included a giant fruit salad prepared by the Savoy hotel. People took their own organic picnics to show their opposition to GM ingredients in food .

Organisers have challenged the government to set a target for organic agriculture in the UK which at least equals that of the rest of the European Union - 30% of agriculture by 2010 if current rates of growth continue. At present 70% of organic food sold in the UK is imported and 1% of agricultural land is farmed organically. Greenpeace fears GM contamination of organic food

Tom Parker Bowles signed one of thousands of postcards which will be sent to Tony Blair urging him to ban GM foods.

26 Jul 99 - GMO - Flowers' genetic 'switch' found

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Telegraph ... Monday 26 July 1999

Scientists have discovered the genetic power behind flower formation that could lead to a new generation of designer blooms.

Knowing the genetic cues that lend a flower its size and shape should permit scientists to develop prettier blooms or pollen-free types for allergy sufferers.

In the current issue of the journal Science, Dr Detlef Weigel and his team at the Salk Institute, California, say that a gene called "leafy" acts as a master switch, activating a genetic chain of command that controls when and where a plant builds flowers.

The target of leafy, a gene called AG, governed the production of key components specifying the reproductive organs of flowers, said Dr Robert Sablowski of the John Innes Centre, Norwich, co-author with Dr Elliot Meyerowitz of a second Science paper on the gene. Flowers have certain features and each organ type is defined by the activity of a certain combination of regulatory genes.

Dr Maximilian Busch, of the Salk Institute, said: "We've found the switch for one of these genes, which is necessary to specify stamens and carpels. It's the first known connection between the signals that tell a plant to make a flower and those specifying what the flower will look like."

26 Jul 99 - GMO - Plant pest experts support GM crops

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Telegraph ... Monday 26 July 1999

Delegates from an international symposium on plant disease give a warning today that the "vilification" of genetically modified crops could jeopardise efforts to feed the world's growing population.

More than 40 per cent of the world's crops are lost each year to diseases, pests and competition with weeds, costing hundreds of billions pounds each year. While critics believe that the future lies in organic farming, scientists believe that this is one area in which GM crops will soon be able to make an impact and reduce the use of fungicides and pesticides.

At the end of last week, 230 international scientists attended a symposium on plant disease at Britain's leading research centre on plant genetics, the John Innes Centre at Norwich. The meeting focused on the intricate mechanisms that plants and their attackers have evolved.

More than 80 scientists have signed a letter, published in The Telegraph, which says that genetic modification now offers precise ways to harness nature's own genes to make crops resistant to a wide range of diseases and pests, removing the need for chemicals.

The letter says: "Science working with nature may be the only way to rectify the environmental record of agriculture to date and ensure the survival and well-being of the world's population in the next century. We deeply desire the opportunity to make life better for as many people as possible. Instead of the current campaign of vilification of genetic modification as a technology, particularly in this country, there should be a commitment to look objectively at what it offers."

The thrust of the letter had unqualified support, said Prof Mike Gale, director of the John Innes Centre.