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Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
GM protesters cleared
GM crop trial
Protesters said they were worried about cross-pollination
A group of 11 protesters have been acquitted of damaging a crop of genetically modified maize.

The judge at Harwich Magistrates Court in Essex told the defendants they had been cleared on a technicality.

The six women and five men all denied causing criminal damage to the GM maize at Sunnymead Farm, Wivenhoe, Essex, on 20 July 2000.

The crop was part of a trial by seed company Aventis.

Half of a four-hectare field had been planted with conventional maize and the rest with GM forage maize.

District Judge Kevin Gray, said the defendants had initially been charged with destroying GM maize.

The Crown was told in February this year by an expert that they had damaged non-GM maize

Contamination fear

But Mr Gray told the court an amended charge had never been put to the defendants.

Mr Gray said: "The Crown have not adduced any evidence in support of the allegation that these defendants have damaged or destroyed property belonging to Aventis Cropscience which by definition was the GM maize and that the charge stands to be dismissed in all cases."

Outside the court, Andrew Abbott, one of the accused, said: "We believe the evidence we produced during the trial was strong enough to have acquitted us anyway."

The group denied the charge but said they had damaged the crop to protect the environment and food chain.

One of the defendants said he was worried about sweetcorn at his organic allotment being contaminated by GM pollen.

Public concern

The trial was one of 12 supported by the government across the UK last year.

A spokeswoman for Greenpeace said: "Greenpeace is very pleased to see the outcome of the court case for these defendants.

"It adds to the growing list of defendants who have now been acquitted of taking direct action against GM crops.

"It shows the public is concerned about GM crops and that local people are not being consulted about the growing of these crops in their area and that people do not want these crops and do not want to eat GM food, and they do not believe the trials will be of any benefit and are answering any questions."

Before the incident, 88% of Wivenhoe residents voted against the crop in a local poll.

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20 Sep 00 | UK
GM crop trials to continue
20 Sep 00 | UK
GM protesters cleared
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