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Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Peer admits destroying GM crop
Lord Melchett, left, and other Greenpeace protesters arrive at court
Greenpeace peer Lord Melchett has admitted helping to destroy a field of genetically-modified maize.

The executive director of the environmental campaign group told a jury at Norwich Crown Court that he and 27 other Greenpeace supporters carried out the attack on a field at Lyng in Norfolk last July.

He said he did it in order to prevent pollen from the GM crop polluting the countryside.

The former Labour government minister said the attack was carried out with a "great deal of seriousness".

The GM maize was being grown on 2.4 hectares of land owned by farmer William Brigham as part of an experiment being conducted by German-based agrochemical company Aventis, which was formerly known as AgrEvo.

GM means putting things into the environment which are alive. You cannot recall it. It is one of the most frightening things I have ever come across

Lord Melchett
Melchett, 52, of Hunstanton, Norfolk, and his 27 co-defendants, who all deny theft and criminal damage, argue that they had a lawful excuse to destroy the maize because they held a genuine belief that neighbouring organic crops were in immediate need of protection.


He said: "It was a genuine attempt as far I was concerned to stop and remove this genetic pollution.

"I went to the field with the intention of trying to remove any crop and trying to return it to the (owner).

"It had been reported in Farmers Weekly that the crop was about to pollinate within about seven to 10 days.

"It is at the point of pollenisation that the genetic pollution of a crop of this sort becomes uncontrollable."

He said the people taking part in the demonstration, who wore white boiler suits but made no attempt at hiding their identities, had been instructed to act on their consciences and not to be violent.
Campaigners destroyed the trials "to protect organic crops"
The demonstration was video-taped by Greenpeace and watched by a Guardian journalist who had been invited to be a witness.

Melchett added: "I think GM is one of the most serious issues Greenpeace has ever tried to tackle.

"GM means putting things into the environment which are alive. You cannot recall it. It is one of the most frightening things I have ever come across.

"We don't have a religious objection to it. We would not object to scientists doing experiments in labs which are contained and controlled.

"What worries me is when you use this for crops you are putting it out into the environment on which all human and animal life depends and we know very little about it."

Owen Davies QC, defending, said the 28 defendants, who include Baptist minister Malcolm Carroll, were not the kind of people who would normally be seen in court other than as witnesses or jurors.

The case continues.

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