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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Melchett's 'duty' to harm GM crops
Lord Melchett and supporters
Lord Melchett (left) and supporters outside the court
Greenpeace director Lord Melchett helped destroy a field of genetically modified maize because he felt a "strong moral obligation" to do so, he told Norwich Crown Court.

The peer and 27 other Greenpeace activists deny charges of theft and criminal damage to the six-acre trial crop at Lyng, Norfolk, last July.

They say they had a lawful excuse to destroy the maize, because they believed neighbouring crops were in need of protection.

Lord Melchett told the court he had decided to act after attending a "very moving" public meeting in the village two weeks earlier.


My belief was that the GM organisms were capable of spreading from that field and that could be a process which would be unstoppable

Lord Melchett
"I don't normally get involved in the action," he said.

"I felt a strong moral obligation to do something following the meeting at Lyng.

"I was asked to speak at that meeting and a lot of people were there. There was a crowd outside the door."

Lord Melchett said he believed there was a risk to the value of crops grown on neighbouring farms.

"My belief was that the GM organisms were capable of spreading from that field and that could be a process which would be unstoppable," he said.

"My concern was about the infestation by GM crops to both organic and conventionally farmed crops."


This was to be a shot in the arm to your publicity campaign and if there was a trial, it was bonus time for you

Prosector John Farmer
John Farmer, prosecuting, accused Lord Melchett of carrying out the exercise as a "massive publicity stunt".

"This was to be a shot in the arm to your publicity campaign and if there was a trial, it was bonus time for you," said Mr Farmer during cross-examination.

Lord Melchett replied: "Certainly not."

The court heard that the crop was owned by AgrEvo, now called Aventis, and the demonstrators planned to take the felled maize to the company's headquarters in Kings Lynn, Norfolk.

Another of the 28 accused, Baptist minister Malcolm Carroll, told the hearing he took part in the action out of a sense of Christian duty.

'Peaceful direct action'

"Christians in general agree that there is a higher order that you can never violate," he said

"But there are occasions where there are actions that are unjust or dangerous for some reason and there is a set of circumstances which may call for peaceful direct action."

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.

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