24 March 2003
GM PROTESTERS IN COURT
*GM protester to have appeal heard after delay
*GM crop pullers stand trial by jury for GM-free Wales
GM protester to have appeal heard after delay
By Alan Crawford
A leading Scottish Green Party candidate for the Holyrood elections who was convicted for his part in uprooting genetically modified crops will find out this week if his conviction is to be quashed -- four years after the protest.
Mark Ballard -- second on the Lothians list after Robin Harper MSP -- was fined GBP125 for damaging property in Midlothian 'without reasonable excuse' in the first Scots court case involving the uprooting of GM crops.
Ballard appealed , but in a remarkable example of legal foot-dragging, the sheriff who heard his case has only recently complied with the appeals procedure she is bound to follow.
Ballard and three co-accused are thought to be the only GM crop protesters ever found guilty under the offence, and believe the delay in the case is down to the fact their convictions are unsafe.
Ballard is to ask a High Court judge on Friday to overturn his conviction following what his lawyer John Good called the sheriff's 'ridiculous' delay in complying with the appeals procedure. Good branded the case 'a mess' and said his client had been denied his rights.
He said: 'We can't even get in the front door of the High Court because the sheriff delayed for so long. [On Friday] we will say the whole matter should be quashed and put in the bin.'
Ballard was one of six people arrested in March 1999 when trouble flared during a protest demanding an end to GM crop trials at a test site belonging to the Scottish Agricultural College at Boghall Farm, near Penicuik. The SAC no longer conducts GM crop trials at the site.
GM crop pullers stand trial by jury for GM-free Wales
Rowan Tilly: land line 0845 456 9327; on site mobile 077 8609 4164
24 March 2003
ADVANCE NOTICE PRESS RELEASE
On 31 March to 3 April two women, Yvonne Davies and Rowan Tilly, will stand trial by jury at Mold Crown Court for their part in an action to keep Wales a GM-free zone.
In July 2001 following a public meeting at Connah's Quay Town Hall, about a hundred and fifty people took part in a protest march against the last remaining GM trial site in Wales. The site was hosted by Mr. Cottle on Birchenfields Farm, Sealand in Flintshire. Undeterred by police and some aggressive security guards, about forty people went onto the site and peacefully set about pulling up the GM maize crop. Six people were arrested including Guardian columnist George Monbiot, but charges were later dropped on all but Yvonne Davies and Rowan Tilly.
The two GM crop pullers will run a defence of public interest claiming that they pulled up GM crops belonging to the biotech corporation Aventis Crop Sciences (now Bayer) to protect the crops of other farmers, public health and the environment. They will call expert witnesses including Dr. Sue Mayer of GeneWatch and genetic scientist Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher. Other defence witnesses to be called will include George Monbiot, MEP Jill Evans, local campaigners and organic farmers. So far, jury trials of GM crop pullers in England have resulted in no convictions.
Defendant Yvonne Davies of Carmarthen said: "Our action was taken in North Wales to help prevent contamination of the Welsh countryside by GM crops. We were supported by local people, others in Wales, along with people from Scotland and throughout England."
Local anti-GM campaigners for real food have organised a public meeting  in Mold - Which way for Food and Farming in Wales? - marking the last day of the court case and to celebrate the action that kept Wales GM free. ENDS
Photo opportunity: 9.30 am on 31 March 2003 in front of Mold Crown Court.
Photos also available by email as below.
Contact - Rowan Tilly: land line 0845 456 9327; on site mobile 077 8609 4164
1) Yvonne Davies, aged 45, looks after her family and works as a sales assistant in Carmarthen. She has been campaigning against GM crops and food for four years, as a member of her local group, Carmarthen Gene Concern. In Autumn 2000 in London she took part in the objections to the GM maize seeds (Chardon LL) proposed for approval for the National Seed List.
2) Rowan Tilly, 45, of Brighton, has been campaigning against GM crops and food for six years. She co-founded the genetiX snowball campaign which advocated open and accountable removal of GM crops. As a result she has two life-long civil injunctions against her from AgrEvo (which became Aventis Crop Sciences and is now Bayer) and Monsanto. She has participated in many GM crop pulling actions for which she has twice been acquitted of charges of aggravated trespass, one of which was in the Court of Appeal and created a legal precedent. She has never been convicted for GM crop pulling.
3) The Welsh Assembly voted unanimously to keep Wales GM-free. Local people had been campaigning against the GM crop and had written letters, signed petitions and met with Farmer Cottle before the action took place in attempts to persuade him not to grow the GM crop.
4) The public meeting - Which way for Food and Farming in Wales? - will take place at 7.30 pm on Thursday 3 April 2003 at the Daniel Owen Centre in the centre of Mold in Flintshire. Speakers include spokespeople from the Farmers' Union of Wales; GM free Cymru; Friends of the Earth Cymru; and others. Speakers will also address topics relating to local GM-free food production. It will be an opportunity to hear where the Welsh National Assembly candidates for Delyn stand on this key issue. For further information contact Roberta Owen 01352 710714.Contact - Rowan Tilly: land line 0845 456 9327; on site mobile 077 8609 4164