"Lies, fantasies and mischief-making"
But once people spoke to Jonathon Harrington's neighbours a different story started to emerge, suggesting Harrington was not really a farmer at all and that it was improbable that he had actually planted the GM maize or distributed it to other farmers, as he claimed.
The press release below from GM-free Cymru confirms their view that the Harrington GM maize stunt was, in fact, "lies, fantasies, and cynical mischief-making."
It's also emerged that the man who declared in The Guardian that his protest had taken place "without touching the public purse", has cost the taxpayer thousands in investigating his false claims.
EXTRACT: "I can confirm that during the course of the investigation, (we found) no evidence that GM crops were grown, cultivated, circulated to any farms in the Powys area or fed to any stock in the county."
Confirmation that GM maize crop was NOT grown in Wales
GM Free Cymru press notice [Wales, UK], 5 October 2009
Information obtained by a neighbour under the FOI (Freedom of Information) legislation has revealed that Powys agromomist Jonathan Harrington did NOT grow GM maize on his holding in 2008; did not harvest a GM crop; did not convert it into silage; and did not pass it into the animal food chain.
In January of this year Mr Harrington claimed that he had grown the GM maize as a protest against the Welsh Assembly's tough policy on GM crops, and to show that he could "legally" plant and use GM maize varieties that have been approved for use by the EC. The media used the story without any serious critical analysis, in spite of the fact that Mr Harrington provided no evidence at all to back up his claims. Indeed, as the months passed he elaborated his claims, with further media coverage.
Neighbouring farmers were seriously worried by the claims made by Mr Harrington, as were officials of Powys County Council and the Welsh Assembly Government. A long investigation ensued, with Powys CC [County Council] Trading Standards officers taking the lead. Again, Mr Harrington refused to supply evidence to back up his claims, and eventually he was forced to change his story -- leading officials to the view that this was, from the beginning, an elaborate publicity stunt.
In the Powys CC case analysis, now released under the FOI rules, they state:
" .......after protracted attempts to get answers under caution from J Harrington, we eventually received a response to our questions in which he indicated and admitted that the growing of the GM Maize crops on his premises was not part of his business or any activity connected to that business."
Mr Harrington then said: "..........he had received a quantity of 50 seeds of two varieties of GM maize which he had used to grow crops on his holding for his own interest as a biologist, and that the crops were destroyed on his holding following harvesting. It is impossible to prove or disprove these claims. Samples of seed supplied to the Trading Standards Service by Harrington were analysed by a Public Analyst and found not to be GM modified seed."
In a letter to Ian Panton of GM Free Cymru, Mr Lee Evans of Powys CC said: "I can confirm that during the course of the investigation, (we found) no evidence that GM crops were grown, cultivated, circulated to any farms in the Powys area or fed to any stock in the county."
Powys CC also revealed that the investigation of the false claims by Mr Harrington cost the taxpayer GBP4,200. The cost of parallel investigations (including legal advice) within the Welsh Assembly Government is not known.
Commenting for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "We have thought that this whole thing was a scam, right from the beginning. What is so upsetting about it is that Mr Harrington has caused grave concern within his own neighbourhood, misled the media and the people of Wales, and wasted thousands of pounds of taxpayer's money. If he thinks that his little stunt has enhanced the image of the GM industry, he is living in cloud cuckoo land. The industry has used lies and deception for years, and is -- deservedly -- deeply mistrusted by UK consumers."
Dr Brian John
The full information obtained under the FOI legislation is as follows:
Powys County Council v JONATHAN HARRINGTON
Case Analysis Introduction
This case involved an investigation into claims by a Jonathan Harrington (via the national media) that during 2008 he grew genetically modified maize of the MON 810 variety on his holding at Pen-y-Lan, Tregoed, Velindre, Brecon, Powys. He further claimed to have supplied the harvested crop to neighbouring farmers for use as animal feed and that seed from the crop had been harvested for use for further cultivation in 2009.
As a result of these claims and numerous complaints to our service, an investigation was undertaken by Powys County Council Trading Standards Service, as the enforcement body for the various Regulations concerned in these matters. The investigation was launched in January 2009.
The investigation included putting formal questions to Jonathan Harrington.
In July 2009, after protracted attempts to get answers under caution from J Harrington, we eventually received a response to our questions in which he indicated and admitted that the growing of the GM Maize crops on his premises was not part of his business or any activity connected to that business. These responses indicated that he had received a quantity of 50 seeds of two varieties of GM maize which he had used to grow crops on his holding for his own interest as a biologist, and that the crops were destroyed on his holding following harvesting. It is impossible to prove or disprove these claims. Samples of seed supplied to the Trading Standards Service by Harrington were analysed by a Public Analyst and found not to be GM modified seed.
The investigation was completed in late July 2009 after due consideration by our Legal Services and Trading Standards Management Team.
Offences under Consideration
Feed (Hygiene and Enforcement) (Wales) Regulations 2005
1. Failure to register with the Local Authority as an animal feed producer - Article 6 (Regulation (EC) N0.183/2005 - paragraph 9)
No evidence that he had cultivated the crop and produced as feed
2 Failure to maintain records for traceability purposes - Article 15(2) (d) (Regulation (EC) 178/2002 - paragraph 18(2))
No evidence that the seed was produced in the course of a business for which records would have to be maintained
Genetically Modified Animal Feed (Wales) Regulations 2004
3. Prohibition on placing on the market, using or processing a product referred to in article 15.1 (Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003) unless it is covered by an authorisation and satisfies relevant conditions on the authorisation - Article 5(1), Schedule 1, Part 1.
No evidence that that GM seed was produced and placed on the market as required
Genetically Modified Organisms (Traceability and Labelling) (Wales) Regulations 2005
4. Failure to hold information specified in paragraphs (1), (2) and 3 (Regulation (EC) No. 1830/2003) and the identification, for a period of 5 years from each transaction, of the operator by whom and the operator to whom the products referred to in paragraph 1 have been made available - Article 6.
No evidence that the product was one requiring such information to be held or that it was produced in such circumstances that required compliance with this
Based upon analysis of the legislation, Harrington's responses to formal questions, and examination of all of the evidence available on this matter it was evident to Trading Standards Officers that Harrington had not committed any offences.
Legal advice was taken from the Powys County Council Legal Service, who reviewed this case and their advice mirrored the Trading Standards Service findings i.e. there was no evidence to warrant any formal action based on the evidence available.
Investigative Costs (Jan - Aug 2009)
Investigation Officers time GBP2,000 Administration / Management GBP500 Legal GBP300 Analytical Fees GBP900 Forensic Fees GBP500
CLIVE JONES PRINCIPAL TRADING STANDARDS OFFICER