Rothamsted vandal causes 'significant damage' at GM site
Farmers Guardian, 21 May 2012
AN INTRUDER has caused 'significant damage' at the Rothamsted Research institute but has failed to disrupt the genetically modified (GM) wheat trial in an attack on Sunday.
The man who entered the site on Sunday morning was arrested by Hertfordshire police and has been charged with criminal damage.
In a statement Rothamsted said the man caused ‘significant, random property damage but failed in his attempt to disrupt the experiment in this attack’.
It said the vandalism was consistent with the threats made by the protest group Take the Flour Back, which is organising a large scale day of direct action to ‘remove the threat’ of the GM trial this Sunday (May 27).
Rothamsted director Maurice Moloney said: “This act of vandalism has attempted to deny us all the opportunity to gather knowledge and evidence, for current and future generations, on one possible technological alternative approach to get plants to defend themselves and therefore reduce pesticide use.”
He said the ‘illegal activity’ had taken place despite Rothamsted’s best efforts to engage with Take Back the Flour over recent months, including an offer of a public debate in an open letter and a subsequent discussion on BBC’s Newsnight programme.
However, Eleanor Baylis, from Take the Flour Back, said the group had ‘no information about this incident, but are relieved if the quantity of GM pollen released from the trial has been reduced’. “The British people are clear that they’re not swallowing this technology,” she said.
Professor Douglas Kell, chief executive of the British Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which is funding the trial, condemned ‘this act of vandalism’.
“We strongly support the right of our funded scientists to carry out approved and regulated trials and we fully support the action of the police which prevented further science losses.
“We will now work closely with Rothamsted as they examine the extent of the damage cause and will provide all necessary funding and advice they need to complete the project.”
He added: “We understand that some people do not agree with this research and we encourage our funded scientists to engage with a range of views around their work. People have the right to make their views known but we deplore those that turn to criminal damage. We will support the police and Rothamsted in ensuring all appropriate action is now taken.
He said damaging the trial was an attempt to remove one option, although not the only one, for addressing significant challenges in global food security.
The trial has been approved by the independent Government advisory group, ACRE (the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment), which said in September 2011 that it was 'satisfied that all appropriate measures have been taken to avoid adverse effects to human health and the environment from the proposed release'.
On its website, Take the Flour Back says: "'Take the Flour Back' will be a nice day out in the country, with picnics, music from Seize the Day and a decontamination. It's for anyone who feels able to publically help remove this threat and those who want to show their support for them."