Man charged after Rothamsted GM wheat trial is targeted

PUBLISHED: 10:21 21 May 2012 | UPDATED: 12:02 23 May 2012

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Archant

A MAN has been charged with a criminal damage offence following an alleged attack at Rothamsted Research over the weekend.

According to a spokesperson at the research centre in Harpenden, significant random property damage was caused on Sunday, but the intruder failed to disrupt the highly-publicised GM wheat trial.

A spokesperson for Herts Police confirmed that a 50-year-old man from Devon has been charged.

Hector Christie, of Tapeley Park Lodge, Instow, has been bailed to appear before Central Magistrates Court on July 13.

Police enquiries into the matter will continue.

Maurice Moloney, director at Rothamsted Research, 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.”

A further statement from the research centre said: “We are very grateful to Hertfordshire Constabulary for their swift and decisive action to this intrusion and damage on our private land.

“The trial has been approved by the independent Government advisory group, ACRE (the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment), who said it was ‘satisfied that all appropriate measures have been taken to avoid adverse effects to human health and the environment from the proposed release’ back in September 2011.”

A mass protest is due to take place at the site on May 27, organised by campaign group Take the Flour Back.

However, the group has not claimed responsibility for the weekend’s incident.

Eleanor Baylis, of Take the Flour Back, said: “We have 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, yet the Coalition government has allowed a release of genetically modified materials which threaten the livelihoods of Britain’s flourishing wheat farmers.

“The only certainty about this trial is that there’s an absolute market rejection of the product it’s testing. It’s urgent that we act before contamination occurs.”

Scientists at Rothamsted recently sent an open letter to the protestors, urging them to call off the demonstration and come in for a discussion instead. A petition has also been running online to try and stop the action.

What do you think? Email hertsad@archant.co.uk

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