Rothamsted update: Protest remains peaceful

IT HAS been a peaceful day of action by those protesting against the trial of genetically modified wheat at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden.

Hundreds of people descended on Rothamsted Park this morning (Sunday) to support the protest, organised by campaign group Take the Flour Back.

Those gathered spent time listening to speakers and live music as well as enjoying picnics, according to a spokesperson for the campaign group.

Police estimated there were around 200 people involved, though a statement from Take the Flour Back said the number was double this.

Once the speeches were complete, protesters then linked arms and walked towards a line of police surrounding the Rothamsted site. It has been suggested that protesters would try and “decontaminate” the site, but they gave a statement and withdrew.

Kate Bell, from the campaign group, said: “We wanted to do the responsible thing and remove the threat of GM contamination, sadly it wasn’t possible to do that effectively today. However, we stand arm in arm with farmers and growers from around the world, who are prepared to risk their freedom to stop the imposition of GM crops.”

The trial of the wheat, which has been genetically modified to resist aphids, was given the go ahead by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) back in September last year.

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The trial was approved by the Government advisory group ACRE (the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment), which said it was satisfied all appropriate methods had been taken to avoid adverse effects to human health.

However, those against the trial have raised concerns about possible cross-contamination.

Scientists at Rothamsted had pleaded with the protesters to call off today’s action amid fears that long-term research at the centre could be damaged. An order was put it place by St Albans District Council on Friday to restrict public access to Rothamsted over the weekend.

Dr Gia Aradottir, project scientist at Rothamsted Research, said: “We are pleased that the protest in Rothamsted Park this afternoon has been peaceful and that both supporters and opponents had the chance to make their voices heard.

“We have worked closely with the Hertfordshire Constabulary and are very grateful in their support to protect the illegal damage to our experiments and ensuring and facilitating this peaceful protest.”

There will be more on this story in Thursday’s edition of the Herts Advertiser.