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7-Misc.: Monsanto lost in silencing genetiX snowball activists



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TITLE:  Full hearing on GM hazards
SOURCE: The Guardian (UK), by Paul Brown
DATE:   April 21, 1999

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Full hearing on GM hazards Wednesday

Monsanto, the giant US biotech company, failed in the High Court yesterday to silence campaigners who pulled up the company's genetically modified plants, and now faces a high-profile trial in which the defendants will claim they were acting lawfully to protect society against the dangers posed by GM crops. The company had asked for a permanent and sweeping injunction banning six named defendants and anyone associated with their organisation, GenetiX Snowball, from interfering with any of their crops again. This would have effectively prevented them explaining in court why they dug up the crops. Mr Justice Klavan continued the existing temporary injunction but said the issue had to go to full trial because the defendants had an arguable case that they were acting in the public interest.

The defendants cheered the decision as the judge left the court. They will now be able to call scientists and other expert witnesses to explain why they believe they were justified in breaking the law for the greater good of society effectively putting genetically modified crops and Monsanto on trial. Three of the defendants, Kathryn Tulip, Melanie Jarman, and Zoe Elford, are defending themselves, while Rowan Tilly, Jo Hamilton, and the only male defendant, Andrew Wood, are represented by Owen Davies QC. The judge said the case should proceed to full trial because the defendants had raised the issue of'justification in the public interest' and he was satisfied that sufficient legitimate arguments had been raised to have a full trial. Simon Barker, for Monsanto, said that the company had a licence to grow crops and any complaints should be made to the Health and Safety Executive. It was not open to the defendants to improperly damage the goods of biotech companies 'Unlawful con!
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duct against the property of anotther person for political purposes cannot be justified. If it were so, it would be of legitimate concern for any business whose activities came under public scrutiny.'

Melanie Jarman said afterwards: 'It is a fantastic judgement for us, everything that we wanted. We can look forward to a full trial in which the issues of what these crops will do to the environment, the cross-pollination to other crops, to the actions of biotech companies creating poverty in the developing countries and the damage to food security can all be addressed by expert witnesses. 'All the public interest issues on what genetic engineering is doing to the world can be addressed in open court.' Andrew Wood, publicity officer for the group, said a full trial would require Monsanto to disclose many documents about genetic engineering. 'We are going to learn a great deal about what is really going on.' The six defendants will draw heavily on the case prepared for two women who faced trial in March The Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges. A second injunction was granted last Thursday against the six defendants and anyone on the organisation's mailing list. The ap!
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plication by AgrEvo UK and Plant Genetic System was in response to a planned demonstration on Saturday. GenetiX Snowball will use a public interest defence to challenge that injunction. 



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-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
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