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GE - Irish Case - Probation Act applied to six GM food protesters

Irish Times
Thursday, April 1, 1999 
Probation Act applied to six GM food protesters 
By Kevin O'Sullivanin New Ross

Six out of seven environmentalists who admitted their
involvement in sabotaging a GM crop site have been given the
benefit of the Probation Act by a District Court Judge. He
found the facts against them proven, while the seventh
defendant was bound to the peace.

Judge Donnchadh Ó Buachalla said he was "very conscious" of
Garda evidence that their protest last year at Arthurstown, Co
Wexford, was "conducted in a very honest, good-humoured
manner". He said he "must be impressed by the evidence of all
parties" in the first Irish case of its kind.                          

Before the court were organic farmer and writer Mr John
Seymour (84); environmentalist Mr Gavin Harte (33); Mr
Pauric Cannon (57) of Dublin Food Co-op; environmentalist 
Mr David Philips (34); Hot Press journalist Ms Adrienne
Murphy (30) and New Ross publican Richard Roche (50).
They were charged with forcible entry on to Monsanto's trial
site in Arthurstown on June 21st last, and with causing criminal 
damage. Freelance journalist Mr Caoimhín Woods (33) was 
charged with forcible entry on to the site.                         
After a two-day hearing, Judge Ó Buachalla said he accepted
the beliefs of those before the court were "honestly held".
Based on a number of convictions against Roche dating back 
to 1975, including unlawful possession of a salmon and small 
amounts of ammunition, and breaches of the licensing laws, he 
ordered that he be bound to the peace for a year.                         
Earlier, Roche told the court that after he was arrested on the
site by gardaí, he had informed them he was "making a protest 
for the sake of the next generation". He had left the field as 
requested but returned with about 70 other protesters, many of 
whom pulled up GM-crop plants.                         
He added: 'The gardaí then asked me would I lead them out. I
duly did so. We had made our point." In reply to Supt Tom 
Sanderson, prosecuting, he said: "We were defending 
ourselves against what I call 'that obnoxious weed'. We were 
protecting ourselves." When asked if he would carry out similar 
action again, Roche replied: "I think somebody else will take 
my place."                         

Mr Cannon told defending solicitor Mr David Bulbulia he had
concluded that GM foods and crops posed a serious threat to 
the organic food industry in Ireland. He became aware of its 
implications as the buyer at Dublin Food Co-op. "We were 
particularly concerned that our food would not be contaminated 
by GM food."                          
After attending a protest meeting in Duncannon on June 21st,
he was curious to view the GM test site. He considered the 
GM sugar beet there as hazardous. He uprooted a number of 
plants, put them into a plastic bag, sealed it, and later burned 
"the genetically mutilated material".                         
Mr Harte said he was a director of Dublin Food Co-op. After
extensive evaluation of genetic engineering, he believed it was a 
`very young, unexplored science". Its use of bacteria and 
viruses to incorporate genetic material into plants was in his
opinion "inherently and intrinsically dangerous". The fact that 
the protesters were being filmed had heightened the atmosphere. 
`I took the action I had to take."                         
Mr Philips said he became concerned about the implications of
genetic engineering and influence of large agri-chemical industry 
when studying anthropology and ethics at NUI Maynooth. He 
believed GM foods were a threat to health and biodiversity,
and were insufficiently tested.                         
He admitted jumping over the perimeter fence surrounding the
quarter-acre test plot, which had been extensively damaged 
some days prior to their protest. It was, he said, Socialist Party 
TD Mr Joe Higgins, a speaker at the Duncannon protest 
meeting, who discovered a surveillance team, employed by 
Monsanto, hiding with cameras in the bushes.                         
Mr Woods said he had a media company which disseminated
information on sustainability. He had made a submission to the 
Environmental Protection Agency outlining his concerns about 
the licensing of GM crop trials.                          
He had interviewed the protesters while travelling by bus to the
test site in the hope that it would be used as a radio slot for 
RTÉ or BBC for whom he had done work in the past. He 
denied "posing as a journalist" and said broadcast material was 
submitted to the stations but not used. On going to the site, he 
described the atmosphere as non-confrontational.                         

Asked if he condoned the kind of criminal behaviour that took 
place, he said: "I cannot condemn it." Mr Bulbulia submitted 
the prosecution had not fulfilled its obligation to show his clients 
did not have "lawful excuse' when they damaged the crop. The 
case was not about the rights or wrongs of the science of 
genetic engineering, or the correctness of the beliefs held by the 
defendants. Their concerns were such that they amounted to
lawful excuse.                          

It was disturbing, he added, that people going about lawful 
activity earlier that day were under surveillance for the 
purposes of "gathering intelligence".   

Low-Impact Sustainability Group 
14 Upper Pembroke St
Dublin 4 
00 353 (0)1 6618123                     

Seven on GM crop charges part of group of up to 70 
The Irish Times
Seven environmentalists charged with sabotaging a genetically 
modified crop were part of a group of up 70 people, many of 
whom felt uprooting GM sugar beet was necessary to protect 
human health and the environment, a court was told yesterday.
In the first case of its kind in the Republic, New Ross District Court in 
Co Wexford heard that 
many of the protesters were secretly filmed by security men employed by 
the US biotechnology 
company [ Monsanto ] in Dublin, before boarding a bus. They were again 
filmed as they arrived at 
a protest meeting in Duncannon, Co Wexford, and later as they arrived at a 
GM beet site nearby.
Mr David Bulbulia defending solicitor said there was no disputing the 
environmentalists' role in 
damaging the GM beet at Arthurstown, but he contested the charges brought 
against them.
Before the court were Mr John Seymour (84), organic farmer and food 
writer, of Killowen, New 
Ross; Mr Gavin Harte (33), environmentalist, of Grantham Street, Dublin; 
Caomhin Woods 
(33), a freelance journalist, of Maynooth, Co Kildare; Mr Pauric Cannon 
(57), secretary of 
Dublin Food Coop, of Crumlin, Dublin; Mr David Philip (34), 
environmentalist, of Sackville 
Gardens, Dublin; Ms Adrienne Murphy (30), environmentalist and Hot Press 
journalist, of 
Wilton Place, Dublin; and Mr Richard Roche (50), publican, of the Quay, 
New Ross.
Damage totalling (pounds) 16,000 was alleged to have been caused on June 
21st last at the farm 
of Mr Martin Foley of Coleman, Arthurstown, on a plot leased to Monsanto, 
which was carrying 
out tests under Environmental Protection Agency licence. The beet was 
genetically engineered to 
withstand Monsanto's herbicide RoundUp.
The seven, with the exception of Mr Woods, faced charges of damaging 
"without lawful excuse 
sugar beet belonging to Monsanto (Ireland) Limited, intending to damage 
such property or being 
reckless as to whether such property would be damaged" under the 1991 
Criminal Damage Act. 
All seven were charged with forcible entry of a sugar beet trial site 
under the 1971 Prohibition of 
Forcible Entry and Occupation Act.
An EPA scientific officer, Dr Tom McLoughlin, said the cornerstone of 
regulations on the 
release of genetically modified organisms was avoidance of any adverse 
impact on the 
environment or human health.
Among more than 3,500 representations from the public about five GM crop 
trials licensed by 
the EPA last year were concerns about "unpredictable technology" and risk 
of "superweeds"; and 
the belief that GMO genes would spread to wild species or cross-pollinate 
with other plants. But 
their experts considered the risk of gene flow to a species related to the 
GM beet to be very low.
Asked about concerns regarding the EPA's reliance on Monsanto data, he 
said this was the way it 
was done in EU member-states and elsewhere.
Monsanto's Irish business manager, Dr Patrick O'Reilly, told Supt Tom 
Sanderson, prosecuting, 
the purpose of the beet trial was to examine weed control by applying 
RoundUp and the safety of 
using the herbicide on the beet itself.
Dr O'Reilly accepted there was concern among opponents of gene technology 
about "horizontal 
gene flow", but crossing of species barriers occurred in nature. The vast 
majority of science and 
scientific opinion favoured the technology, while concerns were being 
driven by emotion rather 
than fact, he said.
Mr Henry O'Donnell of Probe Security Network said certain suspects had 
been monitored in 
advance of the sabotage. He denied that a video had been used for 
identification rather than 
detection purposes.
Sgt Bart Slattery told the court he was on duty on the site with seven 
other gardai on June 21st 
but they were powerless to prevent what happened.
Mr Quentin Gargan of Genetic Concern said the arrival of GM soya raised 
his concerns about 
gene technology. Initially, he was worried about its impact on his 
health-food business but he 
was increasingly worried by the way GM foods were being introduced.
The hearing, before Judge Donnchadh O Buachalla, continues today.
(Copyright 1999)
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Publication Date: March 31, 1999
Case of alleged GM crop sabotage today 
The Irish Times
The first Irish case of alleged sabotage of a 
genetically-modified crop will be heard at a two-day hearing of 
New Ross District Court in Co Wexford, beginning today.
Seven environmentalists are charged with causing criminal 
damage to a GM sugar beet trial on June 21st last.
Among the defendants is Mr John Seymour (84), the organic farmer and food 
writer; prominent 
figures in the Irish green movement and two freelance journalists whose 
work has concentrated 
on the GM food controversy.
When the case came before the court last month in a preliminary hearing, 
the group's defence 
solicitor indicated they would be producing "evidence of lawful excuse". 
The case centres on 
alleged damage totalling (pounds) 16,000 to a test site at Arthurstown, Co 
The crop was the property of the US multinational, [ Monsanto ] , the 
first company to test GM 
crops in Ireland under licence from the Environmental Protection Agency. 
The beet was 
genetically engineered to withstand application of Monsanto's own 
herbicide, RoundUp.
There had been more extensive damage to the crop in the days prior to June 
21st but no one has 
been charged in relation to this. The latter incident took place after a 
public meeting on GM food 
in nearby Duncannon, which was addressed by the Green MEP, Ms Nuala Ahern; 
the Green TD, 
Mr John Gormley, and the Socialist Party TD, Mr Joe Higgins, who may be 
called as witnesses.
(Copyright 1999)
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