GE - Irish Case - Probation Act applied to six GM food protesters
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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
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
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
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
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;
(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
Wilton Place, Dublin; and Mr Richard Roche (50), publican, of the Quay,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.