UK protesters acquitted over GM crop protest

Court finds Greenpeace volunteers not guilty of criminal damage at GM test site

Twenty-eight Greenpeace volunteers were today cleared of causing criminal damage to a test crop of genetically modified (GM) maize in eastern England. The verdict marks a second failure for state prosecutors after the campaigners were acquitted of theft in April (ENDS Daily 20 April). A charge of criminal damage was retabled after the jury in the first trial failed to reach a verdict.

The two trials were sparked by high-profile raids on GM crop test sites in July last year. Activists were arrested by police as they destroyed and bagged plants in a protest against "genetic pollution".

Greenpeace welcomed today's verdict with delight. "This acquittal totally vindicates our campaign to prevent genetic pollution," it said. "The government clearly cannot find a jury prepared to convict us for protecting property and the environment". All further trials of GM crops should now be halted, the group added.

British farmers, however, expressed "anger and shock" at the development. The national farmers union described the verdict as "perverse," adding: "We find it extraordinary that, even with such clear evidence, a not guilty verdict was reached. This gives the green light to wanton vandalism and trespass."

Greenpeace is now expected to seek to have its legal costs, put at UK£0.25m (euros 0.41m) paid by the prosecution service. The verdict will put more political pressure on the government's programme of "farm scale" GM crop trials, which is already mired in controversy.

Follow Up:
Greenpeace UK, tel: +44 20 78 65 81 00, and press release.

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