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Statement from and campaigners against Hull’s GM potato trials

GM Free Potatoes | 24.04.2007 23:58 | Bio-technology | Ecology | Cambridge | Sheffield

On Saturday, over 250 people from around the country attended a rally in Hull in a powerful and vibrant display of resistance to the reintroduction of GM crops to the UK.

In a bid to invalidate the trial, thousands of organic potatoes were planted across a two hectare field. It was felt necessary to take action before planting because it is virtually impossible to decontaminate a root crop after it is in the ground. Unfortunately, we discovered today that the field planted on Saturday was not the proposed trial site and was instead owned by farmer David Buckton. We apologise to David Buckton.

With the information that we had and the short time scale available to us (between the late announcement of the trial site and the first possible opportunity to plant the GM potatoes) we sincerely believed this to be the correct field.

There were several reasons for the error made:
• The public were not given sufficient information by the government who supplied only a 4-figure grid reference for the location of the trial (an area of 1 square km).
• In a public meeting on April 5, a local farmer suggested that the proposed site was currently planted with oil-seed rape. This was flatly denied by the BASF representative who implied that the field was clear and ready for the trial.
• The only field in the area bordered by Marfleet, Hedon and Preston where ground had been prepared but which had not yet been planted with a crop was the one just East of Marfleet. There were no unplanted fields in the area
covered by the four figure grid reference given by DEFRA. Consequently, because these grid references are notoriously unreliable we investigated all fields within several hundred metres of this reference, the only one prepared for planting, but not yet sown, was the one in question.
• The Government’s consultation period ended on 20th April, with the 21st being the first date that the GM potatoes could be planted; hence why the Rally was called for last Saturday.

The decision was made under pressure, by a campaign only three weeks old; a campaign which pulled off an audacious action nonetheless. It is our position that we made the best judgment that we could as to which was the proposed trial site. While it is regrettable that the wrong site and farmer were targeted, we would also like to make it clear to the government and to industry that people will continue to disrupt the planting of GM crops despite the difficulties faced by this lack of full disclosure. has only been in existence for three weeks now, and working to a tight schedule, with very few people. In that time we gathered loads of up-for-it people willing to go into a field in broad daylight and take direct action for the planet. It was a successful action in all other aspects: the potatoes were planted, we did it under the noses of the police and there were no arrests. The message sent out is clear - attempt to grow GM crops in this country and we will take action. Of that we remain proud, and thank everyone who came along and took part, in what ever role.

Despite a mistake being made we believe it was far better that we went ahead and challenged the GM trials than stood by doing nothing. We clearly demonstrated the British public are willing to take on the multinationals / government on this issue. Though it was, and remains, our avowed intention to prevent the trials from going ahead, we are fully aware that these trials are as much a test of public opinion as a genuine scientific experiment. Consequently, although the wrong field was targetted we still achieved one of our primary objectives of demonstrating that the British pubic are resolutely opposed to GM crops and will take action to resist their reintroduction into the UK.

The multinationals behind GM crops have bided their time since Bayer pulled out from the last trials three years ago. But they have been pressing ahead in the rest of the world. It is vital that we, as a movement, rise to the occasion, and demonstrate that resistance is as vigourous as ever. We are unapologetic for what we have attempted to do and we will not cease our efforts to keep the UK GM free.

And as useful byproduct – we now know where the actual field is, thanks to the police…

GM Free Potatoes
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Hide the following 16 comments


25.04.2007 07:41

This is very sad news. I am a very simple man myself, uneducated and ugly,I often make mistakes, well done to all those who attended from far and wide, I was busy elsewhere with Animal Rights issues.
Good Luck all......................Steven.

Steve Mclean

and the farmer...

25.04.2007 17:05

Assumably you're going to do something more significant than this useless apology? Something that will actually help him, like cleaning up the mess you made? Somehow fixing the problem that his beans have probably been trampled by your potato planting members? No, I suppose not.

I do congratulate you on taking action "under the noses of the police." Presumably they didn't care because you weren't on the fields they were protecting? It's a shame really, the coverage says they were present, but didn't do anything because you were being peaceful. I bet that's a real comfort to the farmer and his family.

Richard Estabrooks

insincere much?

25.04.2007 17:08

When you dedicate one sentence to a half-assed apology and two paragraphs explaining how your mistake wasn't really a mistake, wasn't your fault, and couldn't have been avoided, it makes it pretty clear that you are an arrogant jerk. In the space of one page this press release manages to provide contradictory excuses, none of which even implies that the group is in any way at actual fault. It would appear that their rallying cry is "They think they know hypocrisy? We'll show them hypocrisy!"

mail e-mail:

spot the BASF employees

25.04.2007 17:39

As a regular reader of Indymedia it is not hard to spot that the tirade of abuse in the comments to this post indicates something a tad more organised. Come clean folks - which pro-gm industry sent out the round robin email telling you to spout off.

I hope BASF got the message from the day - wrong field it may have been but people will take action to stop you.

happy planter

Admit Mistake and Compensate

25.04.2007 20:11

I fully support the ANTI-GM movement, but I don't support what you have done. Your pres release makes our movement look very bad. I hear what you are saying, but you guys made a big mistake here, and an innocent party was harmed by your actions.

I thik you owe the farmer more than a two line apology, you need to compensate him for your mistake. You should mobilize again, and put in a days work with a farmer not growing GM crops, to make amends for your mistake, and the bad publicity you have brough to this cause.

Reading the responses above, you seem to pass the comments of as BASF sponsored, but if you look at what you are saying and what the responses are saying, you will see that there is no need for BASF to respond to you, as your group looks quite bad already.

Please do our movement no more harm, and compensate this poor farmer for the damage you did to an innocent.

We need farmers on our side, not against us, as they are the ones with a choice as to what type of crops they grow. You better believe if BASF offers to compensate this farmer for your damage, he would be more likely to grow GM crops in the future.

You really are not helping us here....


nice one

25.04.2007 21:16

Just wanted to say well spoken to Jerry - good to see there's an anti-GM person on here who's willing to admit mistakes were made, and compensation should be given.

As for the crackpot asking which pro-GM lobby sent us all around, the sad news it that this link was posted to a news site. These shocking comments you're seeing making fun of this action and the lack of concern shown for that farmer? They're coming from normal, everyday people, and they sympathise with that farmer just as if he'd been victimised by a major corporation.

This is how the world outside of your insular community sees you - if you don't like it, work towards having demonstrations that don't screw over unrelated people.

And finally, the guy who claimed the fields were empty? Any trivial web search for the farmer's name and the word potatoes will bring up a Guardian article (,,2064885,00.html) which says the fields were already sown with beans - they weren't empty.

Trev Lytle

Whose fault is it again?

25.04.2007 21:43

Regardless of the time available, you cannot hold anyone to blame other than the protestors. They owe more than an apology, they owe the farmer at a minimum the cost of setting the situation right, in a direct cash payment. To try to blame the government for lack of information is the apex of stupidity. Take responsibility for your own actions, as you supposedly ask others to do. And if you don't ahve enough information to make a good judgement, recognize that also.

And for crying out loud, ALL crop plants are genetically modified. When was the last time you saw wild corn, wild green beans, or wild cabbage. And watch out for the genetically modified house cat, because before humans spent centuries genetically modifiying it, it was a bobcat.

Tres Reed

I should point out...

25.04.2007 22:37

Hey, since people are complaining about them darned Americans with their opinions and their funny words, I thought I should point out (as a Canadian - we have even funnier words) that while I'm very critical of the way this incident was handled by Mutatoes, I actually do have concerns about GM crops.

People often dismiss the anti-GM movement as a neo-luddite sort of thing populated by aging hippies and the mindlessly trendy. Unfortunately, GM food crops (and GM crops growing near food crops) do bring with them a number of issues which it often seems that regulatory bodies do not wish to consider carefully. This has had consequences in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. As such, I think it's good that people are trying to do something about it, but this incident and its handling are not the way to either gain support from the public or encourage farmers to help you. If you're claiming to be acting on behalf of the people, then try to care about the people your actions affect.

Richard Estabrooks

mistakes were made

25.04.2007 23:04

If this is an apology, why isn't it on the mutatoes homepage? It does sound pretty insincere and makes the group look more like hooligans than concerned citizens.

If it is true that little damage was done to the pea crop that was planted in this field, what effect would the same protest have on the actual GM potato field? I would have to believe not much. Have you looked at legal ways of preventing the crops from being planted in the first place.

Your previous release said there were 150 people. Now there are 250. Were these different events?

mail e-mail:

Lost for Words...

25.04.2007 23:14

I'm not entirely sure which aspect of this debate I should be more surprised by: the lack of responsibility on the part of the anti-GM-ers who vandalized a completely unrelated farmers' bean crop or the racially-charged (or should I say "nationally-charged") comments which - in typicaly internet fashion - ignore the content of the debate and skip directly to the baseless and elementary insults.

In America... on the West side of the pond... the individuals who consider people of differing nationality to be inferior due to their birth location are, in turn, considered to be the most ignorant of our populace. I'm guessing that most of you share the same perspective and that the few irrelevant comments in here are not typical... at least I hope it's true. I'm assuming the source of such responses are the European equivalent of our "rednecks".

As for the anti-GM-ers... while I respect expression of opinion and political stance I also expect those differing political stances to respect my own. The concept is multi-directional. The actions you have taken are not necessarily indicative of an invalid perspective, but are certainly indicative of a misguided leadership. You need to drive your point effectively in a way that isn't reminiscent of toilet-papering the wrong guys house. Actions like the ones you've taken will not further your plight or convince anyone that you have a genuine issue that should be closely examined.


To all FARK Posters

26.04.2007 07:26

Fark off


26.04.2007 09:25

Hi there…perhaps some context is required. To those who think that the intended action was vandalism or ‘stupid’ (planting organic potatoes), in the UK campaigners successfully used protest to force a moratorium on testing and planting GM crops. We don’t want them, you see, as they will destroy organic farming, which people do want, and may have unexpected effects on our food chain and/or health. And they are produced by big business trying to monopolise food. In this case, a German chemicals giant. People in the UK have a bit more sophisticated critique of business, food and capitalism than your average ‘funny’ site surfer. In the UK, an attempt was made to carry out ‘field-scale trials’ of GM crops, and every single field (as far as I know) was dug up or partially interfered with, rendering the ‘laboratory’ tests (i.e. using nature as an experiment) worthless. The field in this story is one of only two in which planting of GM crops is going ahead, because ther UK and Europe don’t want GM crops grown here and are willing to break the law to enforce that position. The ‘insult’ ‘luddite’ is indeed more apt than ‘asshat’, do you know what it means? It is a British term for people who were employed in the cloth industries and were being put out of work on a massive scale by the introduction of automatic machines by big business owners. They had a mythical leader called Ned Ludd and they smashed the machines, thus putting the progress of big business capitalism (destroying people’s livings for a ‘quick buck’) back a few months or years. They were defending their right to earn a wage by their skilled labour. Almost a right-wing libertarian position I’d say.

The Factfinder General

Vandals and Criminals

26.04.2007 23:05

This article has been featured on several sites today. That is most likely the reason that you have been recieving negative comments regarding your protest. Most people who took the time to read your article are smart enought to realize that your lame attempts at justifying vigilante action only prove your unwillingness to participate in normal public discourse. Tresspassing, trampling the livelyhood of an innocent farmer, and generally making an ass of yourselves wasn't enough. Your actions betray a level of social ignorance that is staggering. Just because we disagree doesnt mean that I am a part of any larger organization or coordinated movement agaionst you. I am just a guy who was willing to give your opinion a shot. After having read your statements I find you and your organization completly devoid of accountablility and reason. Go Home. What if I chose to protest YOU and YOUR property....? Maybe trample YOUR livelyhood? Cost you alot of money? Think about it from a perspective other than your own.


Well done the organisers

27.04.2007 18:17

Well done guys, this was a worthwhile action to do, even with the totally understandable mistake made. Don't listen to any of the stupid comments above.

I can't even begin to comment on some of what has been said above, but people's lack of radical thought processes and intelligence is quite staggering. I do just hope they are GM industry stooges, as anybody who thinks they are part of any radical eco-movement and holds the above views is a waste of oxygen.

Again, well done all who organised and attended.

A Nonny Mouse

great action

30.04.2007 07:18

yes, getting the wrong field is a mistake, but the fact that at the first time since the bayer pull out an dthe end of the last round of trials someone could organise and coordinate a national action is the very important to show them that we haven't gone away. As for the comments about not engaging in a a legitimate process well, if no one ohad pulled up the gm crops last time round then we wouldn't be able to have this debate because there woul already be cross contamination, and less certified organic farms.

ignore the trolls.


spuds r good

28.06.2007 20:08

Bit of a cock up getting the wrong field, but if I was the farmer in question I'd be pleased to have had people sow a field of organic spuds for me.

king edward

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