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GM wheat trial at Rothamsted vandalised

Category: England

Published: 21st May 2012 10:24:12

A man has been charged with criminal damage following a break-in at the Rothamsted Research centre where a trial of GM wheat is being held.

Rothamsted said that crops had been vandalised, causing "significant" damage.

The incident took place on Sunday morning at the centre's test site in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.

The project aims to see whether the modified crops can deter aphids - a major wheat pest.

Rothamsted has previously pleaded with anti-GM campaigners not to destroy their experimental plots, which they say could help reduce pesticide use.

But opponents of GM technology claim that planting the crops in the open air would allow modified pollen to get out into the surrounding environment.

After the break-in at the site, Rothamsted scientist Toby Bruce wrote on Twitter that wheat seeds appeared to have been strewn onto plots, and the tops of plants had been cut off.

However, the laboratory said the account was anecdotal and might not be accurate. In a statement, Rothamsted commented: "The intruder caused significant, random property damage, but failed to disrupt the experiment in this attack."

A 50-year-old man is to appear at the Central Magistrates Court on 13 July.

The crop being trialled at Rothamsted contains genes synthesised in the laboratory. It will produce a pheromone called E-beta-farnesene that is normally emitted by aphids when they are threatened by something.

When aphids smell it, they fly away.

Anti-GM group Take the Flour Back has vowed to "decontaminate" the site unless the research is halted.

The event was trailed on Take the Flour Back's website as "a nice day out in the country, with picnics, music... and a decontamination".

There is no suggestion the man who has been charged is linked to Take the Flour Back.

The protesters have declined an invitation to meet scientists behind the project and, following a heated debate on the BBC's Newsnight programme, a planned day of action on 27 May will go ahead.

Eleanor Baylis, from the anti-GM group, said in a statement: "We have no information about this incident, but are relieved if the quantity of GM pollen released from the trial has been reduced.

"The British people are clear that they're not swallowing this technology."

Paul.Rincon-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk

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BBC News, 2012. GM wheat trial at Rothamsted vandalised [Online] (Updated 21st May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1429840/GM-wheat-trial-at-Rothamsted-vandalised [Accessed 2nd Aug 2014]

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