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.
Mutatoes.org 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…