A4 The genetiX snowball begins...

In this section...

Letters sent before the action by genetiX snowball

Letter to farmers hosting deliberate release sites

23 June 1998

Dear Sir,

We understand from the GMO public Register that there is a genetically modified (GM) plant test field site on your land. We are concerned about the deliberate release of these GM plants; and question both the need for and safety of these crops in terms of food security and the environment. I enclose articles by Dr. Michael Antoniou and Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, both genetic scientists, setting out some of the arguments against GM plants. We understand that there will also be an article by Dr Antonio in this weeks Farmers Weekly.

Over the last two years many respected individuals, including some MPs, and non-governmental organisations have been campaigning for a moratorium on deliberate releases of genetically modified plants into the environment. The public has not been adequately consulted over this issue in spite of the risks it poses; this month a Mori poll shows that 77% of the public believe there should be a ban on growing GM crops and food in Britain. We believe there are serious implications for agriculture and our economy. In addition, the companies involved in producing these GM plants have not agreed to accept liability if anything goes wrong. We believe that this represents a failure of the democratic process and it is time for ordinary citizens to take responsibility where the government has failed us.

We are launching the genetiX snowball campaign on 4 July 1998. The campaign invites people to take responsibility for the government's failings and to join together into small groups to safely and nonviolently remove a small number of the GM plants from the ground. The GM plants will then be safely bagged up and left at the site; we will then contact the local environmental health officer, whose responsibility it is to remove and safely dispose of biohazards and toxic waste.

The actions are due to take place on the first and third weekend of every month. We have made it a condition of joining genetiX snowball that all participants make a serious commitment to nonviolence; by this we mean that there will be no violence and participants will treat those they encounter with respect. Additionally all actions will be taken openly and accountably; nobody will be hiding their identity and actions will take place in daylight.

The campaign also asks participants to respect the farmer's land and property and to "follow the country code". For example, we will insist that participants keep to footpaths as far as possible, leave gates as they find them, and not to bring dogs.

We will also be informing the police about the campaign in general and sending them information describing these nonviolent actions.

We appreciate that many farmers understand the need to protect the integrity of the natural world and recognise their role as stewards of the land. We also appreciate the hard reality of the financial costs which fall on farmers as they try to fulfil this role as well as providing food. We realise that you may lose money if you withdraw your support for these GM plant trials; therefore we are asking participants of genetiX snowball to lobby for compensation from the government for any financial losses you might incur*.

We are calling for a five year moratorium on the deliberate release of genetically modified (GM) plants in Britain, except for government sponsored ecological health and safety tests (in enclosed systems); and the removal of all GM crops already existing. We enclose a copy of our leaflet for your information and interest.

We look forward to hearing from you and would be interested to hear what your position is on this issue. We also invite you to join with our campaign by cancelling your agreement with the company responsible for the GM plants on your land (as has already been done by Wiltshire farmer, Peter Lemmon), or by safely removing the GM plants yourself.


Yours faithfully,

Kathryn Tulip
on behalf of genetiX snowball


* Please not that we are actually asking participants to lobby for compensation from the companies, not the government, since we feel that taxpayers should not have to incur this cost.



Letter to all biotechnology companies responsible for GM release sites in Britain from genetiX snowball

29 June 1998

Dear Madam/Sir,

We are a small group of individuals who have come together over our concern about the release of genetically modified (GM) plants into the environment at test field sites and the introduction of these plants in our food. We are campaigning against GM plants because we believe:

  • GM crops are not wanted in Britain - 77% of the public want GM crops to be banned (Mori poll, June 1998);

  • GM crops are not necessary - there are better and safer solutions for feeding the world;- GM crops are a threat to the ecological integrity of the environment;

  • GM crops are a threat to food safety;

  • GM crops are a threat to food security;

  • the science on which GM is based is being prematurely applied and is being abused in its application for GM;

  • the risks of GM crops are currently being carried by the public because biotechnology companies such as yourselves refuse to accept liability if something goes wrong;

  • an agriculture based on GM crops will increase monocultures and intensification of farming, both of which are detrimental to ecology;

  • since profit is the primary motive of production, then the development of GM crops by corporations is dependent on patenting of genes and plants; this is a further step to disempowering local people, undermining and appropriating local farming knowledge and traditions;

  • GM crops reduce self determination of the small farmer, especially in "developing countries", for example, India, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe;

  • GM crops increase dependency on a few large corporations who are accountable only to their shareholders;

We further believe that the introduction of GM plants is undemocratic; GM has been sneaked into our lives without our permission, even though the implications and the dangers of GM are enormous.

There is evidence (The Independent, 7-4-98; New Scientist, 4-4- 98) that biotechnology companies are failing to adhere to government regulations. It seems clear that the Health and Safety Executive is doubtful of ever being able to convict companies which break the regulations.

We believe that the release of GM plants into the environment in test field sites is illegal since genetic material can escape into plants belonging to other farmers through cross pollination or horizontal gene transfer. This means that you are causing criminal damage to the plants of other farmers and creating a public health risk.

We know that many individuals and organisations have tried to pursuade you to remove all GM plants from our food and the environment. It has become evident that you are not willing to do this. Since the democratic process is failing to respond to the wishes of the public and the regulatory process cannot deal with this threat to our health and to the environment, we feel we must take responsibility for countering the dangers of GM crops ourselves. We must take action because your company is breaking the law and threatening human health; we must take action immediately since many GM plants are beginning to flower and will be spreading their pollen.

In early July we are launching genetiX snowball - a campaign of nonviolent civil responsibility - to begin the process of decontaminating the GM test field sites in Britain. We will work together in small groups to safely remove GM plants from the ground.

In order to join the campaign all participants must sign a pledge to be open and accountable about their identity and actions, to be nonviolent and respectful towards anyone they encounter. All actions will take place in daylight. Participants will take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of genetic pollution by wearing protective clothing. The GM plants and contaminated clothing will be sealed in strong polythene bags clearly marked as a biohazard and we will call on the local Environment Agency, whose responsibility it is to dispose of biohazards, to remove the bags. We have notified farmers of the campaign and invited them to join us.

genetiX snowball is calling for a five year moratorium on the deliberate release of GM plants in Britain, except for government sponsored ecological health and safety tests (in enclosed systems); and the removal and safe destruction of all GM crops already existing.

We are asking you again to please remove all your GM plants from test field sites in Britain.


Yours faithfully,

Rowan Tilly
on behalf of genetiX snowball



Letter to Police from genetiX snowball

27 June 1998

Dear Chief Constable,

We are concerned about the deliberate release of genetically modified (GM) plants into the environment because of the dangers to human health and to the integrity of the natural world. Therefore we will be launching a campaign of nonviolent civil responsibility called genetiX snowball in July. This campaign invites people to join together into small groups to safely and nonviolently remove a small number of GM plants from a GM test field site.

In addition to the dangers outlined above we further believe: that the government is not responding to mass public opposition to GM crops and food; that GM crop technology is unnecessary and there is no evidence to suggest that it will fulfil its promise to feed the world; that the companies involved in producing these GM plants have not agreed to accept liability if anything goes wrong. This represents a failure of the democratic process and we believe that it is time for ordinary citizens to take responsibility where the government has failed us.

We believe the action we are taking is lawful and see no need for police presence at any of these actions. However, it is possible that in the event of a genetiX snowball action in your area you will be contacted by the owner of the land on which the test field site is located. We would like to assure you in advance that our actions will be peaceful and nonviolent and will take place in an atmosphere of calm and respect. The campaign will also be asking participants to respect the farmer's land and property and to "follow the country code". For example, we will insist that participants keep to footpaths as far as possible, leave gates as they find them, and not to bring dogs.

Enclosed with this letter is a copy of the Snowball Pledge which we are asking all participants to sign. All actions will be taken openly and accountably; nobody will be hiding their identity and actions will take place in daylight.

genetiX snowball has already written to farmers with a GM test field site on their land to introduce and outline the campaign. We are also contacting the local Environment Agency asking them to remove and safely dispose of the GM plants since it is their responsibility to dispose of biohazards and toxic waste.

We further believe that biotechnology companies are committing the offence of criminal damage as they are being reckless as to the risk of damage to neighbouring farm land, animals and crops as a consequence of genetic pollution (horizontal gene transfer) from the GM test field sites. We are asking you as agents of the law to request the Environment Agency to safely dispose of the GM plants at test sites in your area pending an investigation of this crime (please let us know the crime number). Should you require further details of the perpetrators of this crime we can send you full details of the offending companies and will be happy to help with your enquiries.

We are sure that participants would be happy to talk about the issues involved should you be called to be present during a genetiX snowball action.


Yours faithfully,

Rowan Tilly
on behalf of genetiX snowball



Letter to Environment Agency from genetiX snowball

Dear Sir/Madam,

We understand from the GMO public register that there are more than 300 genetically modified (GM) plant test field sites in Britain. We are concerned about this deliberate release of GM plants into the environment because of the dangers to human health and to the integrity of the natural world.

We will therefore be launching a campaign of nonviolent civil responsibility called genetiX snowball on 4th July 1998 with an action at a test field site in the Home Counties. Further actions are due to take place on the first and third weekends of every month. The campaign invites people to join together into small groups to safely and nonviolently remove a small number of GM plants from a test field site. All actions will be taken openly and accountably; nobody will be hiding their identity and actions will take place in daylight.

Because of our concerns about the dangers of GM plants, we wish to guard against the further spread of genetic pollution from the test field sites which could arise from our actions and we will therefore be taking safety precautions which we believe are appropriate to dealing with a biohazard. We will wear disposable protective clothing, shoes and gloves throughout the actions. We will be placing the removed GM plants and our clothing in plastic bags which we will seal and label with the biohazard symbol. We will leave the GM plants and clothing at the site. We will then contact the nearest area office of the Environment Agency to give details of their exact location and ask that the biohazard be removed and disposed of safely.

We will contact the appropriate area office of the Environment Agency after our action as we understand it is their responsibility to remove and safely dispose of biohazards which are contaminating land within their area.We are contacting you in advance of our action so that you will have time to put in place appropriate procedures to deal with this biohazard in your region.We look forward to hearing from you with details of the plans you have made for the safe disposal of the GM plants.


Yours faithfully,

Kathryn Tulip
on behalf of genetiX snowball


Personal Statements used for the launch genetiX snowball action

Personal statement of Rowan Tilly

"The chemical weed killers are a bright new toy. They work in a spectacular way; they give a giddy sense of power over nature to those who wield them, and as for the long- range and less obvious effects - these are easily brushed aside as the baseless imaginings of pessimists. The 'agricultural engineers' speak blithely of 'chemical ploughing' in a world that is urged to beat its ploughshares into spray guns."Rachel Carson, 1962

I am motivated by a longing for peace on Earth and with the Earth. I have informed myself of the arguments both for and against genetic engineering by reading widely and consulting with genetic scientists. It is clear to me that genetically manipulated (GM) crops represent a real and terrible danger to our health, the environment, to the way our society operates, now, and even more so in the future.

I am campaigning against GM crops because of my beliefs as follows:

  • GM crops are not wanted in Britain - 77% of the public want GM crops to be banned (Mori poll, June 1998);

  • GM crops are not necessary - there are better and safer solutions for feeding the world;

  • GM crops are a threat to the ecological integrity of the environment;

  • GM crops are a threat to food safety;

  • GM crops are a threat to food security;

  • the science on which GM is based is being prematurely applied and abused in its application for GM;

  • all the risks of GM crops are currently being carried solely by the public because biotechnology companies refuse to accept liability if something goes wrong;

  • an agriculture based on GM crops will increase monocultures and intensification of farming, both of which are detrimental to ecology;

  • since profit is the primary motive of production, then the development of GM crops by corporations is dependent on patenting of genes and plants; this is a further step to disempowering local people, undermining and appropriating local farming knowledge and traditions;

  • GM crops reduce self determination of farmers, especially in "developing countries", for example, India, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe;

  • GM crops increase dependency on a few large corporations who are accountable only to their shareholders.

GM plants have been released into the environment in test field sites all over Britain without the consent of the public. There is evidence that biotechnology companies are failing to adhere to government regulations which are intended to prevent the spread of genetic pollution. It seems clear that the Health and Safety Executive is doubtful of ever being able to convict companies which break the regulations.

I believe that the release of GM plants into the environment in test field sites is illegal since genetic material can escape into plants belonging to other farmers through cross pollination or horizontal gene transfer. This means that the biotechnology companies responsible for these releases are causing criminal damage to the plants of other farmers as well as creating a public health risk.

The splitting of the atom heralded the dawning of the nuclear age; the energy unleashed has left in its wake disasters which have threatened all of life on Earth, and continues to cause havoc. At the same time, we have seen the devastation wreaked on the Earth's ecology and on human health by the use of chemical cocktails which have polluted the land and water. Now with the splitting of the gene, we are at the brink of the age of virtual nature; the sanctity of life is reduced to market controlled components to be engineered under the direction of corporations rather than governments, to work for profit rather than the greater well-being of humankind.

In 1962 Rachel Carson, herself a genetic biologist, blew the whistle on the use of chemical pesticides used for agriculture with her book Silent Spring. In this passage she could almost have been talking about genetic engineering:

"Along with the possibility of the extinction of mankind by nuclear war, the central problem of our age has therefore become the contamination of man's total environment with such substances of incredible potential for harm - substances that accumulate in the tissues of plants and animals and even penetrate the germ cells to shatter or alter the very material of heredity upon which the shape of the future depends. "Some would-be architects of our future look towards a time when it will be possible to alter the human germ plasm by design. But we may easily be doing so now by inadvertence, for many chemicals, like radiation, bring about gene mutations. It is ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray." Silent Spring was instrumental in the banning of the dangerous pesticide DDT, and has become a classic. It also marked the development of a new ecological consciousness which has firmly established the environment as a central issue of concern.

Countless disasters have surely been averted because so many ordinary people sounded the alarm so loudly that our governments could no longer continue to ignore their call. As the generation born into the nuclear / chemical age we are indebted to people like Rachel Carson. Now it is our turn.

In the last two years I have campaigned against GM crops and the patenting of life - genes, human body parts, animals and plants. I have come to realise that although campaigning is an essential part of democracy, there are limits to what can be achieved when our own nation's democratic process has broken down. When we are no longer being represented over an issue that is endangering our health and the environment right now and for future generations; when our legal system fails us, we have not only a right, but a responsibility to participate actively in democracy ourselves. I can do this by bearing witness to the dangers of genetically engineered crops in an effort to reach for and expose the truth, to sound a warning and to prevent harm. My witness follows a path well trodden by many who have witnessed before: the Chipko movement of India, who wrapped their bodies around trees to protect their forests, Karen Silkwood who was murdered whilst attempting to expose nuclear contamination. Primarily I draw inspiration from those who have followed the Swords into Ploughshares tradition.

The Swords into Ploughshares tradition began in the US in 1980 by eight people who used hammers to disarm nuclear warheads. They were inspired by an Old Testament prophecy: "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4). Many Ploughshares people practice nonviolence as an act of witness - an expression of their spirituality and truth; not all activists are Christian, although plenty are; some follow spiritual practices such as Buddhism, Judaism and pantheism.

To date there have been more than 60 ploughshare actions, mostly in the USA. Perhaps the most well-known action was in 1996, the third to take place in Britain. This was the Seeds of Hope - East Timor Ploughshares in which four women used hammers to disarm a Hawk warplane which was to be exported to Indonesia. The four women were acquitted in a landmark trial by a jury who recognised that the women had good reason to take such drastic action - the warplanes were to be used in genocidal attacks against the people of East Timor.

I am moved by the Ploughshares people's commitment to nonviolence and true democracy; the humility in their readiness to invite judgement and to be continuously self-critical; and their courage to take action as a witness in a society which is largely sterile in spiritual terms.

I also want to challenge the sheep-like habit of doing as others do, not stepping out of line, otherwise known as mindless obedience. As long as individuals unthinkingly do as others do, or give their consent through their failure to act, our society will never grow out of making war and destroying the Earth. Our society is helpless only to the extent that people believe themselves to be powerless to act.

I intend to take part in an act of nonviolent civil responsibility as part of a small group of people who are launching the genetiX snowball campaign. In daylight on 4 July 1998 I will be pulling up just one GM plant to mark the beginning of the snowball - our action will hopefully be the first of many more acts of nonviolent civil responsibility. My witness is an active expression of nonviolence. This means that I intend to peacefully render the GM crops harmless in a controlled manner so that there is no risk of harming any other living being. Anything which damages the Earth or her inhabitants, or threatens future generations, is inherently violent and should not exist as "property". The safe removal of GM crops is a legitimate step towards preventing these crops from risking our health and destroying the natural ecology. I intend to publicly testify as to the dangers of these GM crops and am willing to take the consequences of my action. This act of witness is an expression of my love for the Earth and for humankind.

I have made a commitment to nonviolence, safety and openness. I will try to create an atmosphere of calm and will treat everyone I encounter with respect. I will take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of genetic pollution by wearing protective clothing. The GM plants and contaminated clothing will be sealed in strong polythene bags clearly marked as a biohazard and I will be calling on the local Environment Agency, whose responsibility it is to dispose of biohazards, to remove the bags.

These methods are consistent with my vision of a society which is founded on democracy, social justice and peace.

Along with others in my group, I will be helping to plant an apple tree as a symbol of the tree of life, natural creation, abundance and diversity. This is a celebration of thousands of years of traditional knowledge gained by those who have worked the land to provide generations of people with good wholesome food. It is a call for safe farming methods which are accessible to all farmers, not just those who can afford the patent royalties; and safe crops for all people as a basic need which must - and can - be met. Britain has hundreds of different kinds of apples, each different in size, flavour, colour, texture, each adapted to its locality. Our enjoyment of this diversity over the centuries goes beyond the complex biochemistry that makes an apple. We enjoy apples which ripen through the summer to grace our harvest festival in autumn and to gladden our hearts with cider through the dark winter months. But the humble apple tree has already been subjected to genetic modification aiming to give us long-lasting designer apples with prescribed and uniform characteristics. We steal from the fruits of the tree of life at our peril.

English Nature, co-ordinator of the responses of the statutory bodies charged by government with the protection of the wildlife of Britain, have called for a five year moratorium on commercial releases of GM crops in Britain until scientific research has been completed, and more evidence has been gathered to ascertain whether GM crops are a danger to the environment. So far the government has ignored its own advisory body. Therefore, as part of genetiX snowball, I call for the following:

A five year moratorium on the deliberate release of GM plants in Britain, except for government sponsored ecological health and safety tests (in enclosed systems); and the removal of all GM crops already existing.

genetiX snowball will be called off when a moratorium has been declared.

I hope that my witness will reach far enough to speak truth to power and deep enough to speak truth to hearts. But I can only carry truth as far and as deep as this one small action will reach. Therefore I invite people to help roll the snowball on further. It is only by passing on our seeds of hope, our hammers and garden forks, our shared fears and strengths, that our visions will ever be realised.


Personal statement of Zoe Elford 4 July 1998

"I am not sure we are in the driving seatÉ..we cannot stop as the UK government, these crops that have already been approved in the EU, from being planted" - Jeff Rooker UK Government Food Minister, April 1998

"There are moments and issues in history were Parliament is inadequate and it falls to the people themselves to act. With the case of genetic engineering and the granting of patents on life I believe we have reached one of those historic moments." - Alan Simpson MP for Nottingham.

The juggernaut of genetic engineering speeds ahead at an astounding rate, so fast that few even see it fly past. The situation under which genetic engineering is imposed on us is constructed to be invisible to the average eye but daily consumed and ingested without knowledge, without consent. The stuff pours in as imports and is planted all over Britain.

No one possesses the know-how to assess the effects of releasing genetically engineered organisms into an endlessly complex and intricate ecosystem. Not one of us can predict the toll this technology may have on human health. The risks are simply too great and we must follow the precautionary principle ourselves as governments have failed to do so.This journey we have been taken on - where will it take us?

The road is clear, the bollards of regulations, the pelican crossing of public debate, the speed limits of public distrust and scientific uncertainty all flattened by the hit and run of the supersonic genetic scramblers. Waved on through by the US administration and fuel injected by domestic and EU political will, the windows are washed to a high sheen by the PR machine.

But not all are seduced by the gloss. What if, like me, you catch a glimpse of the probable destination and decide you don't want to be taken on the trip?. If the British government can't do any traffic control then we must take it upon ourselves to act responsibly; this legitimate course of action has been taken in order to avert a disaster I see waiting to happen.

Today I act openly and accountably. Today I act as a brake. For this road is too treacherous with too many pot holes forming beneath us and the black ice of genetic pollution never far away. I won't stand by and watch for the inevitable crash and I won't sit in the car knowing the driver is over the limit. The back seat driver has piped up, scythe in hand.

Today with only non violence in my mind and in my heart I will take out of the ground 99 genetically engineered plants. In ensuring their safe disposal I will be working towards ensuring a millennium free from genetically engineered food. This possibility is brought nearer and nearer as more and more citizens take action to protect their food supply, the environment and assert their right to determine what they put in their bodies.

Governments have been wheel clamped by the vested interests of multi national corporations. In the absence of governments acting appropriately in accordance with the wishes of the electorate and its own countryside organisational advisers it is the average folk who are left with the responsibility to take the wheel. We will drive to a place where the needs of the majority can be safeguarded and the integrity of the ecosystem left alone.

I invite others to join me in putting on the brakes of this run away experiment. We are able to move the central reservation closer into the fast lane - the grotesque juggernaut of genetic engineering can be crashed.I invite others to tread this road of non violent civil responsibility, to continue taking up the genetech road and to plant for a real future, to act for democracy, for diversity and to restore a land lush with fields free of genetic pollution and food free of genetic contamination. We are rapidly close to the end of nature, to losing the natural world to multinational corporations and governments complicit in their myopic, manic scheme. We can still win it back. After all, anything we love can be saved.


A4.3 Press preparations

Pre-action press release

genetiXsnowball -A campaign of nonviolent civil responsibility

One World Centre, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS Tel: 0161 834 0295 Fax: 0161 8348187

Wednesday 1 July 1998
Immediate Release

PRESS RELEASE

Middle England takes direct action against genetically engineered crops on Saturday July 4th 1998

photo-opportunity

On Saturday July 4th 1998, five women will launch the first round of 'genetiX snowball', a campaign of mass nonviolent 'civil responsibility', when they will openly pull up genetically engineered (GE) crops at an undisclosed 'test field site' in the home counties. Taking its inspiration from the peace movement's 'snowball' campaign of the 1980's, in which more than 2,000 people were arrested, each snowball participant will invite two others to join the next round of action, potentially increasing participation exponentially.

Although the location of the launch action remains undisclosed, it is in one of the home counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Oxfordshire. Farmers hosting test field sites in these counties have been contacted by letter to inform them of the campaign, reassure them, and invite them to join. The test field sites are rented by agrochemical companies. It is hoped the companies or farmers will engage in dialogue and voluntarily remove the crops. The police are also to be informed as to the peaceful nature of the action.

Each of the women will carry and leave at the site a personal statement explaining the reasons for her action. As an act of 'civil responsibility', as opposed to 'civil disobedience' the action expresses the women's conviction that the GE crops are liable to cause criminal damage to other crops, through cross pollination or gene transfer and therefore people have the obligation of pulling them up. The women are willing to risk arrest and justify their actions in a court of law. These actions will happen on the first and third Saturdays of the month and each person will remove a maximum of one hundred plants. The campaign puts the emphasis on involving many people to ensure the genetiX snowball is genuinely participatory and democratic. The GE plants will be placed in clearly labelled and sealed bags for disposal by the authorities. Participants will wear protective clothing and take safety measures to ensure genetic pollution will not spread from the site.

GenetiX snowball is calling for a five year moratorium on the release of GE crops into the environment pending further research and public consultation. The government's own statutory bodies have been calling for a similar moratorium.

Rowan Tilly, one of the five women snowballers said,

"These GE crops are an assault on our food and the environment. In the face of all responsibility being waived by those in a position to wield it, the responsibility falls on us"

ENDS


Editors Notes

Contacts: Press liasion and onsite press liaision contact Andrew Wood on 0973 953 446 or page 07654 247 502

[1] Press will be met at the Thornhill Park and Ride, Oxford at 10.00 a.m. and be escorted to the test field site. The Park and Ride is clearly signed as you approach Oxford on the A40 about 6 1/2 miles from the M40/ A40 junction. At the Park and Ride look for the telephone box immediately next to the bus stop. Andrew Wood, press liaison for the first genetix snowball action will be meeting press at this point with further details and escort them to the site. The photo-opportunity will be complete by 11.00 a.m. See map below for directions

[2] The five women undertaking the action are Rowan Tilly, Jo Hamilton, Melanie Jarman, Kathryn Tulip and Zoe Elford. They are available for interview prior to the action by arrangement.

[3] The test field sites vary in size but are generally 300 sq. metres and are rented by agrochemical companies such as Monsanto. There are 10 test field sites in the three home counties and over 300 in Britain.

[4] There has been no public consultation with the British people as to whether to allow genetically engineered crops to be grown in Britain. A recent MORI poll commissioned by the Observer showed 77% of those surveyed didn't want GE crops in this country. Monsanto, one of the largest GE agrochemical companies has recently started a £1 million advertising campaign promoting GE crops.


Post-action press release

genetiXsnowball -A campaign of nonviolent civil responsibility

One World Centre, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS Tel: 0161 834 0295 Fax: 0161 8348187

Monday 6th July 1998
Immediate Release

PRESS RELEASE

First arrests in Britain for pulling up Genetically Engineered crops

Five women, who openly declared their intention to pull up genetically engineered plants at a test field site were arrested for criminal damage on Saturday4th July 1998 after pulling up almost 200 GE plants at Model Farm, Watlington in Oxfordshire. Thames Valley Police later released the women nearby as the owners of the GE crops, Monsanto, decided not to press charges in line with their public relations policy of minimum unfavourable press coverage.

Despite the waiting police presence, consisting of over two dozen officers, a helicopter, numerous police vans and land rovers, they did not initially stop the five women pulling up the crops.

A spokesperson for Monsanto whose GE crop was grown at the site was also waiting at the site to meet the press. Police confiscated some of the women's gardening tools and a number of banners.

The women had openly declared their intention to pull up the GE plants in letters to the farmer, the company and the police. Representatives from genetiX snowball had also met with the farmer, Mr Parker about two weeks ago. The women carried personal statements of their reasons for taking the action and a pledge committing them to nonviolence, accountability and respect for human life and the environment. Copies were left at the site.

The women wore protective clothing and took measures to ensure none of the GE material was spread from the site. The GE plants were sealed in bags marked with the biohazard symbol. A letter has been sent to the Environment Agency asking them to safely dispose of the material.

Saturday's action marked the launch of genetiX snowball - a campaign of nonviolent responsibility. Several groups around the country have taken up the invitation to host the second round of genetiX snowball. Further actions are expected on the third and first Saturdays of the month and each person will remove a maximum of one hundred plants. The campaign puts the emphasis on involving many people to be genuinely participatory and democratic. GenetiX snowball is calling for a five year moratorium on the release of GE crops into the environment pending further research and public consultation.

Kathryn Tulip the first of the women to be arrested said in her personal statement,

'I hope that my actions will encourage other ordinary people to join with us to take responsibility for stopping this technology from destroying our environment and endangering our food and our health'.

ENDS

Editors Notes

Contact details Andrew Wood (press liaison) 0973 953446 or page 07654 247502

[1]According to the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions and the Genetically Modified Organisms public register, the plants are genetically engineered oil seed rape developed to be tolerant to the total herbicide glyphosphate.

[2]Monsanto were formerly advised by Public Relations agency Burson Marstella to 'stay off the killing fields' and adopt measures to reduce the opportunity for unfavourable press. Not pressing charges potentially therefore reduces the stories news value.

[3]July 4th is American Independence Day. Many biotechnology companies, like Monsanto for example are huge US transnational corporations. Saturday's launch celebrated Independence Day.

[4]The women had openly declared their intention to pull up the crops. See release from genetiX Snowball 'Middle England to take direct action by pulling up Genetically Engineered crops' dated 24 June 1998 and 1 July 1998. Also see Press Association wires of similar period.

[5]The genetiX snowball campaign follows in the tradition of the peace movements Snowball campaign of the late 1980's. Over three thousand people participate, there were two thousand arrests and one thousand people went to prison.

[6]The five women arrested were Rowan Tilly (40, furniture- maker), Kathryn Tulip (39, solicitor and former toxicologist), Zoe Elford (27, genetics campaigner), Melanie Jarman (27, freelance journalist) and Jo Hamilton (25, music teacher). They are available for interview - please call Andrew Wood, press liaison on 0973 953 446 or page 07654 247 502

[7] The Thames Valley Press Info line has a report on what they describe as a "peaceful action". Call 01426 932 012


Picture Editor notes

Photographs available from Nick Cobbing, respected freelance photographer whose work has been published in the Guardian, Observer and Time Out. Call 0973 642 103

Photographs also available from Imagenet on 0541 522333 or David Hoffman on 0181 981 5041.

Video footage of entire action, including the women actually digging, on DVC format available from Zoe Broughton, credited film maker whose work has been broadcast nationally. Call 0961 181 576


Press Pack (outline)

genetiX snowball

A campaign of nonviolent civil responsibility

One World Centre, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS Tel: 0161 834 0295 Fax: 0161 834 8187

genetiX snowball launch 4th July 1998
Press briefing and resources


Contents

Introduction and outline of genetiX snowball, 2 pages. Consisting of:

Appendix 1 - Snowball documents

Appendix 2 - GE primers and resources


Todays Programme

Meet at rendezvous point

10.05 Drive to site

10.30 Set up equipment at site

10.45 Photo-opportunity

11.00 Snowball participants available for interview

11.25 Participants bag up protective clothing and clean gardening tools

11.35 Planting of symbolic apple tree, close to GE site

11.45 Finish

These timings are estimates and may vary due circumstances



Directions to the test field site

The site is about a twenty five minute drive from the meeting point (see map). Take the A40 and join the M40 going south. Leave Junction 6 of the M40 . Turn right and proceed toward Shirburn and Watlington. After leaving Shirburn look for the next turning on the right signed Pyrton. It is at a cross roads, the left turn is a dead-end. Drive through the village of Pyrton. When you have left the village and after about _ of a mile you will see a large deep red brick house on the right hand side. It has a well, and a lawn with a single large mature tree. Slow down and look for the next house on the on the right; it is partly obscured by hedgerow and trees. Immediately next to the house is a gravel dirt road. Follow this road, which is well formed although not metalled. There are no gates and the land is open and accessible. You will pass another house on your right. Drive past this and follow the track. Park as indicated on the map and walk to the test field site. This is only a short distance and you will see snowball participants in the distance.

The farmer, like all farmers in England and Wales hosting test field sites has been told of genetiX snowball. One of the support team for the launch will being liasing with the farmer when the snowball participants enter the farmers land. Therefore if you meet the farmer it will not be for the first time. It is not possible to access the test field site by public highways alone. You will therefore have to cross private land and technically this is trespass. Trespass is a civil offence but it is highly unlikely any action will be taken.

What to expect when you arrive?

The test field site measures in total about 15 metres by 20 metres. The site is subdivided into plots, each one measuring about two by six metres. These are arranged as a grid, seven plots wide by three plots deep. The test field site is surrounded by a so called barrier crop. The barrier crop is barley, which is still green. There is a cleared area surrounding the test field site which allows the action to be viewed from all sides. The test field site is for Monsanto's herbicide tolerant GE oil seed rape. The oil seed rape is about 18 inches (45 cm) high with clearly developed seed heads which will soon be flowering. The plot where the GE plants are grown has been cordoned off. Please do not cross this cordon. This is partly to prevent the spread of the genetically modified material and partly to allow the snowball participants to complete the task of removing the GE plants without interruption.

The snowball participants will be wearing disposable white suits; protective foot covering; gloves and a head scarf. The participants will be carrying personal statements, which they will leave at the site (see appendix 1, they also carry with them a pledge of non violence. The participants will not be wearing masks; partly because it is unnecessary as the GE plants are not flowering and partly since they want to be clearly identified. The is a large genetiX snowball banner as a backdrop to the test field site.

What will the snowball participants be doing?

The GE plants will be removed using hand tools like those used for gardening or simply by pulling them up. When you arrive at the site some of the GE crops may have been pulled up and bagged, however the participants will wait for the press to arrive before they complete pulling up the GE plants hence you will have shoots of the plant pulling. The GE plants will be disposed of once the action is complete by putting them in sealed biohazard bags. The local environmental health officer will be notified of the material and asked to dispose of it. The waste is being left on site to minimise the risk of the genetically engineered organisms spreading into surrounding area. The participants will be working as a team and are expected to complete the plant removal together. They will then come to the edge of the cordon and are available for interview. Please keep your questions for this time. Your patience in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Contacts

Press liaison on site - Andrew Wood, mobile 0973 953 446, page 07654 247 502

genetiX snowball office - 0161 834 0295 (unstaffed on Saturday 4th July, a spokesperson available on 0161 224 4846)

Expert critical scientific opinion - Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, genetic scientist: 01273 231 153

Stills pictures - Nick Cobbing 0973 642 103

Film and video footage - Zoe Broughton 0961 181 576