A5. Rolling the snowball on....

In this section...

A5.2 Further Reading on Group Process

Many of the books referred to in this appendix are available from or can be ordered from the Quaker Bookshop, Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ.

A5.3 Making decisions

Click to view, "A guide to consensus decision making" [from Peace News, June 1998, No. 2426, p 12 - 15

A5.5 Choosing your GM release site

A5.5.1 What is a release site

A release site, also known as a test site, is a plot of land where a GM crop has been sown for experimental purposes and/or seed multiplication. This sowing is treated as a deliberate release of a genetically modified organism (GMO) to the environment. According to the public GMO register there are at present around 300 release sites in the UK; however, many of these sites seem to be no longer in operation. The release sites range from small scale plots for scientific research (50 metres squared), through medium size (500 to 10,000 metres squared) releases designed to test the agronomic properties of the GM crop, to large areas (the largest one is 17.5 acres) designed to increase the amount of seed in preparation for commercial release of GM crops.

In a parliamentary reply to the MP for Totnes, Ms Angela Eagle on behalf of the Minister for the Environment stated that: "Currently there are 64 experimental trials of GM crops in progress covering a total of approximately 841 acres [N.B. each trial takes place at a number of sites, hence the figure of 300 test sites above] .... The majority of the experimental trails are for oilseed rape (27), sugar beet (16), and potatoes (14), although GM wheat (3), maize (2) and chicory (1) are also grown."

A5.5.1.1 Small scale release sites for scientific research

These are normally the most tightly controlled of the sites and often look like they are some sort of experiment. There may be several different GM plants being compared, with a view to selecting one for further research. The plants are usually set out in a regular way such as a grid of square plots or rectangular plots separated by narrow paths. Some of the plots will be the GM plants, others will be 'controls' (plots of normal plants grown as standard comparisons). In some cases (mainly oilseed rape) a barrier crop will be planted around the GM crop. This barrier may consist of a conventional variety of the GM crop or a totally different crop and is supposed to contain escaping pollen to prevent the spread of genetic material.

A5.5.1.2 Agronomic testing

This is the next stage in the development of GM crops. In these tests GM crops have been selected from various trials and are deemed to be worthy of more investment. The GM crop is grown over a larger area to further test the stability and viability of the GM crop. These tests are almost exclusively to investigate agronomic traits and to increase seed bulk for further planting if the GM crop performs as expected.

A5.5.1.3 NIAB testing and commercial certification

Before seed from GM crops can be released commercially it must be tested under the supervision of the National Institute of Agriculture and Botany (NIAB). If approved by the NIAB the GM crop will be placed on the National Seed List and it then becomes available for commercial use. Currently nine GM crops are undergoing NIAB testing. These release sites are important because they are the last stage of testing before a GM crop can be released commercially. If the tests are not satisfactorily performed commercial release will be delayed. They are also important because they are very large scale sites, (up to 15,000m2 each), and thus stand the greatest chance of impacting on the environment.

On 21 July the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government had acted unlawfully in dispensing with the statutory requirements for entry of new seed types onto the national seed list. The Government will now have to reassess the whole seed list process delaying the introduction of commercial GM crops by up to two years.

A5.5.2 How to locate a release site

The easiest way to find out the location of a GM crop test site is to ask friends and neighbours if they know of any GM crops being grown in your locality. Most of us however will not be living close enough to a release site to find out about it in this way, and will initially need to consult the GMO Public Register (see below).

A5.5.2.1 The GMO Public Register

The government is required by law to provide to the public details of all "deliberate" releases of GMOs (mostly plants but also bacteria) to the environment. The government is encouraged to give grid references if the "open Governement" and access to the environment information policies are mentioned. This information is contained in the GMO Public Register. You can get a copy of the register free of charge from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) Biotechnology Unit or you can view a copy of the register at one of the regional DETR offices (see below for addresses and for sample page from register).

The GMO Register is a shameful chaos of inaccuracies. This makes it very difficult for people to get clear and accurate information on sites and you should take all reasonable measures to confirm the sites.

For example, on the second genetiX snowball action, on Manor Farm near Banbury, we discovered that the release site was not GM oilseed rape as the GMO register had stated. Three years previously the farmer had unknowingly planted a GM oil seed rape crop; as soon as he realised he broke his contract. He told us that he does not believe in interfering with nature and will not allow any further GM releases on his land. We apologised for disturbing him and explained that the GMO Register lists his land as having a GM release site.

The register contains the details of each application for the deliberate release of GMOs as follows:

Reference Number:- this is the unique number assigned to each application, e.g. 94/R14/1. The number is made up of three parts: the first part is the year the application was granted, in this case 1994; the second is a reference number for the particular applicant, in this case R14 is the Scottish Agricultural College; the third part is the application number for that applicant, in this case it is the college's first application.

Receipt date :- the date the application was received by the DETR Biotechnology Unit.

Applicant :- the applicant's name and address

Organism :- the crop type and what genetic modification has been made to it

Purpose :- the reason for the field trial, most trials are to test for agronomic performance, very few assess ecological impact.

Release dates :- the dates between which the GMO can be released into the environment i.e. the dates between which the GM crop can be grown.

Release site(s) :- The location of the actual release. Sometimes there will be a list of sites here, and sometimes the years it will be released as well. Sometimes there is an Ordnance Survey grid reference number, but this may be for the farm, rather than the actual release site. Often there is a rather unhelpful sentence saying something like, "further details of the sites scheduled for 1998-9 will be made available at a later date," or, "further sites will be notified when they are confirmed."

Release area(s) :- a rough guide to the size of the site, in m2, hectares or acres.

Consent date :- the date on which the Secretary of State gave permission for the release.

Conditions :- these are things that the applicant must do in order to comply with the terms of the consent. This generally includes 'notification/advertisement of details of locations of all release sites and reporting.' This means that the applicants are legally obliged to publish a notice giving information on the whereabouts of each new sowing of GM crops in the local paper of the affected area (see below). The applicants are also required to inform the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) if anything unexpected happens to their crop. The conditions almost always end with, 'see consent schedule' (see below).

Many of the entries in the register are already several years old and do not contain up to date information on the whereabouts of the current release sites. Many entries in the register state 'further sites will be notified when they are confirmed'. The sites may well be confirmed at some later date but that does not include updating the GMO register. This makes it difficult to tell whether a site still exists without going to look at it, and even this might not tell you very much. The register provides a list of sites that have been used in the past, these may well be used again, indeed some of the trials may be fixed in one location for their duration.

Last entries added 25/3/98



Receipt Date:3 March 1997
Applicant:Monsanto plc
Crop Protection
PO Box 53, Lane End Road
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire HP12 4HL
Organism:Spring oilseed rape modified with Roundup Ready genes (glyphosate tolerance)
Purpose:The proposed experimental programme is based on progeny of spring oilseed rape plants containing the Roundup Ready genes (tolerance to glyphosate). The general purpose of this experimental programme is to assess the performance of Roundup Biactive applications to control weeds in a spring oilseed rape crop and generate the necessary data for the registration of this Roundup Biactive use. There will also be small scale plots in order for the technology to be demonstrated to selected groups.
Release Dates:From 1 March 1997 to 30 September 2001
Release Sites: Throws Farm
Great Dunmow
PL 578263
Manor Farm
Wilts SN8 3SP
SU 263613
N. Lincs
TA 103076
 Herbicide Registration trials
Ibstick Grange Farm
Pretoria Road
Firtree Farm
Nr. Coventry
SP 285875
Lodge Farm
Kings Newton
SK 397264
 Tib Hall Farm
Nr. Tamworth
SP 228933
Release Areas:Not exceeding 0.5 Ha
Consent Date:7 April 1997
Conditions:Yes: notification/advertisement of details of locations of all release sites and reporting (see consent schedule)

You can get details of the sites closest to you direct from the genetiX snowball office. Otherwise you can order a copy of the GMO Public Register from:-

The Biotechnology Unit, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6OE. Tel: 0171 890 5275/5277 Fax: 0171 890 5259.

Or view the GMO public register at the following locations:-

ANGLIAN REGION:-Cambridgeshire, Essex, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire, Bucks, Northamptonshire, South Humberside, Suffolk The Environment Agency, Anglian Region ,Public Register Section, Kingfisher, Goldhay Way, Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, PE2 5ZR

MIDLANDS REGION:-Derbyshire, Hereford and Worcestershire, Leicstershire, Notts, Shropshire, Staffs, Warwickshire, West Midlands. The Environment Agency, Midland Region, Public Register Section, Olton Court, 10 Warwick Road, Olton, Solihull, Midlands, B92 7HX

NORTH EAST REGION:-Cleveland, Durham, Humberside, North Yorks, Northumbria, South Yorks Tyne &Wear, West Yorks. The Environment Agency, North East Region, Public Register Section, 1st Floor, Stockdale House, Headingley Business Park, 8 Victoria Road, Leeds LS6 1PF

NORTHERN IRELAND the Department of the Environment(NI), Environment Service, Calvert House, 23 Castle Place, Belfast BT1 1FY

NORTH WEST REGION:-Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside The Environment Agency, North West Region, Public Register Section, PO Box 12, Richard Fairclough House, Knutsford Road, Warrington, Cheshire, WA4 1HG.

SCOTLAND The Scottish Office, Agriculture Environment and Fisheries Department, Room 345, Pentland House, Robbs Loan, Edinburgh, EH14 1TW

SOUTHERN REGION:-East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Surrey, West Sussex. The Environment Agency, Southern Region, Public Register Section, Guildbourne House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing. BN111LD.

SOUTH WEST REGION:-Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Scilly Isles, Somerset, Wiltshire. The Environment Agency, South West Region, Public Registers Section, Rivers House, East Quay, Bridgewater, Somerset,TA64YS

THAMES REGION:-Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Bucks, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire. The Environment Agency, Thames Region, Public Registers Section, Millennium House, Unit 2, Fleetwood Park, Barley Way, Fleet, Hampshire. GU13 8UT.

WALES The Environment Agency, Wales Region, Public Register Section, Abacus House, St Mellons Business Park, St Mellons, Cardiff. CF3 0LT.

The Land Registry To obtain a copy of the land register and file plan telephone the land registry on 0541 541 531 for an application form (form 109). Fee 8.

There are several other ways that might help in finding your local site:

A5.5.2.2 Notification in the local press

Applicant companies and Research Institutes must notify the public of the whereabouts of all GMO release sites. In practice this means that they must put advertisements or notices in the local press of each area in which they are going to sow a GM crop on a release site. Therefore one way of finding a site in your locality is to look through the local press in the "official notices" section for a release site notification. Local or regional libraries will hold back copies of local newspapers, alternatively the newspaper publisher will have back copies which you should be able to look at. It is very easy to miss a notification because they are usually quite small and only appear once a year, just before the crop is sown.

A5.5.2.3 Consent Schedules

Consent Schedules may contain updated information on the whereabouts of current release sites, although from our experience so far this has not been the case. Perhaps they will be sent out as the year progresses. Contact the DETR Biotechnology Unit in London and ask them to send you the Consent Schedule for the specific release in which you are interested, quote the Reference number for the release from the GMO register. It can sometimes be difficult to get information from them and the only thing we can suggest is that you keep phoning until you get it. You can also go in person by prior arrangement to both London and regional offices. The regional offices only hold information pertaining to that area.

A5.5.2.4 Contacting the biotechnology company directly

This straightforward approach might bear fruit.

A5.5.2.5 Check out a Website

If you are having trouble getting information directly from the DETR Biotechnology Unit then you can download a copy of the index of all applications on the Biotech unit's own website: http://www.shef.ac.uk/~doe or check out the Friends of the Earth website: http://www.foe.co.uk/ which has a list of all the GMO release sites. Alternatively contact the Genetic Engineering Network (GEN) for their most up to date list of release sites.

A5.5.2.6 Visit the farmer/release site

Once you have located your site in the GMO public register you could arrange to visit so that you can check that it still exists. You could contact the farmer directly by phone, letter or by going to the farmhouse. One or two people knocking at the door should not be too intimidating for them, but beware that they may be territorial. You could ask them to show you around the release site, if they decline you could ask for a company contact number or name. You could then phone the company and ask for a tour.

If you decide not to approach the farmer or company directly or have no luck in a direct method then you will have to try to find the site yourself. Get yourself a large scale map of the area, e.g. one of the Pathfinder or Explorer series of O.S. maps, which show individual fields. Take advantage of any high points around the farm to get a good view of the layout; binoculars are useful at this stage. You will then need to walk around the farm looking in each field.

Things to look out for are:

Try to stick to public rights of way as much as you can as you will look less suspicious and are less likely to be challenged by farmers or workers.

If it is unclear which fields belong to the farm then it might be helpful to get a copy of the land register entry and filed plan for the farm from the Land Registry. The land register will give the name of the owner of the farm and a very brief description of the land. The filed plan is a large scale O.S. map showing the boundaries of the farm. It is however quite common for farmers to buy or rent extra land adjacent to their farms and this will not be included on the register or in the plan. Another method of ascertaining which land belongs to which farm is to look for the tracks of vehicles and see what direction they travel in and where they go in and out of fields.

A5.5.3 Crop Identification

It is very useful to know what the crops look like at various stages of their growth and maturation.

A5.5.3.1 Oil seed rape (Brassica napus) Annual

As it is a member of the Brassica family (of which their are many types in Britain) it is quite difficult to accurately identify this plant until it is flowering. Its most familiar characteristics are its bright yellow flowers and strong smell. There are two types of rape being tested; winter oilseed rape, which is planted in August/September, flowers in May/June and is harvested in late July/mid-August and spring oil seed rape, which is planted in late March/mid-April, flowers in July and is harvested in early September. When it is nearly ready to harvest, it has thick stems with many narrow pods (2-4mm diameter and approx 80mm long). The pods contain numerous small spherical seeds from which the oil is pressed.

A5.5.3.2 Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) Biennial

This plant is related to the beetroot, spinach and swiss chard so go and have a look at a local allotment for an idea of the leaf shape you are looking for. In the first year of its life it sends down a large tap root which is the harvested product. But in some GM tests (seed amplification trials) it is left over winter or the root is cut up and replanted, as in the second year the plant sends out a flower stalk and sets seed. At the later stages of its development the leaves and the root are quite large and it cannot easily be pulled out of the ground but must be dug up.

A5.5.3.3 Maize/Corn (Zea mays)

When maize first sprouts it looks a bit like a thick leaved grass. The leaves are blade shaped with parallel veins and a prominent rib. As it matures it develops a sturdy central stem on top of which the male flowers form on thin stalks, this is where the pollen is produced. The tassles of the female flower form at the nodes of the lower leaves and the stem. The corn cobs form here once the female flower has been pollinated. Visit an allotment to see if you can identify any plants.

A5.5.3.4 Potato (Solanum tuberosum)

These are planted late in spring as they are not frost tolerant. The leaves are usually dark green and slightly hairy, particularly on the underside. The plants are usually grown in rows on the top of ridges with earth heaped up on either side of the ridge. Visit an allotment.

It is often difficult to be 100% certain that a trial plot is GM as other types of crop trials may use a similar site layout. One possible test to verify herbicide tolerance of the GM plants would be to apply a small amount of the herbicide, to which the crop is suspected to be tolerant, to a few plants on the trial site and then to check a few days later on their health. We haven't tried this ourselves and you may decide that this use of herbicide is not an appropriate approach in an environmental campaign.

Spring Oil seed rapeMar/AprJulyEarly Sept10-20cm apart
Winter Oil seed rapeAug/SeptJuneJuly/Aug10-20cm apart
Sugar beetMar/AprAugSept - Jan20-50cm apart
Maize/CornApr/MayAugSept/Oct20cm apart
PotatoesMar/AprVariableJuly onwards30-75cm apart

A5.9 Practicing nonviolence

Nonviolence training
We are currently in the process of developing a training programme so contact the genetiX snowball office if you are interested in this.

Turning the Tide: A Quaker Programme on Nonviolent Social Change

The programme can help action groups with: developing strategies, group-building, exploring active nonviolence, communication, personal nonviolence as preparation for action, nonviolent direct action training. No group is too large or too small!

Contact: Quaker Peace & Service, Friends House, Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ. Phone 0171 387 3601. Fax: 0171 388 1977.

Turning the Tide Taster sheets:
Click to view the information on the following courses:

A5.10 Reaching into your community

The poster and leaflet are provided as 'Adobe Acrobat' documents. These can be viewed and printed out using any computer and printer configuration. The Acrobat 'reader' program is available free on the Internet, and many computer magazines give it away on floppy disk or CD-ROM.

Click to download the:

A5.11 Roles: Briefing for Action Observers

A5.11.1 Why observe?

The role of the observer is important for 2 main reasons:

A5.11.2 How to observe

Look the part
This means that you should wear a fluorescent tabard. You may also find that you will be treated better if you look fairly respectable. This is not to forget the fact that you should dress for the weather. You need to have with you: a watch, pens, notebook or official looking clipboard, transparent plastic bag for notes. If possible, also have a (cheap) camera or Dictaphone.

Establish your presence
As soon as you arrive at the action identify yourself to the senior police officer present and state that you are not there to disrupt or obstruct anything, merely to observe. If asked, give your name.

Get close to the action
Get as close to the action as possible without risking arrest or your safety. If the police block your way or ask you to move, remind them that you are not obstructing or disrupting anything. If this does not work speak with the senior officer. Similarly, with security guards. But remember that while you are committing no offence, you are still a trespasser and they have the power to remove you.

Take notes
You should try to take notes all the time and record as much information as possible (see observer's report form below). Keep a record every 5 minutes or so - even if nothing is happening. If an incident (eg. assault or arrest) occurs make a full report. Record the location and time of any note. All information is potentially useful, but the following is vital:

Assaults on snowballers: Name of victim; time and location of assault; name, number, description, rank, photograph of assaulter; injuries and how sustained; details of witnesses, including phone numbers. Inform the police of the assault and try to get them to take action. Arrange first aid/ambulance if necessary.

Arrests of snowballers: As above. Also, reason for arrest from police officer or snowballer. Report the arrest to the police liaison person and to a lawyer so that legal representation can be followed up.

Also, note more general things, eg the number of police/guards there are; the types of police/guards and what they are doing; any special equipment - long handled batons, riot gear, horses; TV crews and other media; weather conditions; police treatment of press; incidents of rough handling; attitude of police to you; confiscation of belongings; police tactics; details of police vehicles.

Finally, put the date, your name and signature at the bottom of every page of notes.

Plans can be very useful to show the location of events. Make them where appropriate and cross-refer to them in your notes. Sign and date them.

If you use a camera, first take a photograph of the day's newspaper to date your pictures. Record in your notes the time and place of any photograph and what it was of.

Stay together
Stay in touch and near any fellow observers at the site, and know who they are. This is important for a number of reasons: to provide each other with support and confidence, it will also allow you to split up tasks between you.

Dealing with the police
If you have problems with the police, be assertive but do not risk arrest. Note any abuses of power or unreasonable behaviour (and identities) and report it to the senior police officer. A formal complaint/legal action/negotiations/publicity can be made later. If police request your name, give it. You may risk arrest for police obstruction if not. Note that you have, and record the identity of the officer.

Dealing with security guards
Similarly, with the guards. However, do not give them your name. They have no right to have it. Guards have the right to remove you from the land using reasonable force. They do not have the police's power of arrest (only citizens' power).

At the end of the day...
Observers reports should be signed and dated and kept safely to be copied to relevant solicitors and to decontaminators. If you feel your notes need rewriting for clarity or legibility, do this straight away (and again sign and date them) so that your updated notes are admissible in court.

A5.11.3 The Law and action/legal observers

As the action will take place on private property anybody present at the action without authorisation is arguably a trespasser. This has implications for the legal status of the individuals observing. The practical implication of trespassing for observers is that they can be removed by the police or security guards.

There are 3 main areas of law relevant to observing: aggravated trespass, obstruction of the highway, and public order.

As long as observers are seen as not being involved in disruptive trespass they will not be guilty of aggravated trespass. However, if the police direct people to leave the land, it is better to obey them. Observers can avoid obstruction of the highway by making sure they keep to the edge of any highway.

The public order offence which bears most relevance to observers is obstruction of a police officer. This is a very broadly and flexibly defined offence: basically, doing anything which makes a police officers job more difficult, eg. refusing to give your name if an officer believes you are a witness to an incident, being too close when they are arresting someone so that you get in the way. No warning has to be given before an arrest is made for this offence.

This briefing has been adapted from a Friends of the Earth briefing. Copies of legal observers report forms are available in HTML and Adobe Acrobat format.

A5.12 Preparing your equipment

- biohazard warnings
- brightly coloured tape
- heavy duty polythene bags
- heavy duty sticky tape
- protective suits gardening gloves
- over-shoes
- bucket and water
- hand tools
- headscarf or hat
- personal statements
- banner and flags - camera - camcorder - symbol of transformation

Below biohazard sign for photocopying, or press 'shift' and click here to download it.

A5.13 Media

Media contacts are an important part of the campaign. For a grass-roots view of how the media works, and how to handle them, read George Monbiot's 'An activist guide to exploiting the Media'.