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First arrests in Britain for pulling up Genetically Engineered crops

Press release from Genetic Engineering Network, July 4th 1998.

Five women, who openly declared their intention to pull up genetically engineered plants at a test field site were arrested for criminal damage at 11.00 a.m. today 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 landrovers, 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 non-violence, 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.

Today'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".


Editors Notes

[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 Marsteller to 'stay off the killing fields' and adopt measures to reduce the opportunity for unfavourable press. Not pressing charges potentially therefore reduces the story's news value.

[3]July 4th, is American Independence Day. Many biotechnology companies, like Monsanto for example are huge US Trans-national Corporations. Today's launch celebrates Indigence 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' below 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 movement's Snowball campaign of the late 1980's. Over three thousand people participated, there were two thousand arrests and one thousand people went to prison.

[6]The five women arrested today were Rowan Tilly, Kathryn Tulip, Zoe Elford, Melanie Jarman and Jo Hamilton. They are available for interviews; please call Andrew Wood, press liaison on 0973 953 446 or page 07654 247 502

For further details on this action and others contact:
Genetic Engineering Network PO BOX 9656
London N4 4JY
tel: 0181 374 9516 or
Manchester Against Genetic Engineering on: 0161 224 4846

For genetics action info on the web check out:

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