Totnes Genetix Group
What we do..
This is what ToGG does now...
and this is how it all began...
It all started
in April 1998, when
we heard about plans to plant a trial of genetically engineered maize
within 200 metres of Riverford organic farm near Dartington, Devon.
A protest was organised and it was clear that there was huge local
opposition to these plans when 600 people turned up to the march,
some even coming from businesses in Totnes which had closed for the
afternoon to show their support.
acting for Guy Watson wrote to the government requesting that the
consent for the crop trial be revoked. The government declined. The
Soil Association reluctantly told Guy Watson that, because of strict
rules governing organic food, he would lose the organic status of
his sweetcorn if there was any evidence that it had been contaminated
with genetic material (via cross pollination) from the trial of GE
We argued three points:
The organic farm was offered no protection! People across the world had been following this case and there was widespread alarm and disillusionment. Not only were we told that farmers who wished to avoid contamination of their crops have no rights under existing regulations, but also that the government is planning to introduce retrospective legislation to legitimise these trials.
Against this background, two women were arrested on Monday 3rd August and charged with removing the GE maize by hand. A public meeting was held in Totnes at which 300 people demonstrated unanimous support for the action which many felt to be both courageous and responsible under the circumstances. We immediately collected several hundred signatures on a statement which read: "In view of the government's failure to halt the trial of GE maize in spite of deep concern within the local community, we believe that the action taken, although illegal, was in the public interest." It was widely felt that the charges should be dropped immediately and many people intend to support the two women in every way possible.
On November 17th
Jacklyn and Liz appeared at Totnes Magistrates Court to be told that
the charge against them had been modified to one of conspiracy to
cause criminal damage. This seemed to be an indication that the prosecution
didn't think they could make the original charges of criminal damage
stick, or it may have been an attempt to "widen the net"
with a view to pinning similar charges on the other arrestees when
they appeared in court. The best news for J & L was that their
onerous bail conditions were somewhat mitigated: their curfew was
reduced to a Residency Order (meaning they had to reside at their
normal addresses but do not have to stay in between 10pm and 6am as
before. However, they remained banned from Devon, and still had to
report to a police station twice a week.
To cut to long story short... a week before they were due to appear before a jury, the prosecution rang their solisitors while they were preparing their defence and informed them that the charges had been dropped. Jacklyn and Liz decided to press for a hearing to try to discover the reasons for the dismissal. Several hundred people braved the rain to celebrate .