The Hemel Hempstead Farmscale test crop

On Saturday 22 January concerned citizens took the shoppers of Hemel Hempstead by storm when they appeared in the Marlowes shopping centre dressed in bee costumes. The GMO Campaign carnival float turned out with beehives on board to higlight the near-certain pollution of Herffordshire honey. Local Labour MP, Tony McWalter-- who rejects the Blair line of forcing genetic engineering on the British countryside -- signed the petition to stop this crop and pledged support for the campaign.

Hemel MP Tony McWalter at the Action day on 22nd January in the Marlowes.

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A 25 acre field of Genetically Modified Oilseed Rape has been secretly planted at Wood Farm, Dodds Lane, Picotts End, north of Hemel Hempstead, one of 3 sites in the whole of England. The other 2 are in Lincolnshire. It is owned by German biotechnology giant Agrevo, a joint venture between Hoechst and Schering.
The crop is resistant to the herbicide Liberty (glufosinate-ammonium). It can be destroyed by weedkillers such as Roundup or Paraquat. The farmer is Bob Fiddaman. His telephone number is 01442 242907, fax 01442 233994. A second smaller site of about 400 square metres has been planted at the same farm as a seed trial, part of the process of bringing the GM seed into commercial production.

The crop is certain to contaminate wild plants - natural brassicas such as wild mustard, wild radish and wild turnip, and may pass on their resistance to weedkiller to create superweeds.
Insect dispersal of pollen over several miles will occur and lead to pollution of locally produced honey. New toxins and allergens may be produced.

Labour MP Robin Corbett lives in Picotts End. Like Tony Blair he is pro GM food. However Hemel MP Tony McWalter has told us that he supports our petition. We are waiting to hear from Tring and Berko MP Richard Page.

The seeds are believed to have been planted on Thursday 9th September. On 17th September the Environment Minister (and old boy of Berkhamsted School) Michael Meacher admitted that the sowing was illegal as no fresh application for Government consent has been made. Instead the existing consent to grow spring crops had been illegally extended by the Government. On 22nd September the Gazette announced that the FOE legal challenge had resulted in the ending of the "scientific experiment" but the crop remains.We now believe that the "experiment" is continuing. However it looks only at the effects of weedkillers on wildlife and does not consider the potentially disastrous effects of releasing genetically modified material. The experiment is being conducted by Ian Woiwod of Rothamsted.

Protestors have formed an action group from which to launch a more effective campaign. The Hemel Hempstead G M Action Group brings together a number of organisations and individuals who are concerned about the threat to our health and our environment .

The action group builds on the success of a public debate on 27th September at the Friends Meeting House in the Old Town.which was packed out and a petition which has been enthusiastically supported. Over three thousand signatures have been gathered and it is hoped to gather many more to present to Environment
Minister Michael Meacher in the New Year. Clair Smith is Petition Coordinator. Clair can be contacted at

The programme of events includes Action Days in town centres and vigils at the farm culminating in a rally at the GM site on Sunday 2nd April which will attract protestors from all over the country. Committee member Noah Tucker from the Genetic Alliance said "there is a good chance that this crop will not survive to reach the pollination stage. Offers of help and support are coming in andmore are welcome."

The next Day of Action will be in St Albans on Saturday 26th February 2000. All are invited to come along and join in. For more information contact Carol Marshall on 01442 398005 or Sylvia Davison on 01442 252782.

There is going to be a public debate at West Herts College, Hemel Hempstead on Friday 18th February featuring Dr Mae Wan Ho, Bob Fiddaman, Tony McWalter MP and Dr Peter Luttman of Rothamsted. This should be a first rate event.

"Once released into the environment, unlike a BSE epidemic or chemical spill, genetic mistakes cannot be contained, recalled or cleaned up, but will be passed on to all future generations indefinitely". - Dr Michael Antoniou, Clinical Geneticist & Senior Lecturer in Molecular Pathology, London.