A GM wheat trial has been vandalised – one week before it was due to be targeted in a planned “mass action” by activists.
The GM trial, conducted by scientists from Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, aims to see whether transgenic wheat can repel aphids in the field.
It is understood that part of the experimental crop has been vandalised and at least one person has been arrested.
Details of the attack started to emerge in a series of tweets by Rothamsted scientist Toby Bruce on Sunday (20 May).
“Just heard there’s been an attack on our field trial, don’t know if crops were vandalised,” he wrote at 8.51am. “Very sad.”
Dr Bruce is leading the transgenic wheat research project at Rothamsted.
The non-commercial trial is being sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
“There was one intruder who has spread wheat seed on to three of the plots, but no apparent damage,” Dr Bruce revealed. “He has been arrested.”
Dr Bruce later added: “Oh dear, there’s more: Damage to plot 7 where he has cut off the tops of quite a few of the plants and collected the material.”
It is not known at this stage who was responsible for the attack. But anti-GM activists were planning a “mass action” against the GM trial.
The Take the Flour Back website had urged GM opponents to meet at Rothamsted one week later on Sunday (27 May).
It added: “Or take your own action in your own way, at your own time. Together we can stop this trial.”
The website includes a map showing the location of the GM wheat trial.
Earlier, Rothamsted sicentists pleaded with anti-GM campaigners not to destroy the experimental plots.
An online petition to muster support for the scientists was signed by more than 5,000 people, including the actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry.
But the Take The Flour Back protest group refused to back down, vowing to “decontaminate” the site unless the research was halted.
Picture shows Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire.