Twenty-eight Greenpeace volunteers were acquitted today of criminal damage at Norwich Crown Court, Eastern England.

The volunteers had gone on trial on September 4th on charges relating to a Greenpeace action at Lyng, Norfolk, in the UK, on 26th July, 1999, where part of an experimental crop of genetically modified (GM) maize was cut down and sealed in bags as part of a campaign to prevent genetic contamination of the environment.

Speaking immediately after the verdict, Peter Melchett, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said:

"We're extremely happy with the verdict which totally vindicates our campaign to prevent genetic pollution of the environment. We are delighted that an English jury was convinced that the Greenpeace volunteers were rightly acting to protect property and the environment when they cut down and bagged the crop of GM maize. We now call on Government to end the GM farm scale trials before any further genetic pollution of the environment occurs."

The previous trial in April this year resulted in all of the volunteers being acquitted of theft while the jury could not reach a verdict over the charge of criminal damage.

"Greenpeace wanted to remove the GM maize in Norfolk because we believe that GM crops will inevitably contaminate the environment. The UK Government's own commissioned advisors - the John Innes Centre - told them that contamination was inevitable but they chose to ignore that advice. Since July 1999, crops of cotton in Greece have been found to have been contaminated by GM cotton and have had to be destroyed, the same has happened to oil seed rape and soya crops in France, and hundreds of fields of oil seed rape were contaminated in the UK and had to be destroyed", Melchett continued.

The UK Government is currently reviewing separation distances imposed between GM crops and other similar crops. Greenpeace has been consistently saying that the separation distances are completely inadequate and that GM crops should not be released into the environment to contaminate the food chain.

The GM maize at Lyng was designed to be fed to animals, in the production of beef, milk and other dairy products like butter and cream. GM material is still being used to feed farm animals in Europe although a growing number of retailers - such as Iceland in the UK, Delhaize le Lion in Belgium, Migros in Switzerland, Carrefour in France and Coop in Italy - are already committed to selling animal products from animals not fed on GM crops. Greenpeace expects other European retailers to follow suit over the next four weeks.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
- Greenpeace UK contact in Norwich, Tel: +44-7801 212969 (mobile) or +44-1399 787 076 (pager); +44-7946 358 454 (mobile);
- Greenpeace UK Press Office, Tel: 44-207 865 8285 +44 207 8255 or +44 207 8257
- Teresa Merilainen, Greenpeace International Press Office, Tel: +31 20 5236637