Press Notice 12th August 2009
It has now been revealed that the claims by a Powys agronomist that he had grown and marketed a crop of GM maize in the 2008 growing season were in fact false, and were nothing more than a scam designed to attract publicity. After an extensive and protracted investigation by trading standards officers of Powys CC, no evidence has been found "that any GM crops were grown, cultivated, circulated to any farms in the Powys area or fed to any stock in the county." (1)
In January this year Jonathan Harrington issued a statement to the effect that he had planted MON810 maize on his holding near Tregoyd, Brecon, and that he had legally passed it into the food chain. He claimed that GM maize varieties were MON810 x DKC4442YG and MON810 x Novelis, following importation of the seed from France. He claimed to have shared the seed with two friends, and said that all three of them planted and harvested the fodder maize last year before turning it into silage and feeding it to farm animals (2). Those actions in themselves would not have been not illegal, since the named GM maize varieties are on the European "Common Seed Catalogue". However, since the harvest was claimed to have been MARKETED and to have entered the food chain, there should then have been compliance with regulatory requirements that all those responsible for GM "releases" into the environment and the food chain must have in place measures to ensure traceability, labelling and monitoring for undesirable effects (3). It appears that Mr Harrington and his neighbours had no such measures in place -- and that would have constituted a serious breach of EU and British law. He should also have entered his GM crop plantings on the Welsh Assembly's Register of GM crops. He failed to do so. The Welsh Assembly had no details whatsoever about the plantings until Mr Harrington spoke to a Welsh journalist and subsequently repeated his claims elsewhere in the media and in talks and presentations.
Since Mr Harrington has consistently refused to supply any information about his supposedly legal plantings of GM maize, it must now be assumed that this was nothing more than an elaborate publicity stunt, and that no GM crops were actually grown. (4). Many observers have been sceptical about his claims from the beginning, since he is not a farmer. He is sadly disabled and is unable to farm himself, and he lives in a cottage high on a mountainside with no land on which maize or any other field crops can be grown (5). It would have been impossible anyway, in that environment, in the wet summer of 2008, to obtain a viable crop of MON810 maize. A number of press articles have questioned his claims to be a farmer, and he has been accused instead of being a faker. He appears to think of himself as being a victim of heavy-handed regulation, and of being pursued by vindictive neighbours who do not share his vision of a Wales in which GM crops are widely grown (6). However, he is far from being a victim, and it has to be assumed that everything he does is carefully considered. He is member of the pro-GM lobby group CropGen, which (in spite of his denials) is funded exclusively by the biotech industry. He also represents the interests of Syngenta in talks to local schools, and takes every opportunity to attack the organic farming sector. It is certain that in the planning of this confidence trick he has been closely advised by CropGen and Syngenta.
Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "Mr Harrington now says that he has been vindicated by the Powys CC inquiry, and has been found to have done nothing wrong. He seems to think he has won some sort of "victory." That grotesque view has been perpetrated by sections of the media (7). On the contrary, it is now shown that he has misled and angered his neighbours, deceived the Assembly and the County Council, wasted taxpayers' money, and manipulated the media, in a grubby little stunt which shows the GM industry in its true light. The industry routinely uses lies and corrupt science in its attempts to foist GM technology on nations and communities that want nothing to do with it. If Mr Harrington thought that he would advance the cause of GM through this extraordinary episode, what he has shown is that he cannot be trusted to tell the truth, and that CropGen and Syngenta are equally culpable. If anything, this despicable episode has strengthened the resolve of the Welsh Assembly Government, and the people of Wales, to keep Wales free of the scourge of GM crops and free of the manipulation and exploitation of the GM industry."
(1) Letter from Lee Evans (Powys CC) to Ian Panton of GM Free Cymru: Extract: "I can confirm that during the course of the investigation, (we found) no evidence that GM crops were grown, cultivated, circulated to any farms in the Powys area or fed to any stock in the county."
(2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7851374.stm Jonathon Harrington, "Why I planted genetically modified maize on my Welsh farm", The Guardian, 28 January 2009 Farm consultant claims he will grow GM crops again this year, Jun 23 2009
(3) Secret GM farmer faces prosecution calls http://www.gmfreecymru.org/news/Press_Notice26Jan2009.htm
(4) Steve Dube, "Farmer or faker?", UpCountry: An insider's view of Welsh rural life, 4 February 2009 "...........it appears that Mr Harrington himself may not be all he claims to be. He lives so high up a mountain that even conventional fodder maize (let alone a Mediterranean GM hybrid) would not produce a decent crop. And as he is also sadly disabled, he cannot have planted or harvested the crop himself. It makes you wonder whether the whole episode was a con by Harrington and CropGen, in order to embarrass the Welsh Government. Has Mr Harrington actually grown GM plants at all? His neighbours think not." As part of the scam, Mr Harrington even issued faked photographs purporting to show the harvested GM crop.
(5) Members of Welsh campaign groups have always thought that Harrington probably planted one or two GM maize plants in a window box, harvested them and chopped them up, and then fed them to a friendly neighbour's cow -- thus enabling him to claim that everything he said was true. Or almost true.
(6) Farmer cleared by trading standards over GM crops Aug 6 2009 by Owen R Hughes, Daily Post
Claims that a Powys farmer grew genetically modified crops and supplied the harvested crop to neighbouring farmers for use as animal feed have been fully investigated by Powys County Council. The council’s Trading Standards Service, which started its investigation at the beginning of the year following numerous complaints concerning cross contamination and crops being fed to stock, has concluded that there is no evidence that GM crops were circulated to any farms in the Powys area or fed to any stock in the county. The cl aims were made by a Powys farmer earlier this year. Cllr Graham Brown, Board Member for Public Protection, said: “This was a serious claim which caused considerable concern in the farming community and was fully investigated by officers. “I would like to reassure the community that we found no evidence that GM crops were circulated to any farms in the Powys area or fed to any stock in the county.” ENDS
Notes for editors The Welsh Assembly Government is consulting on a proposed co-existence regime for Wales that would minimise any unwanted genetically modified (GM) material in non-GM crops. The start date of this consultation is 30 June 2009 and the closing date is 22 September 2009.
Visit http://new.wales.gov.uk/consultations/environmentandcountryside/090630coexistenceofcrops/?lang=en for more details.
For further information please contact: Am fanylion pellach cysylltwch â: Lee Evans, Swyddog Cyfathrebu Cynorthwyol Assistant Communications Officer Ffôn/Tel: 01597 826023 Ffôn Symudol/Mobile: 07769 640058 Ffacs/ Fax: 01597 826231 Ebost/Email: email@example.com