It was like a dream: 2000 people and several dogs, dressed in ghostly white ‘biohazard’ suits and masks kicked, danced, skipped and even rolled their way through one of the UK’s largest farm scale trials. The trial contains 25 hectares of genetically modified oilseed rape, planted on behalf of the giant AgrEvo corporation.

They had decided en masse to enter the farm near Watlington— where the trial is based — after meeting up at peaceful gathering in a field nearby. And even though the rape was being energetically and systematically pulverised, the stillness of the Oxfordshire countryside seemed barely disturbed as the 80 or so policemen, sweltering under the afternoon sun, looked on. Even the group of hippy drummers who accompanied the ‘decontamination’ from the side of the field added a surrealistic sheen to the day's events.

It took a couple of hours for more than half the field to be destroyed, which is more than enough to render the trial useless, though it is debatable whether the trial was being carried out scientifically anyway.

There was little separation between the rape seed and the surrounding countryside: protestors claimed they had found plants growing by the road-side. And the three or four trees growing inside the field and totally surrounded by the GM rape were also a source of their irritation.

Jim Thomas, a Greenpeace official who attended the gathering, was more than happy with the way everything went: "It was a clear message to Blair and the Government that we’re not going to put up with this. These people are doing the job that the government is not prepared to do." Greenpeace calls for a moratorium on GM farm trials with a transferal of the £7m savings to organic agricultural research.

The event — called ‘Stop the Crop’ — had been organised by locally based organisation called Oxy-gene and Greenpeace, and brought together an eclectic mix of hippies, housewives, and old age pensioners. They were all quietly angry.

But what was at first a peaceful protest turned ugly when police tried to split up the demonstrators who had been cleared from the field. One policeman was slightly injured in the fray and three demonstrators were arrested. Another protester had been arrested earlier on in the day.

Alan Simpson MP, who had spoken earlier on, had called on the government to rethink its strategy on GM crops, though his voice carries little weight within the Labour Party. But according to Mr Simpson, public opinion is overwhelmingly against GM crops and the government will be forced to play ‘catch up’.

"Even that great revolutionary body the Women’s Institute has voted to boycott GM foods," he said.

Mike Addelman