LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's first ever field trial for genetically modified (GM) wheat was vandalised over the weekend in a move likened by the leader of the country's farming union to book burning by the Nazis in the 1930s.
An intruder broke into the trial at Rothamsted Research in eastern England on Sunday and was arrested and charged with criminal damage.
A statement issued by Rothamsted said the intruder had failed to disrupt the experiment.
"This is criminal, and must be dealt with as such. It's worse than that. It is the wilful imposition of ignorance, directly comparable to Nazi book-burning in the 1930's," Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers Union in remarks prepared for a speech to British parliamentarians on Monday.
There has been significant consumer hostility towards GM crops with opponents arguing they could contaminate other crops and have unexpected long-term consequences for human health and the environment.
An anti-GM group called Take the Flour Back has called for supporters to take part in a "decontamination" of the trial next weekend. The threat prompted an online petition to support the scientists with the signatories including comedian Stephen Fry.
The GM wheat is designed to emit a pheromone that strikes fear into aphids and attracts a predator to devour them.
Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Anthony Barker