TWO Greenpeace activists involved in the action that destroyed Genetically Modified wheat trials in Canberra last year have pleaded guilty to property damage charges.
The two Greenpeace activists, Jessa Latona and Heather McCabe, pleaded guilty to the allegations of entering the CSIRO centre in Ginninderra last July and using whipper-snippers to destroy the GM wheat trials.
The actions caused about $300,000 damage while stifling important research into the highly valued plant technology.
The case was previously adjourned three times but on Monday in the ACT Magistrates Court, the two activists pleaded guilty to the charges of destroying Commonwealth property.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' jail.
A statement from Greenpeace said the Commonwealth prosecution withdrew a backup charge of interfering with GM organisms and the charge of trespass.
Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker committed the two women to the Supreme Court for sentence and the matter will appear for directions next week.
Interfering with dealings with GM organisms falls under the Gene Technology Act 2000, which sets out a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment, if found guilty of interfering with approved GM trials and associated facilities.
The incident was investigated by the Australian Federal Police and saw Greenpeace’s Sydney headquarters raided on July 21 last year where evidence was seized relating to the case.
The trials were approved by the Office of Gene Technology Regulator and were looking into research for developing high amylose wheat and examining another GM wheat strain, which increases biomass and grain yield.
Progress for the biotechnology trials regressed due to lost grain, affecting the amount of seed collected for testing and assessment of agronomic performance.
Starch with high amylose content (greater than 50 per cent) is considered a valuable fibre source with known health benefits including reducing colon cancer and lowering GI (Glycemic Index).