Crosses were placed outside the Ministry to symbolise the loss of biodiversity that will result from the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (gmo’s). Activists used a large ventilator to show how gmo’s will not limit themselves to comply with legislation but will exceed it because they will be spread by wind-born pollen. The drums of the no gmo samba band roused the civil servants out of their sweet gm dreams.
This event took place the day before the debate on the co-existence covenant in the Dutch parliament. The covenant is an agreement between conventional and organic farmers’ organisations regarding the cultivation of gmo’s in neighbouring fields. If this covenant is adopted as legislation it will officially open the door to the large-scale genetic contamination of Dutch fields. The Dutch government has been trying to promote gm for years by investing heavily in research into it. On a European level. the Netherlands is the only EU member state that has never voted against an application for a gm crop. Although the licenses are assessed by VROM (Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, it is LNV policy that ultimately decides whether of not gmo’s will be cultivated here. Minister Veerman has played a significant role in the current legislation because he ordered the Dijk Comission to realise the coexistence treaty only with interested parties from the primary sector. This effectively excluded other interested parties like environmental or consumer organisations from the negotiations. This decision remains controversial because the ethics surrounding gm technology involve more than just economic considerations.
After the protest at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), the activists paid a visit to the offices of the Dutch Biotechnology Association (NIABA). The activists made it clear that NIABA was set up by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and that it maintains close links with the government concerning biotechnology. The activists think that the business world should pay for its own marketing and should not receive government subsidies for it. Especially not when these subsidies are used to restrict legislation for situations where protective legislation (or the lack of it) could have serious consequences. They also criticised the fact that the gentech industry have rejected all attempts by civil society to comment on their research.
GM technology is no solution to problems in agriculture or the food chain. The alternative that it presents will only unleash a host of new problems for farmers, the environment and public health.