Most of you might have noticed that there are a few major problems in modern agriculture; exploitation, pollution, hunger through bad harvests, a free market system that does not work and speculation. Agriculture is increasingly controlled by large corporations. That is why A SEED is still campaigning on food and agriculture. Lately we have concentrated on the monopolies in the seed industry, with 'Monsanto' as a keyword. Here is an update on the developments around seeds and GMO's and some announcements of activities A SEED will be involved in.
Burning patent issues – protest at the European Patent Office in München
On Tuesday the 20th of July patents and patent applications on sunflowers, melons, broccoli, cows and pigs went up in smoke as demonstrators outside the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich used their truly innovative Patent Burner. Several hundred individuals and representatives of farmers organisations and NGO's from around the world gathered to protest against the EPO and against the patents the EPO are issuing on plants and animals. That day was the start of the hearing by the highest EPO Board of Appeal. Subject of the hearing are controversial patents on conventionally bred broccoli and wrinkled tomatoes.
The industry is increasingly applying for patents on conventionally bred plants and animals – over a thousand of such applications for the European market have been submitted already. These patents cause further monopolisation of the food market, threatening biodiversity, the freedom and livelihood of farmers, breeders, researchers and in the end, the food security of all. The industry is basically privatising the common heritage of many generations (biopiracy) and the EPO is enabling them to do so. The independence and democratic structure of the EPO is pretty dubious; financially the institute relies almost entirely on the fees on applications and patents paid by the industry, and there is no independent monitoring of their activities and decisions.
During the protest hundreds of copies of these applications and patents on life forms went through shredders and into the fire. The petition 'Stop Monsantosizing Food, Seeds and Animals", which more than 100.000 people signed, was handed over to an EPO official.
The EPO hearing continued until the end of Wednesday the 21st. It is not known when the Board will reach a decision in the case.
The only thing that makes sense is when these ridiculous life patents are trashed: The day's protest ended with the organisation of the demonstration, No Patents on Seeds, donating two patent rubbish bins to the EPO office.
German field liberator goes to jail
A German Court of Appeal decided not to review the case of a Field Liberator in Germany. The anti GMO activist was charged with criminal damage of a field of GM barley near Giessen, and sentenced to six months in prison in October 2009. The court chose to treat the case as a criminal rather than a civil procedure, and labeled the defendent's evidence 'irrelevant' . That way they chose to ignore some important evidence about inadequate institutions, about the dubious links between the companies, governmental bodies and researchers involved and about fraud and ignoring of safety requirements during the application and executive stages of the GM field tests.
"Gendreckweg – Freiwillige Feldbefreiung" (Down with GM bullshit – voluntary field liberation) is the slogan that is used during a series of direct actions against the test sites on and near the Giessen University grounds, with the aim to prevent irresponsible experiments with genetically manipulated plants in the open air. Several of these actions led to arrests and subsequent court cases, which the activist used to publically expose the incompetence and scandals surrounding these tests. Only recently, in March, a scandal involving unintentional but large scale contamination of conventional mais with manipulated genes came to light – so far without any consequences for the responsible people.
The biotech industry is very uncomfortable with public attention, let alone attention from people like Bergstedt, an independent researcher who has given expert evidence in many GMO action courtcases. On August 25 Bergstedt is scheduled to appear for a court hearing in Saarbruecken. Key professionals from the genetic engineering companies and the large industrial lobbies are trying to get an injunction against Bergstedts' research and publications on the backgrounds, lies and confusion of interests in the world of genetic engineering. Giessen University will also be present, with a request to ban Bergstedt from all University departments and terrains. This request was their response to Bergstedts investigation of the ties between companies and the university professor in charge of the field tests.
The six months prison sentence sets a precedent, and is exactly what the industry had hoped for: a deterrent for critics of genetic engineering. Bergstedt commented that the best way to support him when he has to serve his sentence would be to continue the anti GMO actions in Giessen and GM test fields elsewhere.
Liberation of field with BASF Amflora potatoes
The field actions did continue; on July 29 seven activist in Zepkow (Meckelenburg Vorpommern) paid an announced visit to a field with GM BASF Amflora potatoes. They pulled the GM potatoes out of the ground but the police intervened: they were arrested and charged with criminal tresspass and criminal damage. BASF dislikes bad publicity for their product and had announced their own action. Thirty employees stood around the edge of the field and wrote their wishes for a green genetic technology on balloons that were then released into the air – one of the more putrid variations of corporate GREENWASH PR activities in recent times.
links: http://www.gendreck-weg.de en http://www.taz.de/1/zukunft/umwelt/artikel/1/feld-verwuestet-ab-zur-polizei
Mais clearance action in Spain
This summer the Spanish took matters into their own hands. In Catalonia, close to Girona, several dozens of activists held a mais clearance in a test field full of GM mais of seed multinational Syngenta. Spain is the country with the largest surface of GM crops of Europe, totalling 75.000 hectares in 2009. In Catalonia is has become painfully clear that growing both GM and non-GM crops is impossible. Due the GM contamination of non-GM crops the production of organic corn has been reduced by 95% between 2002 and 2008.
EU: Manipulative measures on GMO's
Meanwhile the European commission changed her tactics to get GM accepted for commercial use in Europe. For years there has been a deadlock situation in the EU about permitting new GM crops. Barosso wants to allow EU countries to decide for themselves whether or not to allow GM crops. Formally the proposal is presented as a gesture towards GM critical countries like Austria, Italy, Greece and Luxembourg. In return for this favour the member states are expected to no longer frustrate the European procudures. It looks like a victory at first sight. But it is too good to be true. Critical analysis of the proposals learns that the memberstates will not get additional legal grounds for the disapproval of GM. On the contrary, internal documents from the Commission reveal that instead there are new restrictions to national autonomy, and more powers are transferred to Brussels. The options to stop GM crops on a national level remain negligeable. National bans can not be based on environmental or health arguments, neither on 'co-existance' (prevention of accidental GM contamination) with, for example, organic crops. What remains, in the most flexible interpretation of the definitions are ethical or so-called social-economic factors, or public opinion. These are arguments that are difficult to use as hard facts in legal defense, and will, without doubt, be challenged in court by biotech industry, GM farmers intenrational trade partners from North and Latin America, and possibly the Commission itself.
More about this you can read here: EC plans to relax rules on GM crops in Europe
In the meantime in the A SEED office
At the moment A SEED and friends are continuing with the agriculture campaign and preparing some actions and other types of activities. If you would like to help us, please get in contact.
But A SEED is just a small organisation. For this reason we are continuing to build a broader and bigger Dutch Food action movement; through practical help, linking up groups and individuals and through exchanging experiences and information. Join in, or organise a local food event. Or organise a workshop or information night. A SEED can help you with presenting something about any of the following subjects:
- Versvoko's : setting up a consumer group that buys locally produced fruit and vegetables
- GMO's in agriculture: general information and a summary of the situation in The Netherlands
- Monopolisation of the seed industry and patents – focussing on the role of the agrochemical multinationals in The Netherlands and the world.
- Soy production and the meat industry: linking the problems with large scale soy production in Latin America and the mass production and consumption of meat in The Netherlands
- Agriculture and climate: the immense CO2 emmissions caused by industrial agriculture and implications for climate and our food
- Food sovereignty: key issue for most farmers in the South, Via Campesina and others. Crucial factor for a social and sustainable agriculture in Europe.
- Industrial agriculture – what you can do to stop it: Workshop series leading to the start of your own food action group, that can make a stand against the large companies that control the wasteful, toxic and exploitative industrial production of food.
- GMO-free zones: how to make your municipality a GMO free zone.