Belgium : the Revolt of the Guinea Pigs

Decontamination operation in a Belgian Monsanto Agronomic Centre

On Sunday May 7 during the afternoon, and this for the first time in Belgium, 200 persons uprooted transgenic canola and maize, belonging to the TNC Monsanto in its experimental farm of Franc-Waret (South of Belgium).

The Festival of resistance to GMOs held on that day started in the morning with a conference, hosting René Riesel (a French peasant), Belgian Green MEP Paul Lannoye, Marc Vanoverschelde (from the Belgian peasant union Mouvement d'Action Paysanne) and the French scientist JP Berlan. The conference was chaired by Mrs Isabelle Stengers, famous for her critical work on the relationship between science and society. After an organic picnic in the farm of Vévy-Wéron, the crowd gathered into a colourful "Seeds Party" and walked joyfully to the experimental centre of Monsanto where they entered the fields and destroyed several parcels of maize and canola while the rock band René Binamé was playing on a truck behind.

Monsanto : "YOU sow the technology, WE harvest the profit"

Through this non-violent collective action, we wish to relay in Belgium the growing international resistance to the imposition of transgenic exploitation of the earth. This exploitation indeed brings along heavy social, environmental and sanitary risks, and is a logical follow-up to the disastrous effects of the subsidised agricultural productivism.

Since its creation a century ago, Monsanto Chemicals Company started a real race against life, producing the sadly well-known PCB (one of the first causes of dioxin), Agent Orange – the defoliant used during the Vietnam war - , Aspartame… This transnational company manufactures the two best seller herbicides : Roundup and Alachlor. According to a study realised in Berkeley, California, Roundup is the first cause of pesticides linked disease among Californian gardeners, and the third cause among field workers.

After its reconversion in the sector of "life" sciences, Monsanto planned to buy Delta and Pine Land Seed Company, which held since March 1998 – together with the US agriculture department! – a patent on the "control of gene expression". This technique, luckily named "Terminator", destroys the ability that plants have to reproduce without having to go through to the market, which is indeed a very anti-economic characteristic. This unfair competition that life imposes upon seeds multinationals could soon be put to an end : 30 Terminator patents have already been introduced and some of them are on the verge of being marketed. Transgenesis is one of the most perfect illustrations of the way techno-scientific and market developments get together.

We have only a few transgenes to lose and a whole world to gain !

The transgenic maize and canola pulled up last Sunday are supposed to be tolerant to the Roundup total herbicide (which means they have been genetically manipulated to absorb bigger and bigger quantities of Monsanto weed-killer). Threatened by the expiration of its patent on Roundup in the US, Monsanto found an apparently infallible answer : by modifying the vegetal itself, the multinational’s copyright goes right into life and the livelihood, ensuring a complete control of the food chain, and an increase of its market shares.

Let’s remember that canola can breed with about 3000 common species in our environment, among which mustard, horseradish, field cress, cuckooflower,… Pollen from transgenic canola was already found at a distance of 4.5 km from the original culture, while in Belgium safety measures to "contain" contamination foresee an isolation of 400 meters, extended to 1 km some days ago…

One may also notice that in the necrotechnology sector, nobody even seems to burden himself with a pale respect of the legal dispositions : prior to last week, nor Monsanto nor its mates (Plant Genetic Systems, Novartis,…) had obtained any authorization for their "tests" for the year 2000 – this is a way to avoid publication on the list of voluntary dissemination of GMOs, supposed to be mandatory each year by ... January 31 !). In this context, which credit could we give to the so-called "precautionary" measures ?

Anyway we are not calling for better State frame or monitoring on GE "trials". "Biovigilance" (!) organs and other ethical or technical committees appear only when it is too late, and their function is to accompany the death processes while trying to tranquillise the population about the possibility of a "control" their very existence belie.

We reaffirm here our ambition to reach sooner or later a GM-freed world. Maybe this first direct and collective implementation of a "precautionary principle" too often emptied of its real meaning will help opening the road to another path than the brave new transgenic world …

Two hundred enemies of the brave new transgenic world, Belgium, 8 May 2000

Information : +32 2 219.58.89

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To read the news about the action (or listen to it in real audio), go to (news from Monday 08/05/00 at 8:00 am). A photo gallery and more info about the growing resistance to GE in Belgium will be online soon.