Borders No Barrier to Sabotage
The last year has seen a global expansion of resistance to genetic technology. Across the world shadows in the moonlight have razed GE crop trials to the ground. Spades, sticks, scythes, sickles and fire have brought in the harvest. Doors have splintered as labs are broken into. Pies have been aimed at the arrogance of the powerful. Harassment and disruption has greeted the biotech industry wherever it has gathered...
Since the last issue of Do or Die was published in August 1999, there have been anti-biotech actions in America, Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, India, Australia, Greece, Ecuador, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. (Undoubtedly there have been actions we haven't heard about in other countries. This especially applies to the Third/Majority World.) Many of these countries are new to trashing the GM-technocrats' tools. In other countries where resistance to genetic engineering is more established, tactics have evolved, groups consolidated and actions have become increasingly audacious.
Our success - especially in Britain - is remarkable, but we should not fall for the myth of imminent victory. At least in terms of genetic engineering, resistance is not as transnational as capital. Corporate and state bodies have been channelling more and more funds and time into GM crops. Actions are slowing this rate of acceleration but we're still losing the race.
This should not dissuade us from doing what needs to be done. To 'merely' delay massive social dislocation and biological pollution is worthy of the risks involved. As well as the 'finger in the dam' aspect of anti-GM campaigns, the resistance is serving other purposes. Groups all over the world are linking up, training and learning from each other. The hope for a free and ecological future lies in these embryonic movements which understand their enemies are the machine and its masters and their comrades the land and its lovers. The resistance against genetic engineering has catalysed the growth of revolutionary ecological groups around the world. The elite may have designed a weapon which will rebound on themselves.
The aim of this article is to give an overview of actions over the last year in this global anti-technology war. It will not give a political, ecological or strategic background to genetic engineering. If you're new to this struggle it would be a good idea to read 'The New Luddite War' in the last issue of Do or Die, which also includes some recommended reading.
Hurricane Sabotage Hits GM Harvest
Over the last year the country that has seen the most dramatic growth of anti-GM sabotage has been the US. The world's first outdoor genetic test crop was of strawberries at the University of California in 1987. The night after the crop had been transplanted, EF!ers climbed fences, evaded security and succeeded in pulling up all 2,000 plants. In 1989 American EF!ers destroyed yet more test sites, but as the 80s slipped into the 90s the US sabotage stopped.
Twelve years after the first action, the decade-long lull came to a dramatic end. On the 27th of July 99, The University of California once again became the launch pad for a wave of action - this time much bigger than the first. That night a group calling itself 'The California Croppers' trashed 14 rows of GM corn. The following night saw an acre of GM corn elsewhere in California destroyed. A month later, resistance had spread to the East Coast where yet more experimental GM corn was destroyed, this time at the University of Maine. A week later Vermont, two days after that Minnesota. Two weeks later 50 rows of GM corn were destroyed at a Pioneer facility and the campaign moved up a notch with company vehicles damaged. Corn sites continued to be laid waste. GM melons, walnut trees and tomatoes got mashed.
After only two months of the campaign there had been twelve successful sabotages, proceeding to a point where in one action saboteurs could destroy 50 rows of transgenic corn, an acre of herbicide tolerant sunflowers, one hundred melons and trash irrigation equipment and greenhouses undetected.
The last year has seen more and more crop experiments destroyed, ranging from sugar beet to GM trees. While straight site trashings continue, actions have also escalated to levels which Europe has yet to reach. In the third month of the campaign, all the windows on one side of a GM company's offices were caved in.
Five months in and a communiqué announces that 3 hours before the beginning of the new 'biotech century' the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) had broken into the office of a Michigan University GM researcher, dousing it with gasoline and setting it on fire, causing $400,000 of damage. The work destroyed was funded in part by the multinational Monsanto, which led the communiqué to claim the action as the first US burning in solidarity with the Indian KRRS (Karnataka State Farmers Association) 'Cremate Monsanto' campaign. State response was quick and a month after the attack Craig Rosebraugh, who had been acting as ELF Press Officer, was raided at 8.00am by 15 FBI agents with guns drawn. Simultaneously other agents raided the offices of the Portland Liberation Collective. Though obviously triggered by the arson, these raids were linked to a Grand Jury investigation into the ELF.
As the year has gone on, daytime actions have grown like their nighttime counterparts. The road to Cargill's international HQ was barricaded in March causing two mile tailbacks. The blockade was initially carried out by the normal criminal band of EF!ers and anarchos but they were later joined by a noisy carnival of supportive locals, scientists and farmers. After the cops dislodged the barricade the diverse bunch slowed the traffic around the HQ for hours. Outside the citadel of corporate agri-business, voices joined together chanting: "Burn the Buildings, Pull the Crops, This is Where the Research Stops!"
The same month saw 'Bio-Devastation 2000', a series of actions in Boston aimed at America's biggest gathering of GM scientists and business. 2,500 people took part in an anti-corporate, anti-GM carnival. Thirty gallons of GM soya beans were dumped blocking the conference centre's entrance. Activists infiltrated and caused chaos in meetings, disrupting speeches and flanning the faceless bureaucrats. One woman even managed to sneak on the special conference shuttle bus and harangue a captive audience of delegates. Outside the conference centre the police had panicked and prepared for a Seattle. Windows of high street shops, even a pizza emporium, were boarded up, whilst cops patrolled the streets.
Minneapolis was the host for the next confrontation when the International Society for Animal Genetics (ISAG) met at the end of July. "A police helicopter hovers above us. At least thirty people have been arrested. Three hours ago one hundred unmasked people broke a police line intended to box us into a street. Using plywood sign/shields and a plastic banner that repelled tear gas and pepper spray, the frontline rocked our world and we escaped from their trap, only to re-take the WHOLE STREET downtown, where later we were separated and one group was surrounded. Last night we had a two hour teach-in and speak out, attended by 300 people, who then marched together in the night. Our presence was strong and we got away with no arrests. A cop got tossed from his horse. Today was our time to take to the streets, we chanted "Reclaim the Streets, Reclaim the Genes" and "I-S-A-G, Fuck your Biotechnology".
Only a few months before in Boston the state had prepared while the rebels were unable to put up street resistance. By the time the ISAG conference came along, the police needed to use heavy force. They fired bean bag rounds, rubber bullets, pepper spray and used batons and still failed to clear the streets of resistance. That night, gun wielding cops stormed one activist house and tried to frame some of its inhabitants on drug dealing charges. This repression will not break the rebels' resolve.
The tailing off of anti-GM sabotage at the end of the 80s was due to contemporary events in EF!. A widespread state repression campaign culminated in the FBI car bombing California EF!ers, and a SWAT team arresting EF!ers attempting to down powerlines in the Arizona desert. Dave Foreman, EF!'s co-founder and editor of the sabotage handbook Ecodefence awoke in bed looking down the barrel of a cop's gun.
People became understandably afraid. A split within EF! partly exacerbated by repression led to it taking an ostensibly more 'revolutionary' path, but one that was more concerned with civil disobedience than sabotage. Even wilderness defence saw a decrease in ecotage, and the anti-GM campaign as a new front simply didn't survive.
The 90s have seen the US movement trying to reconcile the contradictions these times left it with. In the re-emergence of anti-GM resistance we see the convergence of mass street action with social change aims and wilderness-ethic sabotage. This is extremely healthy for the movement as a whole. Let's hope however that this new flurry of action does not lead to the type of attacks the movement suffered from a decade ago. Even if it does, maybe now the movement is more prepared. As one of those raided after ISAG put it in a statement to the City Council:
"We will continue no matter how many times you kick us in the face or pepper spay us. We will continue despite your truncheon blows or shooting us with rubber bullets, because what does not kill us makes us stronger."
As of October 2000 there have been 40 anti-GM sabotages in America. Despite Grand Juries and police surveillance our friends are still uncaptured.
For more details contact the Bioengineering Action Network (BAN), who are the best contact for the States. Serving the same function over there as the Genetic Engineering Network does over here, they are however openly loads more radical, militant and wild.
BAN, POB 11703 Eugene, OR, 97440, USA.
Tel: 001 (541) 302 5020
Eco-Clearcutting in Canada
The increasingly effective sabotage of genetic technology in the United States soon inspired similar action over the border. In Canada forestry is a more important sector than agriculture, so most GM crop experiments, and therefore most GM resistance, has been centred on trees. On October 28th 1999 in British Columbia (BC), 400 GM trees belonging to the Westfor Corporation were cut down, destroying five years of biotechnology research. Dave Gould, the company's Chief Financial Officer said in the Vancouver Sun the day after the sabotage: "This act of vandalism has set back people's work quite a few years. If you have been working on a book, and you come in and your hard drive failed - some of them described it like that. It's this emptiness, and what do you do? There's nothing you can do. Some of it's down on paper but most of it is in this tree that's now been cut in half. It's destroyed".
This was followed three days later with an attack on 1,000 cedar, Douglas fir and other assorted evergreen trees at another research site in BC. According to communiqué spokesperson Gerrard Winstanley, the aim of the action was to stop the company:
"Westfor is replacing temperate rainforests with genetically mutilated Frankenforests. GE forestry research is alarmingly prevalent across the globe, and Canada is no exception, particularly here in British Columbia. BC has gained a notorious reputation for the rapid liquidation of its last remaining ancient native forests. The dying logging industry realises it can't log to infinity, and is worried. The industry's capitalist quick fix lies in the horrors of biotechnology. It is clear that all forest defenders must now not only stop the clearcutting of the last fragments of old growth forest, but must also stop GE dead in its tracks."
This action was followed up in mid November by the destruction of several hundred GM fruit trees at another research site in BC.
Overt resistance broke out at the end of January when negotiations for a global 'biosafety protocol' brought delegates from the world's nation states to Montreal. The previous round of negotiations had collapsed after a protracted diplomatic conflict between governments of the West on one hand and the governments of the global South on the other. The negotiations underlined the Western corporate elite's control of global biological 'resources' while putting in no meaningful measures against the dangers of GM. The negotiations' main role according to the Chairperson of the African group of delegates at the previous round, is to allow the Western elite to "fool its own public". Not everyone was fooled. 1,000 people marched to the conference centre while inside a press conference was disrupted when the chairman of the Global Industry Coalition was pied. The pie thrower's exclamation of 'Gloop-Gloop!' as he fled is the trademark battle cry of Les Entartistes (Pie-Throwers), a Quebec group that targets federalist politicians and business leaders.
Simultaneously a solidarity demo with the Canadian protesters happened outside Canada House in Trafalgar Square in London. Banners such as 'Gene Dictators - The World is Watching' were dropped from the roof and 'trangenic' cows invaded the building! Another case of when you lack power you ratchet up the weirdness.
The next big date on the GM conference circuit was in March at Bio 2000 in Boston, the largest ever convention of the biotech industry. Canadian activists sent fraternal greetings to groups resisting Bio 2000 in America by timing their clearcut of hundreds of GM trees to coincide with the conference. According to the communiqué: "We cut, sawed, snapped and lopped young trees and ring barked the larger trees (sized from 8-25 ft.), mature cottonwood and conifers. When the police showed up before we could finish our work we retreated to the shadows under the protection of night... One may wonder why the ministry 'tree improvement' branch would want to try and 'improve' trees. They are perfect already. They might not be perfectly manufactured for industry, but for their symbiotic relationships in nature they are. We could never begin to understand the fragile and minute beauty of how trees form and what relationships they have to the flora and fauna around them. According to government figures, almost 10% of the new trees planted in Canada are from GE propagules".
Out now! The latest edition of The Nighttime Gardener: The Guide for the Shy Gardener in North America. Copies available for trade, stamps or blank money orders from:
Nighttime and Daytime Daring in Britain
The destruction of GM test sites has been going on in Britain since 1997. In 1999 over 40 test sites were destroyed, over half of those planted. This year Britain remains the country in the industrialised world with the most effective resistance to GM. Widespread distrust of scientists, especially around food issues, media hysteria over health dangers, grassroots campaigning and highly effective sabotage has seriously put back the GM food industry.
After years of failed propaganda campaigns the industry has still not managed to get the go-ahead for commercial GM growing. The last twelve months have seen for the first time 'farmscale trials' with very large areas - some up to 50 acres. It is unclear whether the logic behind these farmscales is scientific or political. It could be that the corporations want to ease GM into the countryside. If people accept farmscale 'experiments' then it's not far to accepting farmscale agriculture. However in the words of Farmers Weekly: "Moves to introduce GM crops onto UK farms have faltered in the face of intense opposition". (15/9/00)
The idea of moving from attacking small crop areas to entire fields must have been daunting to say the least. The increased size of the targets necessitated an increase in the numbers of saboteurs. Up until this year nighttime covert actions had mostly been carried out by teams of under a dozen. Now many actions have had to be organised with dozens of people involved. To transport that number of people around country lanes at night, destroy entire fields of crops and leave the area undetected has been no mean feat. Yet so far few have been arrested, no one jailed, and at the time of writing five of the twelve oilseed rape sites and four of the twelve maize sites have been sabotaged.
After the first three of these actions, Chris Pollock, Head of the UK Scientific Steering Committee on Farm Scale Evaluations said repeated attacks on the sites risked undermining the entire project, "Obviously we have concerns that the numbers of trials are low and that any damage to them which affects the ability to collect data will have an effect on the total pool of information," he told BBC Radio. He also said that scientists needed 60-75 sites over three years to ascertain if GM has any environmental fall out. In spring this year only 48 farm scale trial sites were planted, well short of the government's target. Eight farmers had changed their minds and pulled out of the trials under pressure. The continuation of the programme which started with only two thirds of the intended number of sites and has now had nearly a quarter of its sites destroyed makes a mockery of the scientific pretence. Now more than ever the programme looks like the industry testing the water. Well, the water's getting hotter...
Despite the drama connected with trashing the farmscales, the night to night work of disrupting further scientific research has continued. All over the country people have been creeping through the night pulling, digging and flattening crops. As of September, 16 oilseed rape sites, three sugar beet sites and the only GM wheat site in the country have been destroyed.
Autumn is the time when the new season of winter GM sites are being sown. Prevention is better than cure. With this in mind the campaign was escalated in August with a UK first - the trashing of farm equipment belonging to farmers hosting GM sites. It was felt that at this crucial harvest time, this would send a strong message to the farmers preparing to plant GM. The National Farmers Union spokesman on biotechnology had his machines (including a 'Dominator' combine-harvester!) sprayed and sabbed. Days later another owner of a farm hosting GM experiments was visited and his farm machinery sabotaged. The action, which was reported in Farmers Weekly, was (according to a widely circulated email communiqué) aimed at intimidating farmers out of "complicity with the corporations". With the government and research companies already finding it difficult to find site hosts, this tactic has a real chance of high effectiveness. We shall see.
Though most site 'decontaminations' have happened covertly at night, overt trashings continue. At one action in the South West at Nether Compton, three 'Grim Reapers' led 100 people into a farmscale site. The crowd set to work for 40 minutes trashing the crop until the cops came and arrested seven people. A report from the organisers stated: "Many enthusiastic people, who had been empowered by their first experience of direct action, wanted to know when the next 'picnic' is". In Scotland a similar event was pulled off at the Daviot farmscale. A hundred people rallied and got to work on the 15th August resulting in only six arrests.
These mass sabotages allow an opening into action for people not already in affinity groups. The terrain of struggle shapes the way resisting groups organise, grow or collapse. The increasingly covert nature of much of the radical ecological movement over the last few years makes these easy access actions essential.
Of the 30 plus arrested this year at sabotaged GM sites, most have had their cases dropped or heavily reduced. If unlucky, some might get minor fines or small prison sentences. Though the state would dearly like to jail any anti-GM activists it gets its hands on, it has its hands largely tied behind its back thanks to public support for the sabotages. A similar situation prevailed throughout the 90s road protest years. Once again we find that after good planning, masks and group cohesion, our best protection is public approval. Every activist jailed in a flurry of publicity breeds new saboteurs and further weakens the ideological grip of the rule of law. Nevertheless it is likely that if this battle continues, at some point in the future we could see activists serving time. It is essential that our movement supports its prisoners. The scores of prisoners resulting from June 18th, November 30th and May 1st have not been given the support they deserve. The same mistake should not be made when we get new anti-GM jailings. Remember: write to a prisoner - not your MP!
In Britain, as elsewhere, genetic technology is only really being resisted in the realm of crops. Animal and human genetic experiments are being allowed to develop unheeded. The medical-industrial complex has so far escaped wrath due to its almost sacred position in our society. In confronting human genetics (or 'eugenics' as it used to be called), activists will have to face ingrained ideologies about life, death, imperialism, health and disability. Last winter the annual conference of the notorious Galton Institute hosted one of the first British demos against human genetic engineering. Francis Galton was one of the main ideological inspirations behind Nazi attempts to 'cleanse the volk' and the forced sterilisation of the disabled in Scandinavia.
In May, activists from EF! and the Disabled People's Direct Action Network came together for demonstrations at the multi-million pound International Centre for Life in Newcastle. The protest march and street theatre coincided with the opening of the 'LIFE Interactive World' visitors centre. TV presenter Carol Vorderman was confronted by goose-stepping activists in Gestapo uniforms highlighting the links between Nazi-style eugenics and human genetic engineering.
This year there have been three seismic shifts in resistance to GM in Britain. Firstly, nighttime gardening has been forced to evolve from an activity only needing a handful of activists to coordinated actions carried out by dozens. Secondly, sabotage has moved from only targeting corporate experiments to sabotaging the personal property and machines of the farmers who allow the release to take place on 'their' land. Thirdly, a campaign, however minor at this stage, against human genetic engineering has been born.
A survey published in an article entitled 'Plant Rage May Uproot Experts' (Times Higher Educational Supplement 20/10/00), stated that one in four senior GM scientists has considered quitting Britain. Of 124 scientists surveyed 24 said the situation was so bad that they were moving abroad. The article further stated that:
"The anti-GM climate made 38% of scientists who use the technology more likely to advise a young plant scientist to leave the country... the anti-GM campaign had... placed constraints on the range of experiments, led to projects being suspended, to commercial organisations cutting funding and farmers refusing to cooperate, fearing attacks on their fields."
One industry spokesman said the campaign had dissuaded some firms from UK GM investment, for example causing the cancellation of a planned research centre in Cambridge. The article as a whole confirmed that the anti-GM strategy of direct interference with research and further building a "climate of distrust and opposition" is really working. A brain drain is quickening with more GM-technologists leaving Britain. One respondent said, "an increasing number of high-profile people are going abroad and they will not necessarily come back".
Happily the article ended with a top tip for campaigners and probably an accurate forecast from a Leicester University Botany Professor: "As yet, the anti-GM lobby has not tried to stop us using transgenic technology in pure research. But I can foresee a day when the campaigners may become so successful in their current goals that they will".
The next year will be a decisive one for both genetic technology and its opposition. Will GM be allowed to grow here commercially as it is in twelve other countries? Will the escalation of resistance cause a rift between liberals and radicals, 'discrediting the campaign in the minds of right thinking people'? Will the brain drain of GM-technologists continue? Whatever happens, the battle around GM is helping more people to question technology and get involved in the radical ecological resistance. The struggle is forcing a steep learning curve on the movement, one that it can only benefit from.
The nighttime raids will continue. The daytime trashings will not subside. GM technology has nowhere to hide.
The best UK genetics website is undoubtedly Primal Seeds at: www.primalseeds.org For regular anti-genetics news subscribe to the Genetix Update, the newsletter of the Genetic Engineering Network. Send cheques or postal orders made out to 'Genetix Update' for £5 (£15 outside Europe) to:
Genetics Update, c/o Totnes Genetics Group,
PO Box 77, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5ZL, UK.
Tel: 01803 840098
Going Ga Ga over GM in Genoa
"A determined, battling demonstration closed yesterday [May 25th 2000], the first day of the worldwide biotech exhibition in Genoa. Alas, we count several wounded among comrades and two arrests accused of having broken down the glass windows of a bank.
"Many thousands of demonstrators gathered at 9.00am in front of Genoa station for what the media were describing as the Italian Seattle. There were people from all over Italy and comrades from Switzerland, France and Germany. More than 400 grassroots groups endorsed this demonstration: there were anarchists from Milan, Genoa and Rome; the social centres from all over Italy, groups from the 'Green Galaxy' and a lot of other people. Also two political parties, the Greens and the Refounded Communist Party, joined the demonstration. [Worried about the direct action, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth pulled out.]
"At 10.30am the demo started. Despite being a working day we were 10,000 strong. The demo was led by 1,000 'White Overalls' ready for the action with gas masks, shields and protective padding all over the body - but no weapons, no sticks, stones or bottles... Behind them were the anarchists and then the rest of the people. Greens and Refounded Commies closed the demo.
"Without losing time, we marched directly from the station to the exhibition, guarded by 3,000 riot police. Once arrived, the confrontation was almost immediate. We wanted to enter, they wanted to keep us out and away while the managers and technocrats were inside deciding our future. The first police attack started when the White Overalls advanced almost to the entrance gate - it was wild, and coordination was made extremely difficult by a helicopter hovering 10 metres above our heads. However, the White Overalls' protections were good enough to resist the attack and push back the cops against the gate.
"There followed half an hour full of tension, then came the second police attack. This was extremely difficult to contain, because they attacked on two sides (front and right side) and the right side was not protected by the padded-up White Overalls, so people had to resist with bare hands. And there we had wounded comrades, at least 4 - one with a broken leg from a rubber bullet was taken to hospital. However, the second attack was pushed back and the exhibition was besieged. Under a very hot sun, more than 5,000 people yelled and blocked the entrance. Nobody could enter or exit anymore, not even the cops who themselves retreated behind the closed gates. The large square in front of the exhibition was completely ours.
"Finally they gave up and the conference was closed for the whole afternoon. Demonstrators then moved off for a celebration at a nearby action camp. The following day a counter-conference was held with among others a speaker from the Karnataka Farmers Union (KRRS)."
(Taken from an email report of the action from Ya Basta! Italy)
Once again it has been shown that our action can effectively disrupt gatherings of the global managers. The main purpose of the Genoa conference was to unify the biotech industry and kickstart a propaganda counter-offensive in support of GM. Their plans backfired. In fear, half of the biotech companies invited did not even turn up. Instead of unifying support it unified opposition. The political atmosphere around the Genoa days has led scores of Italian town councils to declare their territory GM Free Zones. The government has been forced to back away from its overt support of GM and thousands of people have been inspired by the success of the resistance. Valuable lessons have been learned but some questions remain unanswered.
In many ways Genoa was inspired by Seattle, bringing with it many of its contradictions. Next time in Italy a situation in this struggle arises, will practical and ideological disagreements over tactics and aims splinter the fragile unity? The role of the White Overalls has been described by Italian friends as civil disobedience rather than conflict. They are more like the Kiwi Anti-Apartheid demonstrators described in last issue of Do or Die than autonomist black blocs. In fact when some of the crowd smashed in bank windows, various elements - some even among the White Overalls - condemned the damage. Will the White Overalls move from active resistance to pro-active attack? How can anarchists march with statists either left or green? Will this mass resistance evolve into a sustained attack on the Italian biotech industry? Italy, like other Southern European countries, is lagging behind the rest of the industrialised world in GM experiments. As they increase, will overt opposition turn to covert destruction? Let's hope the joy of crop trashing soon reaches the fiery Italians.
Terra Salvaggia (Wild Earth magazine), Silvestre, via Fucini 17, 56100 Pisa, Italy.
Ya Basta!, Via Watteau 7, 20125, Milano, Italy.
Tel: 0039 2 67 05 185
Bangladeshis Bugger Birthday Bash
The 70s saw a massive push by the global elite to enclose, industrialise and chemicalise Third/Majority World agriculture. This process of poisoning and social dislocation was named the 'green revolution'. It was spearheaded by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), who celebrated their 40th anniversary on the 4th April this year. Others were not in the mood for celebration.
Hundreds of Filipino peasant rice growers surrounded the IRRI shouting "IRRI Out" and "No to GMO". Scared, the IRRI was forced to move the ceremony to the heavily guarded presidential palace which itself was soon surrounded by demonstrators. Speakers at the action said that the IRRI's much-vaunted green revolution promoted the US agenda of counter-insurgency and corporate dominance of domestic agriculture while causing a vast loss of biological diversity in rice paddies throughout Asia.
The campaign against GM has been escalating in the Philippines and peasant groups say sabotage might soon be used to halt new IRRI genetic rice experiments. Taking part in the action were peasant representatives from Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan. Cheers greeted the news that 3,000 Bangladeshis were marching in Dacca and other cities to support the Filipino movement to close down the IRRI. Like the Philippines, Bangladesh has lost almost all of its traditional rice varieties.
This action was jointly organised by the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, Pesticide Action Network (Philippines) and the Nayakrishi New Agriculture Movement of Bangladesh.
French in Frocks
For years, the increasingly radical Confederation Paysanne has been organising against GM. The crop trashings have continued, buoyed by massive public support. April and June 2000 saw two different types of action which have been reflected throughout the year.
A newly planted GM rapeseed test at the CETIOM research centre in Ariege was attacked on April 3rd. The centre restarted the experiment - a move they were soon to regret. Two weeks later, local greens and members of the Confederation Paysanne amassed at the site. 350 people armed with scythes destroyed the crop, the forearms reaping the bad harvest to the rhythm of French rural folk musicians.
Many of the hundreds were dressed in drag in memory of the 'Young Ladies' of 1827. When the state enclosed mountain forests around Ariege in the early Nineteenth Century, the local men responded by disguising themselves with white shirts, red girdles, blackened faces and sheepskins for wigs. The 'Young Ladies' of Ariege then set about a campaign of harassment and sabotage against the state. Nearly two centuries later the peasants of Ariege once again put on the garb of the 'Young Ladies' to show that the peasantry will always defend its autonomy against enclosure - this time the enclosure of the seed.
Then on June 27th, a group calling itself the 'Night Researchers' broke into a government biotech lab and destroyed organisms under study. The 'Researchers' also gained strategic information for new attacks. Similar actions have been happening throughout the year. The French anti-GM resistance, spearheaded by greens and peasants, continues to show that overt and covert sabotage can work hand in hand.
Confederation Paysanne, 81 Avenue de la Republique, 93170 Bagnolet, France.
Tel: 00 33 1436 20404
Dutch Spuds Smashed
On the night of August 29th, Groen Front! (Dutch Earth First!) pulled up a field of GE potatoes located near Lelystad. The next morning, one bag of these potatoes with a communiqué was delivered to the offices of the direct action magazine Ravage in Amsterdam. The errant bag of spuds was eventually delivered to the man most responsible - the Minister of Agriculture - a fervent proponent of genetic engineering.
Groen Front!, Postbus 85069, 3508 AB, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Though Ecuador has had a legal ban on imports of GM crops since 1997, some shipments have been brought in by stealth. Early this year when Ecuador Ecological Action was warned of one such shipment coming in by North American activists, they linked up with the National Peasant Organisation and took direct action. Two small boats were used to cut off the ship Frina, board it and keep it from approaching the port. The ship contained 30,000 tonnes of transgenic soya.
Green Action in Croatia have been running a campaign against genetic technology since the summer of 1999. As well as awareness raising they have done "several actions on corn experimental fields in Zagreb and Osijek in Summer 1999, also in front of several firms including Pioneer".
"The opponents of biotechnology are trying to subvert the democratic process. They have chosen the route of destruction rather than debate" - Patrick O'Reilly, Monsanto's business manager in Ireland. (Reuters 16/8/99)
Monsanto originally planted 10 sites in Ireland but when six farmers pulled out after realising their farms would become targets, the research was left in shambles. By mid August 1999 Monsanto's remaining four sites had all been trashed. The normal way to destroy GM sugar beet crops is to dig and cut them up, but the Irish innovated. One site was sprayed with petrol-based chemicals which destroyed 60% of the plants. The actions were claimed by the 'Little Fairies'.
Jose Marlucio da Silva, age 47, a Landless Workers Movement (MST) activist, was shot and killed on the 25th July 2000 during an anti-biotech action in Recife, the capital of the North Eastern Pernambuco state in Brazil. After occupying an Argentine boat carrying GM crops, the MST attempted to storm and occupy a bank. Jose was shot by police during the attempted bank storming.
Belgium saw its first GM trashing on May 7th 2000 when 200 people uprooted transgenic canola and maize at a Monsanto test site. The action was the finale to a 'Festival of Resistance to GMOs', which included action meetings, an organic picnic and talks by representatives from the French Confederation Paysanne and the Belgian Mouvement d'Action Paysanne. Towards the end of the day the crowd gathered into a colourful 'seed party' and walked joyfully to the experimental centre. They entered the fields and destroyed several parcels of maize and canola while dancing along to rock band Reni Binami who played from a nearby truck.
Tel: 00 32 3 319 58 89
Pineapples Shoved Down Under
On March 12th 2000 a group calling itself the Free Seed Liberation Front up-ended and trampled more than 200 GM pineapples in a field trial near Brisbane, Australia. The pineapples growing at the Horticulture Research Station were genetically engineered to flower simultaneously. This would then allow the pineapples to be harvested and processed at the same time. Protesters breached a two and a half metre high barbed wire fence to carry out the late night raid. Anna Manzoney, public affairs director for Avcare Ltd., an industry body representing biotechnology companies and manufacturers of agricultural chemicals, was quoted as saying: "They knew what they were doing, it wasn't a disorganised attack". Australia is trialling 21 genetically modified crops at secret locations around the country. Commercial production of genetically modified crops is presently limited to cotton and carnations.
2) 'Reclaim the Streets! Reclaim the Genes!', 24/7/00 See: http://www.ainfos.ca/00/jul/ainfos00304.html
3) Grain Rage statement to Minneapolis City Council, 16/8/00
4) 'Of Power Affirmed to Men and Safety Denied to Life', Third World Resurgence, issue 106. See: http://www.twnside.org.sg/
5) See 'The Peasants are Revolting... in France', Do or Die No.8, p.103