GENET archive


CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVITIES: GM crops destroyed in Portugal and France

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: The Resident, Portugal

AUTHOR: Eloise Walton


DATE:   23.08.2007

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Movimento Verde Eufémia mows first GM Field in South Portugal



AROUND 100 anti-GM protesters destroyed more than a hectare of genetically modified corn at the Herdade da Lameira farm in Silves while the owner tried desperately to stop them before the GNR arrived. The President of Portugal and the Minister of Agriculture have condemned the acts of vandalism.

João Menezes, the 56-year-old farmer, was surprised on August 17 by a group of around 100 protesters who destroyed part of his 51 hectare farm of genetically modified (GM) corn. By the time the GNR arrived on the scene to escort the protesters off the premises, they had already destroyed one hectare of the crop.

During the protest, the activists had their faces covered to protect themselves against the pollen. After being identified and escorted off the land by the authorities, the protesters continued their rally against genetically modified products as they marched with banners into the village of Poço Barreto.

This action was promoted and supported by two environmental groups, the newly created Verde Eufémia and the Algarve based Almargem as well as some of the local population and organic farmers who disagree with GM crops.

Mr Menezes said that his farm is completely legalised and has been inspected by the Ministry of Agriculture. ”This is what my family live on; it is our only means of income,” said Mr Menezes, adding: ”If they destroy this corn, I will die of hunger. Someone has to pay for the damages.”

Luis Grifo, the technical engineer responsible for the corn crop at the Herdade da Lameira, said: ”It is only known that GM corn is planted here because all of the regulations have been adhered to and all of the neighbours have been informed. Portugal only produces corn for three months of the year; during the rest of the year, corn is imported, of which 90 per cent is genetically modified.”

Since the incident, the environmental group Almargem has asked the Portuguese government to destroy the GM crop at the Herdade da Lameira. A spokesman said: ”We are asking for the immediate application of the emergency measures outlined in article 25° of the law decree n° 72/2003 of April 10.”

This law regulates the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, as well as the placement of these products on the market, conforming to the principle of precaution, taking into account the protection of human health and the environment.

”The presence of GM crops in the Algarve could have a catastrophic impact on the region’s main industry, tourism, with unpredictable social consequences,” said the spokesman.

Castelão Rodrigues, regional director of Agricultura do Algarve, said: ”The farm is legal and I cannot see why Almargem is invoking that particular law”.

Mr Menezes has decided to press charges against the protesters responsible for the damages caused, and who were identified by the GNR, which could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years.

During visits to the Algarveon Monday, President Cavaco Silva and Jaime Silva, Minister of Agriculture, condemned the acts of vandalism at the Herdade da Lameira.

Cavaco Silva appealed to the authorities during a speech in Albufeira for an investigation to be carried out on the vandalism of genetically modified crops in Silves. ”There can be no doubt that the law in Portugal is to be obeyed and those who have the power to make it be obeyed must not let this happen,” said the President.

Jaime Silva visited farmer José Menezes to offer him legal support, saying: ”Those responsible for the damages caused will pay, have no doubts.

”If it (GM crop) does not cause problems to public health, if it generates more income and is an environmentally friendly corn, as it does not need pesticides, why should we not plant it?,” said Jaime Silva.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: The Independent, UK

AUTHOR: John Lichfield


DATE:   27.08.2007

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Growing tensions in France between opponents and supporters of genetically modified crops have led to violent confrontations.

Gendarmes used tear gas and batons to prevent pro-GM farmers from invading a picnic for militant opponents of genetically modified maize at the town of Verdun-sur-Garonne in south-west France over the weekend.

Hardly a day has gone by this summer without opponents of GM maize - both environmental campaigners and small farmers - invading fields and trampling or cutting down crops. The protesters, led by the small- farmers’ leader, José Bové, claim a citizens’ right to destroy crops which, they say, threaten ecological calamity and the subjection of farmers to the whims of agro-industrial, multinational companies.

Tempers have risen to boiling point since the suicide earlier this month of a farmer in the Lot département who had agreed to plant a small section of GM maize. He took his life a few days after he had been warned that anti-GM protesters planned to hold a picnic on his fields.

The largest French farmers’ federation, the FNSEA, called for Saturday’s demonstration to protest against attacks on crops and alleged government inaction. Gendarmes used tear gas to prevent the farmers from crossing a bridge to the site of the anti-GM picnic, which was addressed by the extravagantly moustachioed M. Bové.

”If Bové keeps on cutting down our crops, we’re going to shave his moustache,” said one protester.

Michel Masson, head of the FNSEA in the central area of France, said: ”There has already been one death and I can tell you that many farmers, rather than hang themselves from a tree, are now ready to take their rifles off the wall.”

The confrontation is partly between town and country. It is also a confrontation between two different approaches to agriculture. The FNSEA supports a ”scientific” and highly productive approach to agriculture. M. Bové and his supporters argue for a traditional, small-scale approach.

Successive governments have shied away from legislating clearly on GM crops. Most types are banned but farmers have been allowed to plant, experimentally, a variety of maize called MON810, developed by the US company, Monsanto, which is said to be immune to insect attack.



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