News And Other Busyness
Genetix produces Summer Snowball
The seeds of discontent have been sown. Now activists aim to tackle the problem of genetically modified products at the root
Squall 16, Summer 1998, pg. 13.
Genetically manipulated organisms (GMO's) are being released into the environment and the food chain at an alarming rate with little or no public consultation and much public opposition.
The Iceland supermarket chain and British Sugar recently made a commitment to source genetically-manipulated-free raw materials for their products. Switzerland is set to hold a national referendum on the issue in July. Austria, Luxembourg and Italy all invoked Article 16 banning the import/and or commercial growth of genetically engineered maize in 1996 because they believe that it constitutes "a risk to human health and/or the environment".
Meanwhile, Jeff Rooker, the UK Agricultural Minister, has admitted that although he is sceptical about genetically engineered crops he is powerless to stop them because of the European Union.
Already in Cupar, Scotland, over 50 local people visited their local genetic engineering release site and pulled up all the genetically engineered oilseed rape plants just as they were about to flower and potentially contaminate neighbouring organic farmers' crops. They did this under the watchful eye of the local police who had been informed beforehand. No charges were made.
In April 600 locals marched down to a local farm in protest at plans to sow experimental genetically engineered maize in Totnes, Devon. A neighbouring farmer is also taking legal action in an attempt to halt the tests because of the risk of contamination of his organic crops and thereby his organic status.
At present there are no commercially grown genetically modified crops in Britain. Oilseed rape and fodder beet look set to be the first if nothing changes. Massive amounts of capital are invested in the Research and Development of these crops and activists say that if they are stopped before reaching the market place then the finance will not be recouped and this could very well stop further R & D of other crops. "This is a winnable campaign, but time is short and we must act now," said one activist.
Campaigner's latest plans include the Genetix Snowball, inspired by the Snowball non-violent civil disobedience campaign which resisted the presence of US military and nuclear arms bases in Britain. Over a three year period, thousands of people took part in the campaign at over 42 different places in Britain. Each participant wrote a statement explaining why they were engaging in civil disobedience before cutting a single strand of perimeter fence wire. The minimal property damage led to arrests and court cases where the 'criminals' explained their actions to court officials, magistrates, the press and members of the general public. Some refused to pay fines and served short prison sentences. Each person then tried to find two or three new activists to join the next action ensuring the growing 'snowball' effect.
Applying this principle to large, immovable fields of GM crops would seem to be an interesting development for a genetics campaign and, activists say, it would be essential to involve as many people as possible as some of the sites are huge and there are hundreds of them.
The Snowball principle includes non-violence and accountability as an essential prerequisite for individuals and groups taking part. Campaigners also suggest written statements handed in on arrest and/or writing letters to and meeting with representatives of the company doing the experiment, the farmer who works the land, and relevant government officials prior to the action. In this way dialogue is opened and enables interested parties to attempt to stop the experiments. The actions could be called off when one or more of the 'Snowballs' demands are met.
Contact: Genetix Snowball, Dept 153,
1 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1HW. Tel: 0161 224 4846.
For information about campaigns and actions against genetic engineering contact: Genetic Engineering Network, PO Box 9656,
London, N4 4JY. Tel. 0181 374 9516 firstname.lastname@example.org
For genetics action info on the web: www.envirolink.org/orgs/shag/genetix.html (offline) or the GEN website: http://www.dmac.co.uk/gen.html
The UK Genetic Engineering Network is an information sharing network for anyone actively campaigning against genetic engineering. GEN produces an (almost) regular newsletter the 'Genetix Update' as well as an email information service. They can also put you in touch with others in your area that are active on this issue. Donations welcome!
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