>REPORT ON FRENCH FARMERS
Beth von Gunten (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mon, 23 Mar 1998 16:04:34 -0800 (PST)
>REPORT ON FRENCH FARMERS
>Thanks to the <email@example.com> genetic engineering news group for
>posting the following report:
>What follows is a moving account of why the French Farmers from
>Confederation Paysanne destroyed GE maize. It is written by Jose Bove, one
>of the farmers that stood trial for this 'crime'.
> Today, I am present in this court together with Rene Riesel and Francis
>Roux, accused of committing a serious crime according to the law.
> The alleged crime is: the destruction of sacks of genetically modified maize.
> Yes, this is serious, and that's why I assume full responsibility for it.
>I am not going to hide behind collective, anonymous responsibility. As a
>trade unionist in the Confederation Paysanne, I believe in the ability of
>everyone to act as an individual. There is no place in our trade union for
>a heirarchy of responsibility. Each member of the union plays a main part
>in her or his own future, and is fully engaged in this. The strength of our
>union movement rests on this determination to mobilise free individuals who
>accept all the consequences of their acts knowing fully the motive for them.
> Yes, on the 8th of January I participated in the destruction of
>genetically modified maize, which was stored in Novartis's grain silos in
>Nerac. (And the only regret I have now, is that I wasn't able to destroy
>more of it.)
> I knew that by acting in this way I was doing something illegal. But it
>was necessary, and we had no other choice. The way in which genetically
>modified agricultural products have have been imposed on European countries
>didn't leave us with any alternative.
> When was there a public debate on gentically modified organisms? When were
>farmers and consumers asked what they think about this? Never.
> The decisions have been taken at the level of the World Trade
>Organisation, and state machinery complies with the law of market forces.
>The WTO dictates its own law on the opening of trade barriers. The
>obligation to import bovine somatotrophine meat from the USA is a good
>example of this. The Panel of the WTO, the true policeman of world trade,
>decides what's “good” for both countries and their people, without
>consultation or a right of appeal.
> The countries or groups of countries which refuse the importation of
>bovine somatotrophine meat or genetically modified products have to prove
>that these are dangerous, and not the inverse! The Codex Alimentaris, the
>norm dictated by the multinationals, is there to fix the rules of the game!
> Why refuse something which is presented as “progress”? It's not because
>of old fashionedness, or regret for the “good old days”. It's because of
>concern for the future, and because of a will to have a say in future
>development. I am not opposed to fundamental research. I think that it
>would be illusory and detrimental to want to curb it. On the other hand, I
>don't think that every application of research is necessarily desired, at
>the human, social or environmental level.
> The current discussion on cloning is like the one on genetic
>modifications. Is everything that is possible actually desired by and
>gainful for people?
> Today, no intelligent person can say that genetically modifed maize is an
>example of progress, neither for agriculture, nor for the economy. On the
>other hand, the greatest concerns surrounding genetically modified maize
>are as equally important for human health as for nature.
> Novartis's Bt maize is associated with multiple long-term risks because of
>the presence of the three introduced genes. Even the director of Novartis
>recognises that a “zero risk” simply doesn't exist. Is this an admission of
>powerlessness, or a way in which to cast aside his future responsibility in
>case there are problems? The problems arising today with certain
>agricultural practices (such as animal-based feeds, the effects on bee
>populations etc.) only serve to reinforce our caution when dealing with
>the sorcerer's apprentices.
> The biggest danger which genetically modified maize represents, as well as
>all the other GMOs, is the impossibility of evaluating the long-term
>consequences of their use, and to follow their effects on the environment,
>animals and humans.
> No separation of genetically modified and non-manipulated products is
>carried out. For example, non-manipulated and genetically modified soja are
>actually mixed together when they arrive in France. As a result, there is
>no way of tracing the genetically modified soja. There is no choice left,
>neither for the producer, of which I am one, nor for the consumer, amongst
>whom we all number. What's going to happen about the French AOC label which
>verifies the origin of a product, and other labels which indicate quality?
> What guaranteee can we offer to those who claim to eat healthy products?
> This type of culture also poses a threat to the future of farmers. For
>some decades productionism has served to enslave farmers. From being a
>producer, the farmer has now become someone who is exploited, who can no
>longer decide on her or his way of managing the land, nor freely choose her
>or his techniques for this. However, a real revolution has been taking
>place for the last 15 years amongst members of the Confederation Paysanne,
>who have put this other type of agriculture back into action. Today, more
>and more farmers lay claim to a farmer's agriculture, which is more
>autonomous, economic, and which integrates problems associated with the
>environment, employment, and regional planning. We are faced with a real
>choice for society.
> - either we accept intensive production and the huge reduction in the
>number of farmers in the sole interests of the World Market, - or, we
>create a farmer's agriculture for the benefit of everyone. Genetically
>modified maize is also the symbol of a system of agriculture and a type of
>society which I refuse to accept. Genetically modified maize is purely the
>product of technology, where the means become the end. Political choices
>are swept aside by the power of money.
> Agriculture is a perfect illustration of this type of logic, which
>pervades every facet of food production. Agricultural production has now
>become the agro-industry. From the farmers who formed their small
>cooperatives, we have seen a conversion to the firms who have rationalized
>their systems of production in order to maximize profits on their
>investments. Since the 1920s, maize in the USA has been hybridized in order
>to oblige all farmers to buy seeds through a trust.
> The trusts merged in order to invest in new techniques, which were capable
>of releasing new profits.
> Novartis, the world's leading pharmaceutical group, invests billions in
>order to remain number one: they sell seeds, herbicides, pesticides and
>medicines. But competition is strong, and as a result of the merger which
>took place between two of their main competitors last week, they have
>announced a plan to lay-off 2000 employees in order to assure their
>shareholders of the profitablility of the company.
> Is it this kind of logic we want?
>No - I reject this lurch forwards where the aim of the economy isn't to
>satisfy needs, but is merely production for production's sake, without any
>link to the interests of the individual or the whole.
> Do we need genetically modified maize in Europe?
> No - in 1997 the maize production increased yet again. It's overflowing
>the silos. The European Union has to stock the excess. And who's got to pay
>for this - citizens. Who needs these new seeds? No-one - it's only Novartis
>who wants to get the returns on its investment and remain the number one
>pharmaceutical group in the world!
> By destroying the genetically modified maize seeds on the 8th of January
>at the Novartis factory in Nerac, we wanted to put this short-sighted logic
>into the spotlight.
> A democratic debate simply doesn't exist. The conspiracy of silence
>organised by the companies and the sovereign states is the sole logic which
>prevails. Like with the blood contaminated with the HIV virus, or mad cow
>disease, the public musn't be alarmed. Everything has to be allowed to
>continue in silence.
> By appearing before you today, I'm aware of being in breach of the law
>which wants every citizen to be content with expressing her or his views by
>simply putting their vote in the urn every six years.
> But it's not in this way that social and economic problems are resolved -
>on the contrary.
> Through the action which we undertook and for which we are being judged,
>we kicked-off a vast citizen's movement whch refuses the use of GMOs in
>foodstuffs for animals and for humans. These actions will stop when this
>mad logic comes to a halt.
> Yes, this action was illegal, but I lay claim to it because it was
>legitimate. I don't demand clemency, but justice. Either we have acted in
>everyone's interest and you will acquit us, or we have shaken the
>establishment and in that case you will punish us.
> There is no other issue.
> 3rd February 1998, Agen, France
> JOSE BOVE
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