Police guards and barbed wire keep out public opinion while the GE seed industry plots the contamination of European land inside.
Sometimes Greenpeace uncovers the bad guys, and sometimes they
This rainy Monday morning a Greenpeace supporter in Brussels
tipped us off that the European Seed Industry was meeting to
discuss genetically engineered seed - not that it was difficult to
tell! When we arrived to check it out we discovered an entire
Brussels street had been cordoned off with razor wire. Armoured
vans and over 110 police surrounded the Crowne plaza hotel with the
sort of protection usually afforded to ministers and heads of
states. So what exactly was going on inside?
"Its a meeting about the transgenic seeds," explained a friendly
policeman handing out Belgian waffles to his troops manning the
barbed wire "They are worried that Greenpeace will find out."
There was a time when the seed industry was about providing
farmers and gardeners with the seeds they needed to grow the food
people wanted. Today's seed industry however is another arm of the
genetic engineering industry and is made to dance to their
The world's largest seed companies are now either owned by GE
companies (such as Du Pont's Pioneer Seeds) or are themselves GE
companies such as Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta. First they tried to
mix GE ingredients with the food unlabelled. Then they tried
unsuccessfully to convince farmers and consumers to support GE
crops. Now they moving on to plan C: Contamination.
Plan C: Contamination.
"The real strategy is to introduce so much genetic pollution that meeting the consumer demand for GM-free food is seen as not possible. The idea, quite simply, is to pollute faster than countries can legislate - then change the laws to fit the contamination."
Naomi Klein, When Choice Becomes Just A Memory, The Guardian,
January 21, 2001
For two years the European Seed Association has been at the
forefront of lobbying for a new European Seed Contamination
Directive. That regulation was due to be finalised next month.
It would allow an initial release of up to 7000 million
unregulated and unmonitored GE plants across Europe by
contaminating ordinary planting seed that all farmers buy. It could
affect the 10 percent of EU arable land currently planted to maize
and oilseed rape. It could introduce an unprecedented amount of GE
contamination into the food chain.
Greenpeace and others have warned that it would add extra costs
to farmers and could destroy the viability of the European organic
industry which must stay GE-free.
In one respect the barbed wire was no surprise. The proposed
Seed Contamination Directive has so far been characterised by
closed doors and secrecy.
In an unusual move, both the European Parliament and Council of
EU Environment ministers are being excluded from the decision
making process on this controversial measure. Instead an unelected
technical committee, the Standing Committee on Seeds, are being
asked to give the final go ahead for what may be the biggest single
release of GE crops Europe has ever seen. The only other body who
will have any say is the World Trade Organisation. It feels like a
stitch-up from start to finish.
Perhaps though the seed industry has good reason to be
In the past few weeks thousands of Greenpeace cyberactivists
have been emailing European ministers to alert them to the real
cost of the GE Seed Contamination Directive. Last week Greenpeace
and others presented an online petition signed by over 70,000
individuals and 300 farmer, environmental and consumer groups
representing over 25 million members.
Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, who received the
petition seemed surprised and concerned by the scope of impact of
legalising seed contamination.
Down in central Brussels police are still standing in the rain
and waiting in riot vans. They have even closed down the botanical
garden, a little green haven of biodiversity, so that the
genetically engineered seed industry can safely plan the
destruction of our agricultural diversity away from public view. An
undercover detective stops me and searches my bags, expecting
Greenpeace climbers and thousands of activists to arrive
momentarily on the street. I smile as I think of the thousands of
cyberactivists sending their concerns direct to EU ministers.
There are ways to get past razor wire.
If you live in Europe please join the cyberaction on GE seeds and send letters
to your national agriculture minister asking them not to accept
GE contamination in our seeds.