We, as the “Verde Eufémia” Movement, would like to answer to some of the articles that have appeared in the national media concerning our action that involved the cutting down of a small portion of the first transgenic crop in the region of Algarve. We consider that the readers were deprived of some information, and some mistakes were created.
First of all, our decision to apply direct action and civil disobedience strategies, that can be considered as radical, can only be understood considering it within the context of the current situation regarding GMOs in Portugal.
The whole region of Algarve was in Portugal the first zone free of transgenics, after the declaration by the “Junta Metropolitana do Algarve”, in 2004. This means that all community councils in Algarve opposed themselves against the culture of GMO’s in agriculture. This measure was taken with strong support from local environmental groups, farmers and citizens. Even so, transgenic cultures were introduced in the region by the private enterprise of one farmer.
If the legal State is unable to protect the common good, we think that civilian movements need to organize themselves and act with conscience and responsibility, to re-establish the necessary order. In our view, all political and judicial measures in the attempt to defend the welfare, social and environmental rights of its citizens have been exhausted, which made us consider as a last option the application of strategies that go beyond legal boundaries of the state. Strategies of civil disobedience have thus become a necessary tool to make adequate changes.
In the history of GMOs, the policies and laws of the European Committee and Portuguese Government clearly haven’t been serving the interests of it’s citizens. The last community directive about the certification of Biologic Agriculture, allowed products to contain up to 0,9 % of transgenics. We consider this to be a violation of consumer rights, since this kind of certified products is the only warrant that consumers have in order to choose food free from GMOs. It has been proofed that these organisms are a threat to the health of its consumers, to the environment and that they compromise the social rights of the farmers that choose to plant GMO’s, as well as to who practices conventional and biologic farming.
On the publication “Organismos Geneticamente Modificados e Agricultura” (Azevedo, 2007), are numbered several independent studies that show:
- breaks in the production of transgenic cultures, compared to conventional ones, leading to the payment of fines by the biotechnology companies (Monsanto vs. US Farmers, Report from the Center for Food Safety- CFS, 2005);
- increase in the costs of production with the use of pesticides, during the appearance of resistant insects, super-plagues or secondary plagues (The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World, Independent Science Panel, June 2003) and with the impossibility of storing seeds to the next years, making thus necessary to buy them yearly;
- increase in production costs for the conventional and biologic practices in order to stop the easy contamination bytransgenics (“Al grano; Impacto del Maiz trangénico em Espana”. Greenpeace and Amigos de la Tierra report, August 2003);
- fines and indictments imposed to farmers, by biotecnology companies, that saw they’re cultures contaminated by neighbor transgenic ones or for returning to conventional practices, after using geneticaly modified seeds (Monsanto vs. US Farmers, report from the Center for Food Safety- CFS, 2005);
- a decrease in the fertility, time span and even death of cattle fed with transgenic products (Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Dields Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh. Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006).
This facts show us that Portugal and EU policies referring to the production and commerce of transgenics serve, in our view, the interests of the GMO industry and not of the citizens that they should protect.
It is also necessary to underline some of the statements made by the farmer José Menezes that declared himself to “starve to death” if his field was to be cut down. Some corrections are necessary. The farmer is known for using for large scale intensive farming for several years, and of planting GMOs since 1 year only. This is in fact a contradiction, since the large majority of farmers in Portugal uses traditional and small scale methods, and also self-support themselves.
We remind that the destroyed surface certainly hasn’t exceeded 1 hectare in a field of 50 hectares, so the loss of profit won’t weaken his future survival. It’s also important to remind that in the several attempts to establish a conversation with the farmer, biological seeds were offered to him, in order for him to replant all his production, in case he wants to abandon transgenic cultures.
Furthermore, we don’t understand in what facts are based the allegations in which some of the protesters had used physic violence against the farmer.
We repeat, just like in our first press release, that we have no intention of harming the farmer in any way, renouncing totally and kind of physical aggression. Although it is possible to understand to some extent the emotional reaction by the farmer and his colleagues during the action, in the attempt to protect his cultivated property from being cut-down, it was the activists that were physically attacked by the farmers in a violent way, as we can see in the television filming. Our principles of action as Verde Eufémia Movement are clear: a non-violent attitude towards living beings and strategies and a behaviour based on a de-escalatory attitude during the action. In this way we deny that any kind of physical violence has been applied by any of the activists.
We also would like to remember the words of the GNR (national guard) commander – Bengala, that confirmed that “all went along in a civilized way”. We would like to compliment the adequate way in which the authorities acted after their arrival on the site, after the cut-down and faced with activists leaving the field by their own initiative, while being attacked by the farmers.
We remind that there is support from the local population and biological farmers to the intention of keeping the region of Algarve free from transgenic contamination.
Hopefully, after this reaction, some details have been made clear. After this press release, we also hope that more citizens stand up in our name and cut-down other transgenic fields in Portugal.