| Friday 13th April
2007 | Issue 583
WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!! IT'S YER DOUBLE HELIX...
Version - Download, Print, Copy and Distribute!
Story Links: Spud-U-Hate | Crap Arrest Of The Week | War Briefs | Put A Socpa In It | Cutting the Mustard | Party & Protest
| Soar Losers | ...and finally...
NEW GM CROP TRIALS FACE A ROASTING FROM ACTIVISTS
Mutant foods are back!
After the likes of Aventis, SynGenta and Bayer were forced to quit
the UK back in 2003 (see SchNEWS 448)
- after the most successful ecological grass-roots struggle in our
history, BASF are trying again with farm-scale trials of GM spuds.
BASF - 'The Chemical
Company' according the their PR men - are proposing to plant two
crops of genetically modified potatoes in Britain, one in Cambridge
and the other in Heddon, Yorkshire. Last year an attempt to grow
the mutatoes in Ireland was abandoned after the Irish government
insisted on stringent safety testing with independent scientists
monitoring the crop. Not wanting to risk an unfavourable outcome,
BASF didn't bother - so they approached UK plc where a licence was
rubberstamped with virtually no conditions. The bent spuds are due
to be planted in the next couple of weeks, but there's still time
to stop them. One Derbyshire farmer has already pulled out and even
if they are planted it will be at least eight years before they
can be grown commercially.
WEEDING THEM OUT
So how was the first
wave of GM foods resisted in the UK? For old times sake,
SchNEWS is gonna take you on a whirlwind tour of the successes of
the anti-GM movement and the diversity of tactics employed. Every
link of the chain was hit, from the farmers and food producers to
the supermarkets and companies behind the technology.
GM foods first reared
their artificially ugly heads in the UK back in 1996. When they
first hit shop shelves (hot on the heels of the Mad Cow Crisis)
there was a wave of revulsion at this meddling with the food chain,
leading to the new crops being labelled "Franken-foods".
Despite huge PR efforts by the Bio-tech companies, they simply couldn't
force them down the public throat. With this level of public support,
direct action became phenomenally effective. Within eight years
the corporations admitted (temporary) defeat, with Bayer making
|BASF state the trials are designed
to test whether potatoes can be genetically modified to be resistant
to blight. However, given the historical context, it seems more
likely their function is to test if the UK public is still resistant
to GM. - Mutatoes.org
Initially, campaigners armed with leaflets, stickers, d-locks,
and press releases descended on supermarkets and food producers.
Within a remarkably short space of time, many of them had pulled
out of using GM ingredients. Trolley jams were a favourite tactic
- filling a trolley with goods and leaving them, or taking them
to the checkout and demanding to know which foods were GM and which
weren't (at least it makes Saturday afternoon in Sainsbury's a bit
more interesting for the till monkeys). Foods were plastered with
stickers alerting shoppers to the presence of genetically altered
ingredients; corporate HQs were occupied; supermarkets and food
distribution points were blockaded. Keen to disassociate themselves
from a PR disaster, all the major supermarket chains soon fell into
line and GM foods disappeared off the shelves.
All GM food for sale at that point was imported, but in the late
nineties the Bio-tech companies developed strains suitable to grow
in the UK - their research and trial crops immediately became the
target for sustained direct action. 8th June 1997 saw the first
crop-trashing, when Super Heroes Against Genetics (SHAG, geddit?
Har, har) scored a six with a game of midnight cricket with a crop
of GM potatoes.
COME A CROPPER
As the above ground campaign intensified with banner demos and
meetings to raise public awareness, more and more test sites were
getting trashed. Some opted for the route of accountability, donning
white bio-hazard suits and getting nicked. Others crept around the
hedgerows in the dead of night pouncing on unsuspecting plants.
Some test sites were so small that they were 'de-contaminated' by
a handful of anonymous people. At the other end of the (farm) scale,
the largest was in 1999 at Watlington, Oxfordshire where over 600
people held a rally then marched into a field of Monsanto oil-seed
rape. Police were powerless to stop them.
Throughout 2000 and 2001, day and night actions continued, concentrating
on the National Seed Listing trials. These are necessary to get
approval for new crop varieties to be introduced and their locations
were published by DEFRA. Disruptions of them were severe and the
GM companies suffered lost work equalling many sackfuls of money.
This led to many crops being protected with cameras and security
- as at Wivenhoe and Arlesford in Essex where crops protected by
infra red and mobile patrols were trashed 95% and 10% respectively.
Syngenta then did lots of its research at Jealotts Hill, a large
fenced complex in Berkshire. Not perturbed by the fortifications,
activists still managed to destroy 75% of the trial.
In relation to the scale of the damage caused, very few people have ever been arrested for destroying a GM crop, let alone been successfully prosecuted. The police and prosecutors tried various legal shenanigans to secure convictions but sentencing was invariably light. The Bio-corporations involved were desperate to avoid creating 'martyrs' and often requested that charges be dropped.
Having disrupted the trials, the campaign moved on to stopping
the crops being planted in the first place. "Crop squats"
took place - taking a leaf out of anti-road protesting books, the
land to be planted was occupied. In Munlochy, Scotland, one squat
amazingly managed to get planning permission from the local council
for a temporary caravan next to the site, which acted as a focus
for the campaign. Many farmers enlisted by the corporations later
bowed under public pressure and pulled out of planting. One 2001
campaign in Hailsham, Sussex, saw the farmer pull out after a combination
of leafleting, a public meeting of his neighbours and a couple of
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the public don't want GM
foods, the companies have ploughed on regardless, supported by the
zeal of Tony Blair and Lord Sainsbury - his Science Minister and
biggest financial backer, who just happened to have a financial
interest in GM crops! When, in 2003, it looked as if commercial
GM crops were to be grown in the UK, the campaigners shifted their
focus and went after Bayer Crop Science (see SchNEWS
423), the leading GM cropper in Britain at the time.
In an eight month period there were over 50 actions against them;
Bayer suffered numerous office invasions, demonstrations and acts
of sabotage. The campaign also targeted top scientists and directors
of Bayer at conferences and with home visits; at the British Potato
2003 event they had their stand trashed, which led to Bayer saying,
"This demonstration shows that these campaigners had lost their
argument against GM" - But a month later the results of a government
survey, GM Nation, resulted in a massive public thumbs down for
GM. The campaigners had won the argument, it was just that Bayer
were not listening - the campaign continued despite an injunction
under the Protection from Harassment Act (see SchNEWS
While they finally got approval for one of their GM crops, a variety
of Maize, Bayer eventually decided not to bother with growing in
the UK. The other big players in the GM game, Syngenta and Monsanto,
have also pulled out of developing GM crops here. So for the last
three years Britain has been GM crop free - with BASF entering the
fray it's time to hit them before they even get a toehold...
* There will be anti-GM potato rallies over the next two weekends
in Cambridge and in Hull: Sat 14th, Meet at Histon Baptist Church,
Station Road, Histon, at 11am. From Cambridge take the Citi 7 bus
from Drummer Street and train station. More info: www.cambridgeaction.net/gmconcern
Also Pirate Cycle Ride, 10am Top of Mill Road Railway Bridge, then
a leisurely music and potato- based cycle ride over to Histon.
http://groups.google.com/group/somos-todos-piratas. Sat 21st,
meet 1pm at the Preston Road Family Community Centre, Salt End,
Hull. With a walk to the site at 2pm. www.mutatoes.org/n002-hullrally.php
* More info about GM potatoes at www.mutatoes.org
Crap Arrest of the Week
For wheelie bad behaviour...
A seven year old boy in Baltimore, USA was arrested, carted off to the police station, handcuffed to a bench and had his fingerprints and mug shot taken. All for sitting on his dirt bike on the pavement.
The boy, Gerard Mungo Jr, was sitting on his bike with the engine off when an over zealous copper dragged him off by the collar in front of his mum.
After the cops confiscated the bike and arrested Gerard, they took him down to the local cop shop and interrogated him.
"They scared me." said Gerard to a local newspaper, before he burst into tears.
The arrest was criticised as part of a wider 'zero tolerance' policy instigated by the former mayor of Baltimore. Gerard's mother said, "This has changed his life. He'll never be the same again."
FASLANE 365: 700th arrest after 6 months (See SchNEWS 581) - This Tuesday (10th), the 700th person was arrested since the Faslane 365 protests began in October last year, when the 'CIA & Friends' blockaded the North gate at Faslane closing it for an hour. Ten were arrested, six from Switzerland, the others all from mainland Europe. The day before on Easter Monday there was also another protest - in full cow costume - at the North gate. For updates on the continuing protests see www.faslane365.org
* On April 2nd, eleven protesters from Northamptonshire held a peaceful protest at Faslane, with a performance of the play 'Anti-Nuclear Monologues' tracing the story of four anti-war protesters going back to the large Aldermaston marches in the 1950s and later Greenham Common women's peace camp (See SchNEWS 274)
* 50 people from Nottingham and Derby protested at the base on April 1st, blockading the entrance for 4 hours. A six-way lock-on had police needing to find specialist equipment to dismantle it, with the arrest-o-meter jumping up by seventeen. The day before the same group marched around the base.
* Protesters from Trident Ploughshares and Block The Builders blockaded the gates at Aldmaston atomic weapons base in Berkshire this Tuesday, with five arrests. This base is currently being under a £5 billion refit in preparation for New Labours plans to renew the UK's nuclear arsenal. For more see www.blockthebuilders.org.uk
PUT A SOCPA IN IT
Maya Evans and Milan Rai, the first activists nicked under SOCPA
laws for organising an unauthorised demo in Parliament Square last
October, were in court again this week (10th). This time they
were up for participating in a demo contrary to SOCPA for the 'No
More Fallujahs ' demo in Oct 2006. Despite having explicitly
confessed their guilt to police - and in public indicated they are
ready to go to jail to highlight the draconian SOCPA laws that ban
all spontaneous, un-pre-approved protesting within a kilometre of
Parliament (See SchNEWS 567)
- they weren't put on trial for organising, merely participation.
It seems the cops are frightened to make martyrs of them whilst
defending such a ridiculous piece of legislation.
The whole trial has been farcical as proceedings have ground to a halt following Milan and Maya's refusal to give their dates of birth. The case has now been adjourned for them to face a contempt hearing on April 20th. While participants in unauthorised demos face fines of up to £1000, contempt of court can lead to fines of £2500 and a month inside, but it remains to be seen whether the courts will grant the plucky duo's wish to go behind bars for their right to protest... For a full court report see www.j-n-v.org
* April 21 - Anti-SOCPA demo: THE BIG ONE. Mark Thomas
is arranging another mass lone demo 10.30am-5.30pm at Parliament
Square. This time there have been 1,184 applications for spurious
demos on this date lodged at Charing Cross police - carefully
following the legal requirements for protests under SOCPA Laws.
For more see SchNEWS 560
Cutting The Mustard
Another week, another social centre under threat. After last months
violent eviction of the Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen (see SchNEWS
579) to benefit a right wing, racist bunch of Christian nut
jobs, now is the turn of Les Tanneries in Dijon, France.
Built on the site of an old slaughterhouse and tannery, 'Espace autogéré des Tanneries' or 'The Tanneries autonomous space' has been around for 10 years, and was given a non-eviction agreement from the city council 2002 after years of fighting for a free, autonomous space in the city. Despite this agreement the "socialist" council have started negotiations - without public consultation - to sell off the land to Générale de Santé, Europes largest private healthcare provider who last year made a cool £1.18 billion in profit, and are 10% owned by the transnational Vivendi.
Les Tanneries - a centre with cinema, library, housing collective, squatters help desk and more - is one of a number of squats and free spaces under threat in Dijon with an alternative theatre and housing collective also under fire from the council's neo-liberal "progress".
* For updates see http://squat.net/tanneries
* Two squats in Rennes, France were forcibly evicted on
Wednesday by taser and stun grenade wielding riot cops. The properties
have been sold off by the council for the obligatory dodgy development,
the deal for which, quelle surprise, was conducted behind the scenes.
After the inhabitants were kicked out workmen moved in to remove
all doors and windows to prevent the buildings being squatted again.
As the climate continues heating up, so does peoples determination
to take direct action against the climate criminals. Nottingham's
Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station was stormed by activists
this week as part of the 'Spring into Action' week organised
by Eastside Climate Action. Whilst some protested at the main gate,
twelve demonstrators infiltrated the site and prevented operations
by climbing onto machinery and dumper trucks and chaining themselves
into place. By locking on to the conveyor belt taking coal into
the furnace and the machines that riddle (ok, sieve basically) the
coal, they managed to seriously hamper production, forcing a number
of the generators offline. Unfortuntely they were removed by police
just one hour before shutting the whole plant down for 48 hours,
but they certainly made their point and cost owners E.ON a fair
amount of cash into the bargain. This may have been some consultation
to the eleven people ultimately nicked for trespass.
This all reminds us of the 'Camp for Climate Change' last year when Drax power station near Leeds was targeted by protesters (See SchNEWS 557). This year another Camp is scheduled for August 14th- 21st. For more info visit www.climatecamp.org.uk
* The Bath Climate Camp will be running from Thursday 19th
through to Sunday the 22nd in a field somewhere near where the Lower
Bristol Road out of Bath meets the A4 towards Bristol. As well as
workshops and DIY sessions, there'll be talks, a vegan kitchen,
a kids zone, music and more (who knows, maybe even an action). e-mail:
email@example.com or see www.myspace.com/bathclimatecamp
- APRIL 14 - Haringey Independent Cinema Festival - with practical workshops and screenings including Hasting Free TV; The Battle for Broadway Market; Black Panther, Despite TV - excerpts from Battle of Trafalgar and more. 12 noon-8pm at West Green Learning Centre, West Green Road, London N15. £5/£3 email firstname.lastname@example.org web www.haringey.org.uk/hic
- 17 - Greenspeak: Fuelling a food crisis. The impact of peak oil and rising fuel costs on our ability to feed ourselves. 7.15pm at Terraces Bar & Grill, Marine Parade, Brighton. Donation. tel 07891 571739, email email@example.com web www.greenspeak-brighton.org.uk
- 17 - First Meeting to organise against the proposed Newhaven
Incinerator, which would emit 3.5million cubic metres of CO2
per day, spewing out carcinogenic dioxins (See SchNEWS
488). At Cowley Club, 12 London Rd, Brighton, 5-7pm. There
will be regular meetings every third Tuesday. Tel 07722 172 393,
- 21 - Demo and day of action against the Gatwick asylum seekers'
detention centre being built. Meet at Jubilee Field in Three
Bridges 12noon. Nearest train station Three Bridges - come
out of the station and turn left into East Ave, after 2 minutes
walk the park is on the right. Called by No Borders. For more
info email firstname.lastname@example.org For transport from Brighton call
07880 523231, email email@example.com London call 07983
- 21 - Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) Annual Conference: Rights and Resistance. Including SACC AGM and launch meeting of Media Workers Against the War Scotland. 9.30am-6pm at STUC, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow. Web www.sacc.org.uk/diary.php>
- 22-29 - World Week for Animals in Laboratories - there will be a range of protests, street stalls, and media events to stop testing and research on animals. To see what's going on in your area see www.veggies.org.uk/event.php?ref=65
Our weekly scrape of the bottom of the barrel turned up nothing particulary amusing this week - so instead of churing out something really ropey, we're reclaiming some of our dignity and pride by having a wee cough.
SchNEWS warns all readers - mash up yer spuds, but not at the molecular level. Honest!
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