Mashing GM potatoes

June 2011

Activists blockade BASF warehouse
© Greenpeace / Christian ├ůslund
In the north of Sweden, biotech giant, BASF, is trying to plant Amflora, GM potatoes (for background see EU TO CULTIVATE HOT POTATO, GMFS News Archive, May 2010). The Swedes are not known for hot-blooded activism, but nevertheless, have been riled enough to block the entrance to BASF's potato warehouse. (Find out more here.)

They are particularly incensed that their government has has been openly critical of the weaknesses in the current EU GMO regulations and has asked for them to be strengthened, but at the same time has not taken any action to prevent Amflora from being cultivated in Sweden.

The activists are concerned that Amflora has been approved without sufficient independent studies, without an environmental risk assessment, without toxicity studies for animals or humans, and that the presence of an antibiotic resistance marker gene was simply ignored.


Although the GM potato is intended for industrial starch production, it has been approved in food and feed at low levels (up to 0.9%). The antibiotic-resistance marker gene contained in Amflora has been defined by the World Health Organisation as of “critical importance” in fighting tuberculosis and other serious diseases.

Elsewhere in Europe, Hungary (since joined by Austria, Luxembourg, Poland and France) has already taken the EU Commission to the European Court of justice. Greenpeace Austria, together with Justice and Environment, and other NGOs are also taking legal action in the European Court of Justice to end the approval of the GM potatoes. Several countries have already forbidden the cultivation of the GM potato.

In an action reminiscent of the Munlochy Vigil in Scotland (see more below) the Swedish campaigners are braving cold temperatures, rain and period police arrest to maintain the blockade on the warehouse. They say they are prepared to stay for weeks if needed.

The Munlochy Vigil – Scotland 2001-2002
“In August 2002, local people in the Highland demonstrated on a 100 acre field being sown with GM oilseed rape. This was the second Farm scale Evaluation, part of the wider UK programme, being held on a farm by Munlochy on the Black Isle. People dug their heels in and set up a round the clock vigil on a layby across the road from the GM site, which lasted for 343 days. The UK and devolved Scottish administration abandoned a projected third and final trial in the Highlands and to date the Highlands remains GM free.”

OUR COMMENT

You can support the Swedish activists by writing to their government. Greenpeace International has organised a letter to the Swedish Agriculture and Environmental ministers which you can send on-line (and can reword as you see fit). Check out: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/getinvolved/gmo-potato/

In case you're worried that the campaign against GM potatoes might hurt farmers, a Belgian farmer commenting after protesters damaged a field-trial of 'DURPH', GM blight-resistant potatoes in Belgium, said “They (the GM lobby) talk a lot about farmers, but we are never heard. This type of action strengthens us and seems like the only way forward for consumers and small producers ...”

The Belgium Field Liberation Movement which organised the demonstration said “let's come together and show that the resistance against GM agriculture is growing”. You can make a start simply by sending a letter.

SOURCES
  • Risky potato plan mashed by activists, Greenpeace Feature story, 19.05.11
  • Protesters destroy controversial field trial, GM Watch 29.05.11
  • Belgium: NO GM crops on our fields! A Seed Europe, 17.05.11
  • Activists held in 'Frankenfood' spuds raid, The Local, www.thelocal.se, 24.05.11
  • Jess Miller, Activists in Sweden continue to fight against the Amflora potato, Greenpeace, 26.05.11

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