Via Campesina invades illegal transgenic plantation / Fighting contamination of organic maize in Catalonia (15/3/2006)

1.Via Campesina invades irregular transgenic plantation

EXCERPT: more than 50 persons cut down a contaminated organic maize field, and burned the nearly 4 tonnes of maize in protest for the situation organic farmers are living in Catalonia as a consequence of the expansion of GM maize fields. (item 2)

1.Via Campesina invades irregular transgenic plantation
Roberta Lopes Reporter - Agencia Brasil, 15/03/2006

Brasilia Members of the world network of rural workers "Via Campesina" invaded this Tuesday (14) an experimental field of "Syngenta", a transnational company of genetically modified seeds (transgenic), in Santa Tereza do Oeste, in the southern state of Parana.

Via Campesina says that the company's experimental field is incorrectly established in a protection area in the outskirts of the Iguacu National Park, which works as a type of protective barrier for the park.

The Superintendent of the National Environment Protection Agency (IBAMA), Marino Goncalves, confirmed that the experimental field is located six kilometers from the park, while the law determines a minimum distance of 10 km.

The Biosafety Law forbids planting genetically modified organisms or soy in these protective areas, as well as in indigenous lands and preservation areas.

IBAMA learned about the illegal planting through the non-governmental organization (NGO) "Terra de Direitos". The NGO denounced 18 properties located within the park’s protective area. 13 of them are in prohibited areas and had their plantations embargoed. Consequently, owners will not be able to plant genetically modified organisms there.

In addition, IBAMA will impose a fine on farmers that can amount to US$705.250 (R$1.5 million). Property owners may be sued for biosafety crime.

Translation: Andrea Alves


Last Sunday 26th February 2006, more than 50 persons cut down a contaminated organic maize field, and burned the nearly 4 tonnes of maize in protest for the situation organic farmers are living in Catalonia as a consequence of the expansion of GM maize fields.

All this happened in Albons, a small village near the coast 40 km from Girona, to the North of Catalonia, where the number of hectares of GM maize is growing year after year. Enric Navarro, the organic farmer, has built up near this village an agroecologic park, where people can come to learn about our local varieties, medicinal plants, and agroecology in general. On the other hand, Enric also produces organic certified products that are sold in the organic market.

This farmer had planted organic certified maize seeds two years ago and when he harvested he asked for the organic production certifying organism, the CCPAE (Consell Catala de la Produccio Agraria Ecologica), to analyse the yield. The analysis resulted to be negative for GMOs.

The next year he planted 3.300m2 of the same seed, but problems began the 18th of January when the CCPAE told him that the field had been contaminated by GM maize in a 12.6%. This supposes the biggest contamination percentage we have ever seen here in Catalonia. The production was desclassified by the CCPAE, who offered him to sell it as conventional maize.But Enric refused by principles, because he didn't want to introduce contaminated maize in the food chain.

He found himself alone in a difficult situation so he decided to contact Assemblea Pagesa (a social-based agrarian group) and Plataforma Transgenics Fora! (assembleary social-based group that fights against GMO crops and works for a GMO-free Catalonia) to inform us that he had decided to destroy the maize production and make public his case. We were glad to give him support and participate in the organisation of the event.

Before the field was destroyed, some samples were taken in order to make more analysis (the percentage is extremely high) and start a legal procedure against the government. We don't know which the contamination focus is, thus the area is covered by maize fields, a 40% of which are GM maize fields, and normally is under strong wind influence. The nearest fields, which we don't know if they are conventional or GM, are at 75 and 100m of distance which proves once more that the Catalan Coexistence Law waiting for approval, that establishes 50m as the distance between conventional/organic and GM fields, is insufficient.

The farmer estimated a loss of at least 2.000 € minimum, which no-one will pay for, but he wants to make clear he doesn't blame the other farmers but the Catalan Government for this situation. Furthermore he is having problems with the other farmers in the village that don't understand why he made all this [fuss about] this.

This is one more of all the contamination cases that have been detected in Spain since 2001. Last summer Plataforma Transgenics Fora! and Assemblea Pagesa, with the collaboration of Greenpeace, carried out a study in the area of Lleida, in West Catalonia, and Arago to detect other possible contamination cases. Of the 10 fields analysed looking for cross-pollination (5 conventional and 5 organic) 6 came out to be contaminated. This study will be presented internationally the 4th of April in Barcelona and Viena.

This case proves once more that coexistence is impossible, thus we will accept no distances and no coexistence laws. At the moment the national Coexistence Law has been stopped in Madrid as well as the Catalan Law, which was stopped by social mobilisation and is pendent of approval since March 2005. We are now starting a local social-based and GMO-free campaign in Catalonia, although the difficulties of having 17,000 GM maize hectares on our fields.

Working towards a GMO-free Catalonia!
No GMOs on our plates or on our fields
Annaïs Sastre Morato
Plataforma Transgenics Fora! (PTF!)
3rd March 2006, Barcelona

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