Biotech lobby brochure launched at Seed Liberation demonstration in Brussels
On Monday 18 April, one day after the Via Campesina International Day of Farmers’ Struggle, a colourful ‘Anti Biotech and Pesticide Lobby tour’ took demonstrators to the streets in the EU quarter, ending at the European Parliament. The demonstration was preceded by a European-wide “Seed Swap” of diverse seed varieties (often illegal under current EU law), encouraging people to freely share their agricultural varieties. The seed swap and demonstration were organised by the international campaign “Sowing the Future, Harvesting Diversity” (www.seed-sovereignty.org). An important motivation behind the events is the proposed EU seed legislation reform. Corporate Europe Observatory launched the new biotech and pesticides industry lobby brochure at the beginning of the demonstration, highlighting various lobby associations, individual companies, PR firms and a number of relevant EU institutions.
The first stop of the tour was the European Seeds Association (ESA) in Rue du Luxembourg, a lobby group representing the interests of large seed firms like Bayer, Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta. The biotech and pesticides corporations are represented via many lobby associations, including also EuropaBio, the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), Croplife and ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute).
The second stop took place at the offices of Bayer at Square de Meeûs, where demonstrators where reminded that such big biotech corporations historically developed in the chemical and warfare industry, an important fact to understand their vision of agriculture as an industry. A petition with more than 58,000 signatories was then handed over to Members of the European Parliament, Isabelle Durant, Marc Tarabella and Kriton Arsenis. These took the signatures in three wheelbarrows to the European Parliament building.
Jürgen Holzapfel stressed the demands of the seed campaign: "We insist on the right to resow seeds from our own harvest for purpose of propagation and further distribution. Furthermore, we wish to see support of locally adapted varieties by promotion of conservation of heritage varieties and breeding improved varieties for organic and bio-diverse agriculture. We demand a new method of seed certification, which excludes GMO or chemical and energy intensive varieties."
MEP Tarabella called for a full inquiry into the consequences of proposed EU seed legislation reform.
The demonstrators demanded:
• The right of all farmers to save seeds from their own harvest, to re-sow, distribute & sell them
• the promotion of diversity in all regions by supporting farmers and breeders of varieties that can be re-sown;
• the prohibition of GMOs in agriculture and in all European foodstuffs
• the prohibition of patents on plants and animals, their traits and genes, as well as patents on breeding methods;
• a new agrarian policy, which, instead of supporting unsustainable, energy-intensive industrial production and monocultures without farmers, promotes biodiverse and low-input ecological production with farmers, in the framework of Food Sovereignty
The demonstration continued to DG Research, also at Square de Meeûs, that via so-called European Technology Platforms like “Plants for the Future” give industry a direct say in how research funds are being spent. This works strongly in favour of large biotech multinationals. The demonstration ended with songs, talks and performances at Place du Luxembourg, in front of the European Parliament.