WASHINGTON -- January 25 -- This morning the Greenpeace-ship Esperanza intercepted the bulk carrier 'Golden Lion' 140 nautical miles off the coast of Portugal. The Golden Lion is transporting 30.000 tons of genetically engineered soy from Argentina to France. Onboard the Esperanza are also leading representatives of the French farmers movement 'Confédération Paysanne' (part of Via Campesina) and the 'Les Faucheurs Volontaires d'OGM' activist collective.
"This GMO shipment should never have been sent to Europe, and we call on the French public to go to the port in Lorient on Friday to take part in a peaceful protest against GE soy entering the French food chain," says Arnaud Apoteker. "Millions of tons of GE soy are imported each year to feed cattle, hogs and poultry in Europe. This is a slap in face for all European citizens who have rejected GMOs in their food."
The Golden Lion is expected to arrive in Lorient, France, Friday this week. The Monsanto 'Roundup Ready' soy onboard the ship is destined for use in animal feed. The GMO soy expansion in Argentina has caused the destruction of millions of hectares of rainforest and driven small farmers and indigenous people off their land.
In Europe, strong and consistent public opposition to GMOs has forced food producers and retailers not to use GMO ingredients directly in food, but a big loophole in EU labelling legislation means that eggs, meat and dairy products from animals fed with GMOs do not have to be labelled. As a consequence food producers are able to hide the use of GMO soy and maize in animal feed from consumers.
Together the three organisations demand a ban on the import of GMOs to France, and specifically call on the ports of Brittany to reject GMO imports in line with the wishes of the regional government, which recently declared its intention to become a GMO-free zone (1).
"GMO crops represent the ugly head of destructive industrial agriculture, threatening both the environment and the livelihoods of small farmers," says Jose Bové. "We denounce the increasing dominance of a few transnational GMO seed and pesticide companies over the worlds farmers. We want to end this sick trade cycle where European farmers have become dependent on dirty protein crops shipped across the Atlantic. GMOs simply have no place in sustainable agriculture or in quality food production."
According to a study by U.S. agronomist Charles Benbrook published last week, the planting of 14 million hectares of herbicide-resistant soy in Argentina has created a highly vulnerable agricultural system that has also had severe social impacts (2). An estimated 2.3 million hectares of forest and savannah have been destroyed since 1996 to make room for new GMO soy plantations, and areas that used to grow potatoes, beans and rice and were pasture for beef and dairy cows have been replaced with soybean production destined for export markets.
"Cutting down rainforests and threatening the home of jaguars and pumas only to produce animal feed for European factory farming is down-right crazy," says Arnaud Apoteker. "I don't think any food producer or retailer in Europe can defend forests being destroyed to produce animal feed used to make their food products, and we expect the food industry to move swiftly to protect their reputation among consumers."
Greenpeace, Confédération Paysanne and Les Faucheurs Volontaires are calling on their supporters and the public to join a peaceful and non-violent protest against the import of GMO soy in the port of Lorient on Friday morning when the Golden Lion is due to arrive.
Notes to Editor:
1. With EU governments on the verge of caving in to US and WTO pressure to allow (more) GMOs, European regions, cities and rural communities have responded by taking their own steps to keep GMOs away from European fields and dinner plates. Brittany is the 17th out of France's 22 regions that has adopted a form of anti-GMO resolution, thereby joining a rapidly growing movement in Europe where now 100 regions and 3500 sub-regions have declared themselves as GMO-free zones. For more information on French and European GMO-free zones, see http://www.infogm.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=231,
http://www.genet-info.org/Europe.html and http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/gmofree/index.htm
2. Benbrook, C.M. (2005), "Rust, Resistance, Run Down Soils, and rising Costs: Problems Facing Soybean Producers in Argentina", Ag Bio Tech InfoNet, Technical Paper Number 8, see www.greenpeace.org/international_en/reports