2 GM Maize trials trashed in Catalonia, Spain & 1 in Zaragoza - updated

Today, 12th July 2010, dozens of people came together to sabotage two experimental GM Maize trials belonging to Syngenta, located in the municipality of Torroella de Montgrí (Baix Empordà, Girona, Catalunya).

We destroyed Syngenta's open-air genetic experiment because we understand that this kind of direct action is the best way to respond to the fait accompli policy through which the Generalitat, the State and the bio-tech multinationals have been unilaterally imposing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our agriculture and our food.

The Spanish State, with more than 75,000 hectares sown in 2009, represents a concentration of approximately 80% of the surface area of GMOs harvested in Europe. After Aragon, Catalonia is the area of Europe that harvests the largest area of GMOs, around 27,000 hectares. In recent years, 42% of the experimental GMO field trials in the EU have been planted in the Spanish State.

Syngenta are the third largest seed corporation in the world (after Monsanto and Dupont). Their objective is to gain a monopoly domination of the global seed market so that all farmers and all agricultural production on the planet depends on their seed sales. Syngenta, and other transnational corporations (TNCs) that control a) the global market in agricultural goods (seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals...) , b) the circuits for the distribution and commercialization of food and agricultural raw materials, and c) the global market in final products, is one of the principal promoters and beneficiaries of the corporate industrial model that currently dominates. After having been imposed for decades on a planetary scale, more and more voices indicate that 1) this devastating social and productive model is one of the principal causes of the food, ecological and climate crises that humanity currently faces, and 2) genetically modified crops represent a new turn of the screw of the agro-industrial model, which does nothing more than deepen the devastating social, cultural and environmental impacts associated with transnational agro-business.

According to European legislation, experimental GMO field trials represent an indispensable intermediate step in gaining EEC approval to grow and harvest as yet unauthorized varieties of genetically modified crops in the EU. Many groups in Europe have for years condemned the protocol that the bio-tech transnationals must follow to gain approval for their genetically modified seeds, as being full of irregularities and pit falls. Among these, the most notable are the various scandals that have hit the European food security Agency, (EFSA) which have made it quite clear that this supposedly scientific body is in the pay of the genetics industry. On the other hand, it is important to uncover the role of the EEC itself in the underhand promotion of GM crops by the EEC itself.

Twelve years since GM maize crops were first planted in Catalonia, the appearance of dozens of cases of genetic contamination of organic and conventional agricultural products (contamination of seed batches, fields, animal feeds and products destined for human consumption) has repeatedly demonstrated that the supposed coexistence between GM and non-GM crops is totally impossible and undesirable. The proliferation of genetically modified agriculture in our territory has led to the extinction of a number of varieties of traditional wheat (“morat” and “del queixal”) and a reduction of 95% in the cultivation of organic maize between 2002 and 2008.

All this leads unequivocally to the conclusion that GM agriculture makes it impossible to develop and consolidate social models and models of production, distribution and consumption that differ from the dominant model, based on agro-ecology and the struggle for peoples' food sovereignty. Because of this, we fundamentally reject both GM crops and the techno-industrial capitalist society that makes them possible and necessary (… necessary to ensure that the powerful few consolidate their domination of the global population, and perfect the business strategies). We therefore call for people to take the step to action to destroy their genetically modified crops and the social order perpetuated by those that promote them.


In a storm of media contradictory counter-information, plus the news that a few weeks earlier a GM crop was decontaminated in Zaragoza, that it was about a hundred people involved (on the French Faucheurs Voluntaires website, monde-solidaire.org, who claim they were there) the following statement was released:


The field of maize located at Torroella de Montgrí, destroyed on the 12th July, was GM. The owner of the land has himself recognised the fact in his statements to the press. Regardless of whether it was an experimental trial, a demonstration or a commercial field, the very fact that it was a Genetically Modified (GM) crop, justifies and legitimises its destruction - particularly as it was located next to a nature reserve and other non-GM crops.

Genetically modified agriculture, even using approved varieties, has been associated with serious social and environmental impacts and damage to human health. The dozens of cases of genetic cross-contamination of organic and conventional agriculture that have come to light in Catalonia and the Spanish State since GM crops were first planted and imported here, demonstrate that coexistence between GM and non-GM crops is not viable, rendering impossible the development of different modes of production, consumption and social models that offer alternatives to the dominant, corporate and industrial model, which is generating such serious ecological, climatic and social crises.

The media coverage of the action on 12th July demonstrates once again that the press silences criticism and ignores the real and important debates that exist around the impacts of genetically modified agriculture.

The media must take responsibility for their lack of rigorous reporting and their failure to corroborate the information they receive before publishing it as news. On 15th July (three days after the action) there began an avalanche of reports stating that the « radical ecologists » had made a mistake and destroyed a non-experimental field. There are many indications to suggest that this may be a cover-up ploy by the Fundació Antama, the Spanish bio-tech lobby, Syngenta and the landowner himself. In fact, the tactic of lying and denying that fields are experimental has been used on a number of occasions in other countries such as the United Kingdom and France. It aims to confuse public opinion, discredit the action and those who promote it, and divert the debate.

There is considerable evidence that the field destroyed on the 12th was not a commercial field: in May, it was confirmed that the different rows of maize sown were identified and distinguished with white, numbered signs, a practice systematically applied to experimental and demonstration fields, but never used in commercial fields. Later, just after the Diari de Girona published the exact location of the Torroella experimental trial, the white numbered signs had been removed. Were they trying to get rid of the evidence that they were experimenting or cultivating GMOs for demonstration purposes?

It is worth noting the numerous contradictions that have appeared in the media on the question of who, when and why the experiment was not authorised. Some newspapers assure us that Syngenta abandoned the experiment; others say that it was the farmer himself who backed off; finally, publications such as El País claim, without citing sources, that it was the Generalitat (Catalan Local Government) which withdrew authorisation for the experiment, because the field was sited very near to a protected area.

What this demonstrates is the lamentable lack of reliable public information about the locations of experimental fields and the lack of control and monitoring of GM agriculture and its impacts, by the competent authorities. In accordance with an explicit EC mandate - after having refused to do it for years - this year for the first time, the Ministry for Agriculture (MARM) provided Friends of the Earth with information about existing experimental trials, in response to a formal petition made by the organization requesting environmental information. Nevertheless, we condemn the fact that the information provided relates only to the experimental trials authorised, and not to requests for authorisation. This means that even now the Spanish State is failing to comply with European legislation which states that access to information about the location and characteristics of experimental GM fields is a public right. Similarly, neither the Spanish State nor the Generalitat meet the legal requirements for the labelling of foods containing GMOs, or informing farmers about GM crops sown in their area. They also fail to apply the plans for monitoring and control of the impacts associated with genetically modified agriculture.

To the calls for justice made by some of the notoriously reactionary farmers' unions such as the JARC, we answer that the administrations have systematically failed to apply the many articles of the Law regulating the release of GMOs into the environment. These include the failure to develop the necessary measures prior to the sowing of open-air GM trials, and to carry out sufficient monitoring once the crop has been sown. It is quite clear that the commercial fields, experimental trials and demonstrations of genetically modified crops currently being cultivated in Catalonia and the Spanish State, are breaking the law. Furthermore, the above-mentioned legislation was developed by « public » institutions that have been working for 12 years hand in hand with the bio-tech multinationals to impose GMOs on our agriculture and food. We therefore defend the legitimacy and the necessity of destroying all fields of GM crops, even in the hypothetical case that they did comply with the legislation in force.

We repeat, that the coexistence of GM and non-GM agriculture is totally impossible. The expansion of GM crops in Catalonia has, between 2002 and 2008, caused a reduction of 95% in the sowing of organic maize, and led to the permanent extinction of at least two traditional Catalan varieties of maize that were unique in the world, as well as dozens of known cases of genetic contamination. Many studies show that for years GM crops and GM foods have been linked to significant social and ecological impacts and damage to health; studies that have led 11 European countries to ban their cultivation.