GMO Raids

Searches of opponents of GMOs in Belgium: judicial enquiry or political punch below-the-belt?
This statement was sent to us this week (in French) by CAGE, the Belgian anti-GMO collective. The events it describes represent a worrying intensification of harassment of activists working to prevent the contamination of our fields and food supply.

 

CAGE (the Collective for GenEthics Action) deplores the searches of which one of our Liège members was a victim on the morning of Thursday, 6 February 2003. During the search, documents on the dissemination of GMOs into he environment and food supply in Belgium, as well as computers, were seized by the Gent federal police. The officers present did not give any details as to the reasons justifying such a method or on their choice of home searched, which was that of someone who has worked openly for several years on dossiers connected to genetics in Belgium. Instead they simply linked this violation of a person's home to  an enquiry into several incidents involving the tearing up of transgenic plots which have taken place since 23 May 2001.



We have also learnt today from the press that searches have also been conducted in Flanders at the headquarters of the environmental associations Velt and JNM (Youth Federation for Nature Study and Environmental Protection), as well as at the general office of the Ministry of the Environment, where all documents relating to the cultivation of GMOs in Belgium, again with no explanation. Also in the press it is now rumoured that there are "suspicions" of "active implication" of various employees of the Ministry of the Environment in the tearing up of the manipulated plants.



If the state of law rests in principle on the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary from the executive, these coincidences and insinuations are here too well constructed and diffused in the public space for it to be possible to see this as a "dispassionate enquiry into judicial truth."



These searches were enacted almost two years after the first events to which they are supposedly designed to clarify. On the other hand, they have struck at the very moment that the pro-GMO interests in Belgium have experienced an unprecedented setback, notably expressed in the number of experimental releases of transgenic plants on our territory, from 144 in 2000 to just one for the year 2003! The multinational Bayer-Aventis, for example, has ended all its contaminations in the field this year, in order to concentrate on the possible commercialisation on the European scale of the notorious rapeseed (Canola) Terminator (MS8/RF3)



This reverse suffered by the transgenic industry in our country is due to the coming together of growing vigilance and the efforts of those who have been targetted: citizens' groups such as CAGE on the one hand, the offices of the Agalev (Flemish Green Party) ministers Magda Alvoet and Jeff Tavernier on the other - the groups are those with which the Ministry has worked for two years on the establishment of accessible information regarding the contaminated areas and of intelligent decision-making procedures, including a socio-economic evaluation of the impact of genetic manipulation on agriculture. It is this project of Agalev and ECOLO (French-speaking Belgian Green Party) hope to defend before Parliament in the coming weeks, in the course of the transposition into Belgian law of the EU directive 2001/18 on the experimental release of GMOs (Translator's note: Actually, 2001/18 covers all deliberate release

of GMOs, including for commercial cultivation).



This is the plan which those who serve the transgenic interest, at the heart of the VLD (right wing Liberals), MR (centre-right) and PS (social democrats), blocked on 20th December at the Council of Ministers (i.e. the Cabinet). They mean today to inflict their arrogance on those who do not resign themselves to the prospect of a genetically reconstituted world, one where a few hundred jobs in transgenic research replace those of thousands of farmers and farmworkers here in our part of the world and of the millions of small farmers in the South.



Everything appears well set for throwing their adversaries into discredit, including a conspiracy theory, talk of "leaks" of the location of transgenic sites, leaks coming from the employees of Jeff Tavernier. However, anyone who has taken an interest in the GMO question in Belgium knows that the local authorities where GMOs have been officially released have been informed of this, since 2000, in the public information bulletins on the website of the Biosecurity and Biotechnology Service of the Ministry of the Environment! (http://biosafety.ihe.be) This year the location and precise plan of manipulated apple trees at Rillaar (Aarschot) and elsewhere is moreover accessible through the site of the Joint Research Centre of the European

Commission (http://www.jrc.org)



Here we have another example of what is at stake in this assault carried out by the distortion of justice: preventing the maintenance of a supply of information to the citizens sufficient for a real debate each time that a new cultivation of manipulated plants is projected. It makes us believe that to implicate oneself in the resistance to GMOs requires acting clandestinely or playing at "double agents".



This spectacle is not worthy of the democracy which the Belgian authorities claim to be defending.



In addition, deprived of our files and computers, CAGE is prevented from functioning. The person searched was preparing for the trial which begins on 10 March at Namur and in the context of which 13 Belgian, French and Luxembourgeois citizens are arraigned for the public tearing up of GMOs at Monsanto on 7 May 2000.



CAGE has begun the procedures for recovery of the material necessary to our functioning.



For all information and messages of support, you can contact the person who was searched at sdenys@ulb.ac.be
























 

Translated by Steve McGiffen