An article from Do or Die Issue 6. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 57-58.
Since the first in the field planting in 1990 of genetically modified organisms, Germany has seen many actions against the 'freisetzung', or open air planting of gmo's. There are so far over 40 sites where gmo's have been planted in the open air, and crops include potatoes, maize, petunias and a species of tree. Groups from all around the country - mainly 'normal people' from 'normal backgrounds' have taken action against the multinationals.
Almost in every case the g.m.o's have been planted in areas far from roads - to protect the fields from an angry public perhaps? But this has not stopped the growing movement against gene technology in both its theory and practice. This article will concentrate on actions against the latter - its practice; and in Germany that has meant the squatting of fields due for planting of gmo's, the destruction of crops and the disruption of the sowing of gmo seeds. This has finally happened after four years of campaigning in - according to the government - the 'legitimate form of protest' ie the most ineffective. Many of the fields themselves have now been squatted, "wagenburgen", protest camps made up usually of a small number of wagons - normally used by road workers, have been set up and continually occupied by small groups of dedicated campaigners.
The idea of squatting the fields is simple - get there before the seeds are sown in Spring and stay there untill it is too late in the year for planting.
Every year for the last three years, fields made ready for the planting of gmo's have been squatted or occupied. This has led to much controversy (at least from right wing newspapers). At the same time it has recieved widespread support from local villagers who supply the camps with food and any other materials that they can - valuable support, as these camps are often located far away from any such services. Locals also provide backup support by informing the press and other groups of the latest news from each of the camps.
At the same time, many fields of gmo's have been severely damaged - at least 12 fields were destroyed in 1996 alone. These have included fields of monsanto owned maize, and gmo potatoes. These actions have now led to the situation that at least three fields planted with gmo seeds are now under permanent police protection - simply because of the threat of occupation or destruction. At the same time at least three fields were not sown last year through the actions of local people against them, these were in Grapsow, Stetten and Bansleben - all were due to be planted with Monsanto owned herbicide resistant Sugar beet.
Last year was definitely the most active year so far in the short but active campaign against gmo's in Germany. Wippingen, South Germany was the site of protests against the planting of AgrEvo's beloved Maize - this company has been badly hit by squatted fields and its now infamous crop of Maize has faced many alleged cases of crop destruction. AgrEvo were taken to the local courts in an attempt by locals to stop the planting. The company unfortunately won their case and planting began in May. This did not stop protestors from halting the planting and only two thirds of the field could be sown. Possibly even more interesting was the strange affect on the local climate that the planting of gmo's has had in many parts of Germany - effects that could only be described as 'destructive wind patterns'. This must surely be linked to the planting of gmo's as the wind patterns have only occured amongst gmo crops - other crops nearby have in evey case been left undamaged - even vehicles and wagons parked on squatted fields were also left undamaged. Police are investigating claims that these strange phenomena are linked to crop circles. Wippingen was one such site where the planting of maize seemed to be responsible for such strong weather patterns that almost 70% of the crop was destroyed within one month of planting!
A local initiative in Gehrden, Niedersachsen also fought against the planting of AgrEvo's Maize and also Sugar beet. They organised a gene-technic free market and info and discussion events. Johanisdorf was another squatted site and the local initiative tried to prevent again the planting of AgrEvo's beloved Maize and Rape. The camp known as the "camp of resistance" produced a flyer declaring, "Welcome to the way of the future, we will try creative and artistic forms of resistance...create your own ideas, Juggling, Theatre, Fun-actions of all kinds...everyone is welcome to bring their ideas."
Such interesting calls to action were unfortunately not listened to by all, one visitor was certain that "Protesting makes no sense!" - it certainly makes more sense than releasing potentially dangerous organisms into fields - especially when then cause crop circles and 'strange winds!' Hohlstedt was the site of many actions, including rallies and TV and Radio discussions. This field was owned by Monsanto and was squatted before the sowing of seeds. Monsanto eventually gave up trying to plant the field after pieces of metal were spread over it, (according to Monsanto) "making the work on the field too dangerous."
Buggingen: This field has been occupied since Easter. It has already seen many previous actions and was last year the site of much crop destruction. In April there was a rally in support of the campaign against attempts by the firm Van der Have's plans to grow gmo Maize. In Schmarrie the fields are also squatted and they have managed to prevent (so far) the sowing of seeds - unfortunately those that were already planted are now under police guard - as in Uffenheim. One field is squatted here as well, but areas of crops that have already been sown with seeds are now under police protection - Visitors are especially welcome! The use of police protection to guard crops has of course come from the fact that the fields are in danger of being either squatted or that they might even destroy themselves - through these 'strange winds'. A third site (not occupied) is also under police guard and can be found in Schoenfeld. Meaning 'beautiful field', this site has seen many varied protests and it was last year's wide scale crop destruction that has led to the police protection.
The continued occupation of sites and the increase in type and frequency of anti-genetechnology actions, combined with a number of succesful campaigns, will ensure that this movement - although small at the moment - will become one of the major points of protest again this summer. All of the sites welcome visitors and of course are in need of food and 'site' materials. Anyone who wants to visit the sites can contact them directly (phone numbers are below), or through the projektwerkstatt in Berlin, who can tell you how to get there. Up to date information is available through the GenEthisches Netzerk also in Berlin.
Cycle tour of Gene tech fields. On the 17th of July a cycle tour linking up many of the sites in north Germany is planned, it will link up Hamburg with Berlin and as many of the gentech-fields along the way as possible (for details contact the GeN - see below). Fin. Umprowe.
Squatted gene-tech fields