The Other Side of Field Liberation Day

June 10, 2011 · Filed Under Environment, Food and Drink, Political, Science 

While searching for other blogs and news sources posting about the recent Field Liberation Day protest in Belgium, I came across this post on Biofortified, a blog that promotes genetic engineering and GM crops.  There were so many strange things said by them, I thought as a public service I would both point out the opinions from ‘the other side’, and also set a few things straight.

For the sake of clarity, I’m only including a few quotes of the original post and comments, and I would encourage anyone reading this to have a look at the original post linked to above, and convince yourself I’m not taking anything unfairly out of context.  Maybe you’ll get an insight into how ‘the other side’ thinks??  I dunno…

 

French anti-science vandals invade a Belgium farm and destroy crops

Phytophthora infestans causes ‘late blight’ in potatoes. In regions of potato cultivation with a temperate climate, like Belgium, this is the single most dangerous disease. The disease costs farmers in Belgium about 55 million euros annually, and controlling it causes significant environmental pressure. However, in the last few years a number of resistant varieties based on conventional plant breeding techniques were introduced to the market, and work is being done on developing genetically modified Phytophthora-resistant lines.

These GM plant are environmentally much more friendly than some existing  methods of treating fungus attack on plants  such as the commonly used toxic copper sulphate.

But the GM potatoes will not be used if the anti-GM fanatics have their way.
A research field trial of these blight-resistant potatoes has just been destroyed in Belgium.
Some anti-technology activists came by bus from France to destroy the fields.

Okay, where to start.  First of all the participants were primarily Belgian.

In Belgium three languages are commonly spoken French, Flemish/Dutch and English.  The first two are languages of the neighboring countries France and The Netherlands, as well as native languages of the Belgian people.  English is a sort of neutral language, as well as being the language most people from other countries speak.  When promoting the event, it’s logical the promotion would be in these three languages.  They were trying to promote the event both in Belgium and abroad.

The vast majority of participants, many of them known by me personally, were from Belgium.  The main organizer was a Flemish/Dutch speaking Belgian.  I know this from listening to the accents and languages spoken in the videos I posted, by reading news reports and blog post on the Internet, and from private email correspondence.  Trust me, it would have been big news if large numbers of people had come in from France for an event like this, and no mention of it has been made anywhere except on Biofortified.

The link provided on Biofortified points to a website in France promoting the event in French.  There’s no indication anywhere unusually large numbers of people came from France as a result of this promotion.

As far as being anti-science vandals, what about the scientists in the action?  For example Barbara van Dyck, who lost her job at the Catholic University of Leuven for participating.  Perhaps if you support her termination from the university, you should send an email stating she was ‘anti-science’ as a reason and see if it helps?  I wonder if the truth was more the demonstrators were not so much anti-science, but rather anti this author’s version of science.  I think in fact most participants consider themselves very strong proponents of science.  My position is certainly pro-science.

While it’s very true Phytophthora costs Belgian farmers lots of money, the problem is really a lack of promotion of the already available Phytophthora resistant varieties, and lack of investment in developing new traditionally bred resistant lines.  Consumers do not want GM potatoes, and there is no legitimate reason to develop them except to force consumers to accept something they don’t want.  There is also strong pressure from the agri-chemical industry to continue promoting non-resistant varieties, until such time as GM varieties are available to take their place, because there are lots of profits in selling the chemicals used to combat Phytophthora.

The reality is in a few years the chemicals used to combat Phytophthora will be phased out in Europe, because they are too damaging to the environment.  This measure has already been passed by the European Parliament. The large agricultural interests hope at that time the only viable varieties available will be GM resistant varieties. There is no truth to the idea that the GM potatoes are ‘better for the environment’, they are simply being developed for commercial reasons.

The use of copper sulphate really has very little to do with this discussion or with Phytophthora on potatoes.  It’s true copper sprays can be used to combat Phytophthora, and it’s true this is used in Europe.  Copper sprays happen to be illegal in The Netherlands, one of the largest potato growing regions.  Copper sprays are also of limited use with potatoes.  Copper is mostly used on grape vines in places like Italy and France, or on tomatoes.

The reason copper sprays are of limited use with potatoes, is they are relatively expensive compared to the crop produced as well as Phytophthora is not an immediately fatal disease, or as the author on Biofortified says ‘dangerous’ disease, in organic agriculture.  There are a variety of techniques that can be used to manage Phytophthora without chemicals, like removing infected haulms.  These methods are not practical in large scale mono-cultures, but neither is wide scale spraying of copper based chemicals.  I wonder if the author on Biofortified has ever grown potatoes?

  • Talking to activists about the science didn’t work.

Jo Bury, the director of the VIB science research institute that planted the potatoes, said around 100 scientists had tried to talk the actists out of vandalism.

“We are deeply shocked about the violent actions by the activists of the Field Liberation Movement. The field trial with blight resistant potatoes was almost entirely destroyed. Our hearts are with the scientists whose hard work was destroyed today.”

“Althought his is a dark day for science as a whole, we want to thank all 350 scientists and farmers who came out and supported Save Our Science. It was a strong message to the world that we believe that science has an important role to play in the development of environmental friendly agriculture” Geert Angenon, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Geert De Jaeger, UGent, Rony Swennen, K.U.Leuven, Jeroen Crappé.

Okay, no clue.  No mention of a counter-demonstration anywhere in anything I’ve read.  This is the first I’ve heard of it.  There’s little doubt in my mind that the scientists involved in the trials were probably present, and maybe some others.  I think this would be pretty normal.  But a larger number of ‘pro-science’ scientists than Field Liberation people?  That’s a little funny, and certainly no more than a pipe-dream.

As far as the 100 scientists trying to talk the demonstrators out of it, what does that mean exactly?  As I read what this author wrote, it seems to suggest 350 scientists showed up but only 100 tried to talk the Field Liberation people out of it.  What about the other 250?

Did the attempt to talk the Field Liberation people out of it occur in advance?  Was there anything published in writing on their position?  Certainly if their arguments were the same as this author, they would have fallen on deaf ears.

The reality is many people behind the Field Liberation Movement are themselves scientists, farmers and otherwise very intelligent people and current in their fields.  I’m certain they would welcome sensible public debate on the issues, and are well prepared to hold their own.

7 comments to French anti-science vandals invade a Belgium farm and destroy crops

GregH:

It’s funny how people are always railing against GMOs claiming their reasoning herbicides this and Bt that and Monsanto the other thing, while saying they’re not against the science, they just want more research. I assume there will be a huge outcry among the anti-GMO people for destroying the research (which appears to be government funded non-corporate) they claim they want done on the traits they don’t claim to find fault with….right after they get around to objecting the destruction of those French government run virus resistant GM grape rootstocks a while back.

daedalus2u:

The standard objections of anti-GMO activists don’t apply in this case. Potato is not native to Europe, there are no near-relative weedy species that it can cross pollinate with. Commercial potato isn’t propagated by seed, it is propagated clonally by bits of root. The traits can’t spread by pollen to other fields or contaminate other potato crops.

GregH:

These are the same people who trashed GM grape rootstocks. Yeah, rootstocks, so not even the flower or fruit were genetically engineered. I think it’s safe to say the standard objections are really just lame excuses for common thugs to break something. Must make them feel real big. They’re probably laughing it up and patting themselves on the back for the great blow they think they struck to Monsanto (the fact that this was not Monsanto’s research is likely lost on them).

Ben B:

Concerning this “research”, one row of potatoes was from BASF.
The “traditional’ arguments against GM are still functioning in this case : those potatoes are “pesticide patented clones”.
The industrialized “pesticide” system is responsible of an enormous part of today’s environmental disaster (more than half of GHG emissions due to our food and agri system, according to Olivier De Schutter, UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food + Soil erosion, oil-dependent unsustainable system), and those plants keep on pushing in this direction.
Patenting the living brings to corporate takeover on seeds, the most important thing on the food chain (more infos http://www.grain.org/docs/trips.pdf). Our economic system hates what’s free, like nature’s work on plants. If privatizing life is a synonymous of “progress”, then we’re going forward at high speed.
Clones in the fields means biodiversity loss, more diseases, threats on health.
The “usual” arguments of pro-GM people imply to continue in the system responsible for today’s economic (farmers situation in developed countries), social (one billion persons starving) and environmental (agri and food system responsible for more than 50% of GHG emissions) disasters, claiming that it will bring solutions. We may have a small problem of coherency…
Whereas solutions exist. Sustainable small scale family farming can feed the world – even with 10 billion persons. Actually, it already does… The main problem is repartition of food produced (70% of world agricultural land directly or indirectly for feeding cattle), eating habits (too much meat in developed countries), and production system.

Karl Haro von Mogel:

Oh no – one row of potatoes was from BASF? Then they must all be ripped out! Seriously, that is a bad reason. If BASF has a blight-resistant potato then it is entirely appropriate to evaluate it alongside other varieties.
The rest of your comment demonstrates that you don’t know how potatoes are grown – potato varieties are all clones of one good plant, produced through tubers. Even your favorite old varieties grown on organic farms are clones.

daedalus2u:

Where to start, so much misinformation. The genes for resistance came from wild relatives of potato. These genes have been introduced via cross-breeding in other strains of potato.

The idea behind using these natural resistance genes is so that the use of synthetic fungicides is reduced or even eliminated. Isn’t the reduction of use of synthetic pesticides a good thing?

You can’t just stop using fungicides on potatoes if they are not resistant because the entire crop can be destroyed. This fungus is what caused the Irish potato famine which killed over a million people from starvation because it destroyed the potato crop.

Commercially grown potatoes are always clonal.

Growth of potato strains other than these clonal potatoes will not be affected. They may even benefit because these potatoes are resistant to the fungus, if they are planted they will not increase the growth, spread and persistence of the fungus which could affect non-resistant potatoes.

OrchidGrowinMan:

daedalus2u,

I agree: misinformation, catastrophization, emotional language and outright lies are all too common. People LIKE to be excited, but don’t like to grind through research. They LIKE to play the White Knight, but may need to invent a dragon to do so. It’s more exciting and feels more Noble to fight a Vast International Conspiracy than to address sewage treatment and drinking water contamination.

I think a lot of the problem is related to the game of “Telephone”: Person 1 hears that there may be a possibility of a slight risk of a minor side-effect, and passes that information on. Person 342 hears that there is a virtual certainty of a global catastrophe, and communicates this to Person 1, and the cycle continues.

Credulity, poor understanding of statistics, science, and risk-assessment and the excitement of being a member of a Just Cause combine to generate a population resistant to reassessing their positions and who are sometimes effectively manipulated, and not in a good way.

I think the comments mostly speak for themselves.  I agree, misinformation.   I have sympathy for BenB.  How can you soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys?  I’ll correct a few errors.

First of all the genes used in these GM potatoes are from very poisonous wild relatives genetically incompatible with ordinary potatoes.  They can’t cross breed as far as I know and certainly there was no attempt to get them into ordinary potatoes with traditional breeding.  Isn’t this of concern to some people reading this?  Genes from poisonous wild relatives, inserted into something intended for food, without any credible public or peer reviewed safety testing?

And it pains me to have to say this, but yes potatoes are propagated by tuber or meristem cloning, but you don’t have to grow them in monocultures!  Like any other crop you can work with a number of different varieties and inter-crop them with other plants.  The GM potatoes are being developed for use in monocultures, and it’s the intention we become dependent on a small number of patented genes to protect one of the worlds most important crops from a repeat of the Irish Potato Famine.

Does it help us all to know how the other side thinks?

Comments

17 Responses to “The Other Side of Field Liberation Day”

  1. David Tribe on June 11th, 2011 6:09

    Thanks for your comment. There are many issues you raise that are interesting, and your civil discussion and careful reasing are is very commendable.Please be welcome post them at Biofortified without any censorship– your contributions are welcome, and a real dialogue is most important. Most such discussion involve deaf ears I have found, but with you that seems unlikely. We will modify the post if it is factually accurate, if you help us locate a way of verifying your claims.

    I must say having briefly heard some of the comments by the anti-GEers relating to this action I would probably still find issues to disagree with you about– but let us see. Destruction of other peoples experiments like seems to have occurred is morally wrong. Why is it justified to carry out criminal acts? Is there a political justification?. If so I remain unimpressed.

    For example would you be against conventional breeding with wild potatoes , such has occurred in the past on the same grounds?

    But the biggest issue you don’t tackle.

    Why was it necessary to destroy the field trial?:.

    For the record, I don’t support the dismissal of an employee without hearing the full story which I do not have.

  2. David Tribe on June 11th, 2011 6:37

    Another question:

    Since all current GM crops are cross-bred by conventional breeding afer they are created (especially say soybeans, where variety biodiversty has increased after GE, why cannot the GM potatoes also be cross-bred?. This monoculture myth is a delusion (invention) of the ant-GM zealots, not fact.

  3. Patrick on June 11th, 2011 11:59

    David,

    Thanks for your comments. You too are always welcome here, and I never censor any comments beyond removing spam.

    I guess I don’t agree with you that any time you move a gene from one species to another in a way that could not occur in nature, it can be presumed safe until proven otherwise. I think any time you do this, it needs to be considered on it’s own merits, and environmental and health consequences need to be part of this. There needs to be independent, transparent and credible research into these things.

    You also need to consider how the crops are used. For example, if they’re Roundup Ready, what happens to the environment and people’s health when Roundup is used with them?

    I have my doubts modern science is developed enough to take all of these things into account in a reasonable way. How do you prove something is completely safe anyway?

    In addition, real mechanisms must exist to take suspect varieties off the market, and that’s not the case now.

    Cross-breeding GM crops with conventional methods doesn’t solve these problems.

    I’m certainly not against traditional breeding of potatoes with wild relatives.

    I would also not describe myself as anti-GM. Lets face it, if you’re a little clever and have the money to buy some equipment, you can make GM varieties at home. The cost of this is only going to come down, and the day will come when it’s taught in high school science class.

    Like being ‘anti-abortion’ isn’t really going to prevent anyone from getting an abortion, I don’t think it makes sense to be anti-GM. Transgenics are simply a reality of today’s world, and they need to be dealt with as such. Science is science, and wanting to make it go away isn’t going to make it happen.

    The real issue is if GM varieties belong in our food system, and what commercial interests bring them there. You also need to look beyond the plants themselves, and consider for example if the systems of intellectual property rights cause hunger and poverty in the world. You need to consider the health as well as the living and working conditions of farmers. You need to consider how dependent we are on commodity crops grown in monocultures, sold on world markets manipulated by profit hungry investors. Above all else, you need to consider consumer demand, and produce food people want to eat and not just what’s most profitable. Right now the majority of the world’s consumers are not ready for GMOs in their food. I think these reasons are much more behind the destruction of the potato field in Belgium, rather than just a strong anti-GMO sentiment.

    While I’m broadly behind the action in Belgium, and I think there was really no other way to be heard, I too am saddened that it comes down to destroying other peoples work. However, the seed companies behind the field trial in Belgium are not in any way themselves innocent!

  4. Patrick on June 11th, 2011 18:15

    I’ve been doing more research on this in various media sources, and on the subject of people coming from France I have found a few mentions. Things like ‘the number of people coming from France was a surprise’ or ‘a large number of people from France’.

    It does seem like a lot of people came from France, but it’s still my belief most people were from Belgium.

    The demonstration itself was in Flemish speaking Belgium, and most of the scientists and most people speaking on behalf of the demonstrators seem to be Flemish speaking. I don’t speak French, but I heard from someone else the French Belgian press were mostly ignoring the action.

  5. David Tribe on June 12th, 2011 11:31

    I guess I don’t agree with you that any time you move a gene from one species to another in a way that could not occur in nature, it can be presumed safe until proven otherwise.
    ****I do not have this opinion. The point of my comment is that you are not applying the same precautions to the conventional existing breeding process which are arguably more risky since many more genes of ouknown type are transferred..

    I think any time you do this, it needs to be considered on it’s own merits, and environmental and health consequences need to be part of this. There needs to be independent, transparent and credible research into these things.
    You also need to consider how the crops are used. For example, if they’re Roundup Ready, what happens to the environment and people’s health when Roundup is used with them?
    *****Round-up is one of the safest herbicides. By stopping GM RR crops you are promoting the use of other less friendly herbicides.Farmers will still use some herbicides. You seem to know almost nothing about farming practices.

    I have my doubts modern science is developed enough to take all of these things into account in a reasonable way. How do you prove something is completely safe anyway?
    *******I am still not convinced you understand the topic well or have done much research on it. What about the dangers of stopping things. Fo example the E. coli epidemic in Germany is completely preventable by radiation of food. That the only effective way. But ant-nuclear people have stopped that. And now 31 peple are dead, 600 are in hospital and 30000 are sick. All because people stop this technology. Similarly with vitamin A rice, delayed 5 years by Greenpeace. It could save 100, 000s of lives. How do you justify that?

    In addition, real mechanisms must exist to take suspect varieties off the market, and that’s not the case now.
    Cross-breeding GM crops with conventional methods doesn’t solve these problems.
    I’m certainly not against traditional breeding of potatoes with wild relatives.
    I would also not describe myself as anti-GM. Lets face it, if you’re a little clever and have the money to buy some equipment, you can make GM varieties at home. The cost of this is only going to come down, and the day will come when it’s taught in high school science class.

    ****That’s already happening but not with plants as they grow slowly.
    The real issue is if GM varieties belong in our food system, and what commercial interests bring them there. You also need to look beyond the plants themselves, and consider for example if the systems of intellectual property rights cause hunger and poverty in the world. You need to consider the health as well as the living and working conditions of farmers.
    ****Yes you do. Haver you condifdered the harm you are doing in developing counties– India for examle– in delaying the benefits. If you dont know about this harm, you are negilgent, and if youy have damaged the trial are criminally negligent.
    *** Sadly your actions are totally political.Stupid politics has killed millions of people– in Russia, and China. How do you justify that?

    You need to consider how dependent we are on commodity crops grown in monocultures, sold on world markets manipulated by profit hungry investors. Above all else, you need to consider consumer demand, and produce food people want to eat and not just what’s most profitable. Right now the majority of the world’s consumers are not ready for GMOs in their food. I think these reasons are much more behind the destruction of the potato field in Belgium, rather than just a strong anti-GMO sentiment.

    *****Yes I have heard all this. Its the standard brain-wash of the anti-GMO activists everywhere. I dont accept the argument , and you say so little to indicate you know what you are talking about. What are your qualifications in Economics?

    While I’m broadly behind the action in Belgium, and I think there was really no other way to be heard, I too am saddened that it comes down to destroying other peoples work. However, the seed companies behind the field trial in Belgium are not in any way themselves innocent!
    ***Right I get it. You support criminal damage but its justified as a communication tool because you believe other people (third parties) do bad things. An alleged wrong and your wrong together make a right?
    Astonishingly weak and flimsy as an ethical argument.

    *** Lets see now. I will use the same argument. Because I believe you or the people you are defending are doing bad things, I am justified in sabotaging BIO and ecological organic farms to get my message over. Is that your argument in reverse? Do you allow me to be justified using your argument to sabotage your allies. And what happens next?

    I am sad to say this, but if the person who was sacked takes a similar line to you, she deserves her fate.

    Most of your criticism of Biofortied does not concern the main post — just the comments. It consists of discussion of the fringe issues.

  6. David Tribe on June 12th, 2011 11:40

    Right now the majority of the world’s consumers are not ready for GMOs in their food. I think these reasons are much more behind the destruction of the potato field in Belgium, rather than just a strong anti-GMO sentiment.

    ! So you in rich affluent Belgium have a right to speak for millions of smallholder farmers in Africa, China, South Asia,Australia, and India.

    Did you know the French government tried to blackmail African government to reject GM crop that would benefit the poorer farmers, presumable to keep Green party votes. This is totally immoral. Its people with views like yours that all such events to occur.

    GM crops so far benefit poor and undeveloped country farmers more than industrialised ones.

    You actions and opinions are detrimental to those farmers. Think about that, and at least consider the harms you may be doing to others outside the EU.

    Justification is at my blog GMO Pundit

    http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/

  7. Patrick on June 12th, 2011 12:39

    David,

    Thanks again for all your comments, and again I hope you feel welcome here any time.

    I think most of this discussion comes down to simple but insurmountable disagreements. I think we’ve both laid out our positions, and I don’t have a lot to add. I respect your positions and I believe you’re good intentioned. I hope you understand I’m good intentioned too.

    I do have a little bit to add, where you say:

    “Lets see now. I will use the same argument. Because I believe you or the people you are defending are doing bad things, I am justified in sabotaging BIO and ecological organic farms to get my message over. Is that your argument in reverse?”

    This sort of thing happens all the time, for example with potatoes.

    The law in The Netherlands and many neighboring countries is once a potato plant becomes infected with blight on about 10% of the foliage, the plant must be sprayed or at least the tops removed and destroyed, to prevent the spread of spores.

    The police sometimes enforce this in people’s gardens or organic farms, and destroy unattended plants. It’s also illegal to replant on the same ground for three years, but this is harder to enforce.

    While there’s a lot of common sense in this law, and organic potato farmers usually do these things anyway, the threshold of 10% is very low. In addition, commercial farmers can use chemical sprays to destroy the tops of the plants, where organic farmers must remove them mechanically, and this is a lot of work and takes time.

    Commercial and organic farmers just have a different perspective on the problem. Commercial farmers tend to count spores, and while organic farmers are certainly concerned about spores they tend to also view it as more of an environmental issue and accept infection is inevitable no matter how many spores are in the environment, and effort is mostly spent on managing the disease rather than preventing infection. A similar argument is often made here with weeds and their seeds.

    The low threshold, and the fact that commercial farmers in effect have the right to demand the destruction of plants in organic farms under these conditions, are really very unfair to organic farmers. It’s very much like what you say in your quote above.

    This is just one example, and this kind of thing is really pretty common. Organic and small farmers don’t usually have much of a say in these matters.

  8. David Tribe on June 13th, 2011 4:16

    Lets see if I get this right:

    ***This sort of thing happens all the time, for example with potatoes.
    The law in The Netherlands and many neighboring countries is once a potato plant becomes infected with blight on about 10% of the foliage, the plant must be sprayed or at least the tops removed and destroyed, to prevent the spread of spores.
    The police sometimes enforce this in people’s gardens or organic farms, and destroy unattended plants. It’s also illegal to replant on the same ground for three years, but this is harder to enforce.****

    – So these are done in the enforcement of a legitimate law.
    –Are the organic potatoes overly sensitive to blight?
    — Does blight if uncontrolled (like E. coli) do harm to others giving them no say also?

    The people you support (and you maybe) took the law into their own hands. This is illegal action.

    So do you still allow me to (hypothetically) break the law and vandalise organic farms for reasons I can decide all by myself. And ignore the law because I am morally right in my own convictions. Do you allow me that, and to take it further would you allow me to do it to your own seed collection- and destroy it, as you or those you support have done to the trials?

    I do notice you are silent about the farmers in India needlessly spraying vegetables (cabbages and aubergines)with nasty synthetic pesticides primarily because of European Green activism and funding of anti-GM activists. What do you think of the morality of that?

    And since it is immoral, in my opinion, do you allow me, hypothetically speaking, to vandalise European farms ” to get my message out” as you say.

  9. Patrick on June 13th, 2011 13:22

    You and I have all the usual disagreements over if organic potatoes are more susceptible to blight or if the 4-5 most common commercial varieties grown on large commercial monocultures here are. I also have a very different perspective on the situation in India and pesticide use there.

    As far as the moral message goes, hypothetically speaking, if you have a legitimate argument to make with a modest critical mass (tens or hundreds of people) behind you, and you organize a demonstration similar to the one that took place in Belgium, you would have a lot of sympathy from me.

    This assumes the injuries to people are minimal (10 police with minor injuries, and 8 demonstrators complaining of being manhandled), the amount of damage is within reason (a small field of potatoes with an excessive fence). This assumes too that your arguments warrant some heated debate and discussion in the media or the Internet afterwords, and that you have some legitimate goals to achieve.

    In this case there were almost certainly no potato varieties ‘lost’, and while an enormous amount of work was behind this field of potatoes, in theory it can be replanted next year with the only cost being a year delay. Otherwise, the damage to the trial planting was only ‘political’, and it’s simply how democracy works that people are allowed to inflict political damage on one another.

    So, hypothetically speaking, if you were to do such a thing, I would certainly be there to give my opinion. I might even accuse you of importing bus loads of French vandals to do your dirty work. I might be very angry. In the end it comes down to freedom of speech and $100 of very high profile potatoes.

    The true catastrophe was Barbara van Dyck losing her job, and the damage to her career as a result. I would be just as upset and vocal if an associate of yours lost their job under such circumstances.

    In the 5 1/2 years I’ve had this blog, quite a number of free speech issues have come up and in many ways it’s the reason I’m here. I’m a very strong proponent of free speech and facilitating peoples ability to express their opinion.

    While freedom of speech is freedom of speech, at the same time there needs to be someone who wants to listen to you. We both know this as bloggers, because if we don’t say anything interesting we won’t have any readers.

    Yes, the law is the law. At the same time we all make decisions in our life to break the law. If you drive too fast in your car, or put an 8 instead of a 7 on your tax return, maybe just because you aren’t sure what you’re supposed to do. In the Netherlands drugs are illegal, but you can still buy cannabis in shops, where many people break the law, buy and use it. In Europe we have DUS registration of seed varieties, and selling or giving away an unregistered variety is illegal here. This means all seeds saved from your own plants may not legally leave your own garden under any circumstances.

    In democracies we all count on punishments to be appropriate for the crime, and when you break a law you accept the associated risks. I don’t agree with you that breaking a law is an immoral act, and in some cases breaking a law is the moral high ground. Apartheid may never have come to an end in South Africa, if people there hadn’t broken some laws first.

  10. Alex on June 13th, 2011 16:21

    Concerning the french activists there is no doubt that among the vandals some of them were french. The document provide on biofortified clearly demonstrate it. They even came by bus from the South of France (Toulouse) which is 1000 km away from Wetteren. I prefer not to know what is the carbon footprint of these “protecteurs de la nature”. The court will tell us what was the proportion of french activists among the one that were arrested by the police. I’m not sure that the most important aspect of the problem anyway.

    So if I understand properly the “logic” from Patrick, anyone who think his ideology is “good for the society” or human in general, on a purely subjective ground, would be allowed to use the force and destruction to dictate the others what they have to do. That’s not democracy any more. I think these kind of movements are a real danger for democracies and I’m glad democratic countries have laws and regulations to protect the society against these dangerous behaviour. I can’t imagine what it would be to live in a society where the anti-abortion activists would kill doctors who practice abortion (actually they already did), where anti-nuclear energy would destroy nuclear plant, anti-car would burn them, and similar kind of actions you can imagine for anti-vaccin, anti-vivisection, anti- wifi, anti-nanotech, anti-black, anti-jewish, anti-white etc etc… … each of these movements thinking their ideology would deserve such kind of actions because their moral is high ground. I really hope these offenders will be punish for their actions. I think Patrick you mix up freedom of speech with a freedom of destruction. The latter does not exist in democracy. If you don’t want to eat gm potatoes nobody oblige you to buy some, so why would the anti-gm people would be allowed (or allowed themself) to oblige other citizens to follow their beliefs. If you dont’ want gm potatoes you can vote for a political party that will ban them from your country or you can demonstrate to push the politicians to change the law. This is how democracy should work.

  11. Patrick on June 14th, 2011 12:07

    Alex,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Toulouse is near where heirloom seed company Kokopelli is in southern France, and yes there are a large number of people around there you would probably consider anti-GM. That probably explains why there were a number of French people in Belgium.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you on how democracy should work, and if it did I suspect there would be no GMOs in Europe, because I think public opinion is very strongly against it.

    Especially among young people, I’m really astonished at how much more awareness there is of what they eat. It’s become common here that young people go into fast food outlets and expect organic food! The world is really changing.

    Unfortunately democracy is not so simple…

  12. Paul on July 2nd, 2011 15:20

    “As far as being anti-science vandals, ”

    I would say they are anti-voodoo vandals.

  13. Paul on July 2nd, 2011 15:26

    “Fo example the E. coli epidemic in Germany is completely preventable by radiation of food. That the only effective way. ”

    It is more effective to not put diseased feces directly onto crops!!!

    “GM crops so far benefit poor and undeveloped country farmers more than industrialised ones.”

    Let’s see: GM crops cost far more, are unstable, can not be reproduced, have no local adaption, and make their growers entirely dependent on an ever weaker gene pool and a supply line that is many thousands of miles long and a corporate management structure that grows ever more incompetent and corrupt over time. What kind of benefit is that to the poor farmers of the world?

  14. Todd on July 4th, 2011 7:44

    -Let’s see: GM crops cost far more, are unstable, can not be reproduced, have no local adaption, and make their growers entirely dependent on an ever weaker gene pool and a supply line that is many thousands of miles long and a corporate management structure that grows ever more incompetent and corrupt over time. What kind of benefit is that to the poor farmers of the world?-

    Good point Paul!

    A note about the term “Democracy” As my Russian friend says it, and he says it well. “Democracy is being pushed all over the world like Hitler pushed the 3rd Reich”.

    As for Laws, we know who makes the law, who profits from the law and who will benefit from the law.

    So as I’m getting this. Protesters can’t destroy big Ag eugenics crops, But Monsanto can go and sue farmers for the sum of their land value and own their property, cause their genetic junk crossed with their non- genetic junk and then destroy that farmers crops.

    Such a hypocritical double standard!

  15. Todd on July 4th, 2011 7:52

    “Fo example the E. coli epidemic in Germany is completely preventable by radiation of food. That the only effective way. ”

    It is more effective to not put diseased feces directly onto crops!!! – Well said Paul!

    I’d like to note the E.Coli outbreak in Germany is a very interesting case in it self. There is no way in nature for E.Coli to become resistant to 6 forms of anti-biotics, at all! One way to make such diseases resistant to 6 forms of anti-biotics is done via controlled laboratory conditions. By taking a colony and subjecting it to Anti #1 then getting the survivors and hitting it with Anti #2 and so one and so on.

    Big Ag and Big Pharma – always their to make you sick for a profit.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

  16. Todd on July 4th, 2011 8:30

    And by the way –

    USDA owns the word “Organic”

    http://youtu.be/B8T3QBJvLy0

  17. Patrick on July 4th, 2011 17:31

    Lots of great points!

    In terms of democracy, they interviewed a number of people in eastern Europe a few years ago, and a surprising number said things were worse now than in the old soviet days. There are really getting to be a lot of problems with modern democracy.

    Actually in terms of GM varieties being unstable, David Tribe brought up an interesting point that until now (the latest potatoes not included), GM varieties have all been created as stable varieties.

    Isn’t it unreal that ‘organic’ is now an owned word in the US? Fortunately it hasn’t come to that here in Amsterdam.

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