During the past three days, Goldman Environmental Prize winner Sofía Gatica and Maria Godoy, both Argentinian activists and members of the group “Mothers of Ituzaingó”, have been travelling across Spain to expose the dangers of the cultivation of genetically modified soya and the use of glyphosate. Argentina is one of the biggest soy exporters in the world. They warned Spanish citizens – Spain being the first GM producer in the EU – that if herbicide-tolerant GM soya were cultivated in Spain, the social and environmental consequences would be unforseeable and irreversible. The events in Spain are part of a speakers tour across Europe which will end in Brussels, where Sofia and Maria will join the Good Food March today. In conferences and meetings with local groups in Córdoba, Madrid, Zaragoza and Barcelona, as well as through a wide range of media interviews, the two activists described the adverse health effects which Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy has caused in their neighbourhood Ituzaingó near Córdoba resulting in a high number of cancer, malformations and miscarriages. In the Spanish city of Córdoba, around 80 people, amongst them farmers, neighbours and members of NGOs and organic consumption groups, gathered in the Orive Gardens and discussed strategies on how to avoid the cultivation of GM crops in Spain and worldwide. Sofia and Maria told the audience about the recent court sentence, which found one soy farmer and a pilot of a spraying plane guilty of contaminating the area. On Tuesday, coinciding with the international day against Monsanto, Sofia and Maria held a panel discussion in Zaragoza. Farmers, agricultural engineers, consumers organisations and local citizens discussed the GM situation in the region of Aragón and the lack of a GMO free label in Spain. In Barcelona, more than 60 people came to hear the two activists, who called for a ban on GM soy into the EU. The discussion focussed on the lack of independent research regarding the health effects of GM crops and pesticide use.
In the middle of a majestic avenue and across the representations of the European Commission and European Parliament in Madrid, COAG– one of the most important farmers unions in Spain- held their Press Conference and protest on CAP. Surrounded by colourful agricultural products from all over Spain and a huge banner reading ” Agriculture is Food”, the whole Executive body of COAG and all their regional general secretaries, 30 people in total, announced their farmers’ mobilisations against the current proposal of Common Agriculture Policy.
Today’s action marked the beginning of a campaign that will see a series of protests, this Autumn, on current CAP reform and for a more social agricultural model. In case of the approval of the current CAP proposal, COAG rung the bell with regards the risks entailed for our agriculture production and the threatening food crisis.
Miguel Blanco, the General Secretary of COAG, announced that this event is in solidarity with the GOOD FOOD MARCH, that tomorrow will celebrate its finale in Brussels. So tomorrow, I will meet again several members of the COAG executive Body amidst the hundreds of marchers that will arrive outside the European Parliament calling for a radical farming reform.
As they stressed, this CAP is a threat to the spanish dairy and other livestock sectors, as well as sugar beets, horticulture, cereals, potatoes, wine and so on.
Especially, in the midst of a global food crisis that is moving towards the developed countries mainly due to the the deregulation of the markets and the financial speculation on agricultural commodities COAG asserted that it is suicidal to defend a CAP that will dismantle a substantial portion of our production system agriculture.
According to Miguel Blanco, “If you close the door to our agriculture, you open the doors wide to the food crisis.” and he added ” it is about defending our agriculture as a strategic sector, therefore, it is a matter that concerns the spanish government. Defending our agriculture food we defend the food security for the whole of society.”
COAG warned that food dependency lead to the rise of basic food prices in the medium term, that’s why it is strategic to maintain our agricultural production potential. They also alerted that the current unsustainable situation on the increase of prices of agricultural inputs such as diesel, fertilizers, electricity and above all animal feed. Only in the case of soybeans, the price has skyrocketed 78% in the last twelve months. This has lead to an unsustainable situation to all the spanish livestock sectors.
Therefore COAG’s mobilisations are asking for another model of agricultural and food policy. Their main demands include: appropriate regulation of markets, profitable prices for the farmers, maintainance of the production quotas and rights, regulation of the food chain, defence of the Community preference principle, import controls, an aid policy aiming at promoting agricultural employment and a rural development policy that promotes agriculture, local transformation and the inclusion of youth and women.
Apparently, the food that was brought to the protest (5,000 kg of staple foods milk, sugar, oil, fruits and vegetables) will be delivered as a gesture of solidarity to the Food Bank of Madrid, to help alleviate situations of extreme need.
So Autumn will be hot for the CAP negotiations in Spain and will report again soon.
Myrto Pispini, ARC web correspondant for Spain and Greece.