"the major owners of this corporation have also positioned themselves at the heart of the governmental/corporate complex still attempting to push forward GM crops" (item 2)
"The manager initially explained that protests could only be held with advance appointment and that we would have to leave and arrange with them to come another day. We told him that that would be rather inconvenient..."
1. Tractors in new GM milk protest
2.Anti-GM Blockade of Sainsbury's Giant Essex Waltham Point depot - interesting wide-ranging piece
1. Tractors in new GM milk protest (Barnstaple, Devon)
Robert Vint, 04.07.2004
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/westcountry/2004/07/294383.html [for pics as well]
In a follow-up to yesterday's amazing Sainsbury's depot blockades [respect to you all], Devon farmers parked three tractors with banners in front of Sainsbury's in Barnstaple whilst shoppers labelled Sainsbury's dairy products as "produce of GM-fed animals". This was probably our best ever supermarket action with strong support from customers and the regional media and a very reasonable response (after initial panic) from the manager.
Before the action our tractors hid round the corner, where TV and radio reporters interviewed us about what we were going to do. Shoppers provided them with footage showing how to do their own labelling of the GM dairy products that Sainsbury's have forgotton to label (pic). The tractors entered the car park by different routes and were positioned directly under the Sainsbury's sign in about 45 seconds, then were decked with banners declaring: "Farmers say: Fair Prices & GM-Free Milk" (pic).
Local farmer Hector Christie climbed on his tractor roof and addressed shoppers through a megaphone as another 25 campaigners and a pink cow - surveyed shoppers (90% agreed that GM feed should not be used and that small farmers deserved better prices from supermarkets) and handed out the new leaflet from the farmer and activist alliance: http://www.geneticsaction.org.uk/resources/alliancesainsburys.pdf
The manager initially explained that protests could only be held with advance appointment and that we would have to leave and arrange with them to come another day. We told him that that would be rather inconvenient and we would have to stay. When we were told that the police would be called we explained that the TV reporters outside would find that most exciting at which point they changed their minds. After we gave the manager our press release (below) and media coverage of the national depot blockades he disappeared for 40 minutes to talk to head office. He then invited two of us to discuss the issues with him.We explained that stopping using GM feed would be good PR, good for sales and would fit with their policy of selling more organic and local food. Also it would mean we could go and harass Tesco instead. Whilst he said he could not possibly comment, it seemed clear he agreed with us. We thanked him for a most enjoyable protest and left after two hours. A fluffy day out for all the family highly recommended.
For the press release see: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/westcountry/2004/07/294383.html
2.Anti-GM direct-action blockade shuts down Sainsburys distribution centres
posted on Mon 05th July, 2004 by Barry Kade http://www.easf.org.uk/report.php?id=31
Sainsbury's giant M25 Waltham Point distribution centre in Essex was shut down in a dramatic anti-GM protest on Thursday night (1st July 2004). This was part of a nationwide night of blockades which closed all six of this food retail corporations major distribution centres around the country.
The Waltham Point centre is a giant mile long corrugated metal shed running parallel to the M25. From it a constant stream of articulated lorries flows out to the whole of London, the South East and East Anglia. The blockade started at 11pm and lasted for two and a half hours, before the police were finally able to remove and then arrest us. For a while, we stopped the corporate juggernaut. No lorries were able to enter or leave Sainsbury's brand new state of the art complex. Other blockades around the country lasted for many more hours.
We were doing this to protest at Sainsbury's continued use of milk from GM fed dairies, breaking its pledge to its customers not to use GM products in its food. This is one more illustration of the true attitudes of the owners and key figures within the Sainsbury's empire. For the major owners of this corporation have also positioned themselves at the heart of the governmental/corporate complex still attempting to push forward GM crops.
So at 11pm we chained ourselves together in a circle in front of the entrance to Waltham Point, our arms locked into heavy iron tubes to prevent our easy or speedy removal. Others locked themselves onto the gates with D locks on their necks. Later another two protesters were aggressively manhandled by police as they blockaded a lorry.
Eventually we were all removed forcibly from our ring of iron by the police. Three from London and six from Colchester were then arrested and taken to local police stations. Here we were held in the cells for the next 15 hours for questioning, before being released on bail.
While we lay in the road, supporting protesters relayed us news about the successful simultaneous blockades at Sainsbury's other five biggest giant new 'fulfillment factory' distribution centres in Merseyside, South Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Bristol.
Webs of resistance spun across depot entrances throughout the country. Here was a demonstration of the power of non-violent direct action to shut down the multi-million pound distribution network of a giant corporation.
Waltham Point in Essex is one of the biggest of the new automated distribution centres in Europe. It is the size of 10 football pitches put together, and is estimated to feed more than 80 stores and handle 2.6 million cases a week, being the base of 200 trucks and 300 trailers. This cost GBP70 million to develop and is the largest of Sainsbury's new fully automated centres it calls its 'Fulfillment Factories'. The corporation is developing around just eight of these giant 'just in time' fast flowing perishable and quick turnover goods centres, closing its 21 older, smaller, less automated centres.
And on that night we were suddenly able to block the flow of Lord Sainsbury's river of profits, on the very same day as the Sainsbury's chairman resigned and the companies shave value plunged.
We lay down and cut off the vast hulk of its "fulfillment factory" from its dedicated connection onto the nearby M25 and its ceaseless orbital flow of all the things in the world, uprooted, commodified and caught in the whirlwind of the global market.
It is a world-wind that is transforming how we grow, manufacture and consume our food. This changes the relationship between agriculture, technology and ecology. It is part the latest stage of an epochal global shift away from peasant production to global commodity production and an industrialised and privatised ecology.
In the last decades those who have been separated from the land and corralled into vast conurbations and shanty towns now form the majority of the world’s people.
The development of GM crops by the worlds giant chemical corporations is a key part of this process. In the fantasies of venture capitalists, investors and company executives, nature could be reduced to a simple code and therefore could now be reprogrammed to suit corporate needs.
The corporations are pushing this technology while vast areas of scientific uncertainty still remain about its environmental and health effects. For they have also begun to privatise science, enclosing its commons as their ' intellectual property'. They are appropriating it as the new engine of their 'knowledge economy'. Thus they are limiting its field of vision by driving out any critical and independent scientific voices.
Lord Sainsbury is a key figure in this process in the UK. He is Tony Blair's multi-billionaire Minister for Science and Innovation. He is the man in charge of promoting biotechnology at the UK's Department of Trade and Industry. He has responsibility for science funding and research policy, and is also a key player on the governments powerful 'Sci-Bio' GM cabinet committee. He is also a key investor in GM research and the largest single donor to the Labour party, giving it GBP9 million pounds in five years alone between 1996 and 2001.
Lord Sainsbury is also the head of the family that form the major owners of the Sainsbury's supermarket chain. He personally owns 13% of the corporation, or GBP1.3 billion worth of shares, which give him tens of millions of pounds annually in dividends, while his family own another 35%. His network of supporters also own substantial amounts of shares, such as the CEO of one of his biotech companies, who owns 5%. Lord Sainsbury was the chairman of the Sainsbury corporation right up until his elevation into Science Minister by Blair in 1998.
As Britain's third richest man Lord Sainsbury has ploughed substantial amounts of the billions yielded to him by the Sainsbury's supermarket chain into developing genetic modification technologies... [for more on Lord Sainsbury: http://www.easf.org.uk/report.php?id=31]
The July 1st blockade also stands as a metaphor for a larger battle. This is the society wide blockade of the corporate multinationals GM agenda. In 1996 the corporations launched GM crops onto the market. It was expected that the UK would be covered with them in a year. Yet after eight years of resistance the corporate agri-biotech machine is cracking.
The Bayer corporation have retreated, withdrawing their only product approved for growing in the UK. Now, no GM will be grown commercially in the UK for many years, if at all. Monsanto and other GM corporations are also in retreat. GM crops are becoming increasingly discredited and obsolete.
Veteran campaigner Jim Thomas writes of eight years of: "raw, direct, popular opposition" in the UK which has managed to:
"- remove GM ingredients from all human foods sold in the UK. - remove GM ingredients from pretty much all poultry and pig feed in the UK. - reduce the number of UK GM crop field trials from hundreds of locations per year to currently one. - cause Monsanto to leave the UK, stopping further breeding work here. - reduce the number of GM varieties seeking government approval from almost sixty varieties down to a remaining two that have no chance of being legally grown. - acted as a catalyst, inspiring campaigners and activists to challenge GM crops around the world."
The UK has seen one of the most sustained campaigns of direct action and popular campaigning in recent history. Year after year, night after night, the GM crops were pulled up by local villagers and environmental activists. All this effort has shown the way to victory. Jim adds:
"Campaigners rarely get the satisfaction of so clearly winning - a win for the thousands and thousands of people who spent cold nights pulling up crops, long weekends talking to shoppers and farmers and years of emotional and intellectual energy countering the bullying, lobbying power and financial clout of the gene giants".
The battle still is not won. The corporations have invested billions in developing GM crops.. Chemical corporations like Monsanto have taken a massive gamble and transformed themselves into GM seed companies.
Biotechnology was, along with information technology, supposed to be the herald of a new epoch of capitalism, a solution to its deepening period of crisis. In the 1970's chemical corporations like Monsanto saw the promise of an escape from the contradictions of the petero-chemical epoch. They dreamed they could leap ahead of the competition with rDNA technology. This would be the generator of wealth in the new 'knowledge economy'.
The reproductive capacity of nature would form a new means of production. Life was just a code and could now reprogrammed to suit corporate needs. New chemicals and pharmaceuticals could be grown in plants, rather than manufactured by workers in factories as part of the troubled petero-chemical complex. And thus these very plant species, wherever they reproduced themselves, their seeds would be the privatized and patented intellectual property of the corporations.
And first, they would flood the world with the most simple and crude product of this new knowledge, - crops engineered to be resistant to their own brand herbicides. These would be the heralds of the new bio-tech epoch.
Yet the contradictions of GM are proving more difficult to manage. GM technologies bring together such incommensurate timescales. They intervene in millions of years of evolutionary time, in ways as yet dimly understood. At the same time, corporations have never been governed by more short-term aims of dancing to the ever increasing rhythms of competition on the world market, where billions of dollars can shift in micro-seconds.
The scientific questions this radically new 'gene-splicing' technology raises will take decades to answer, questions ranging from the real role of DNA, the effects of scrambling it, and the long term consequences for human health and the eco-system.
Yet the massive institutional investors, who were so dazzled by the promise spun to them by scientists in the 1980's, (the dream of a second, privatised genesis), have now waited over twenty years for a return on their investment. This is all they can bare. They want a return on their capital soon. Unless firms like Monsanto can give them that, they will die. So the battle will intensify, as the US/EU WTO dispute over GMO's testifies. GM crops came onto the market in the mid 1990's, along with the WTO and neo-liberal globalisation. And resistance has grown to both.
The anti-GM resistance has shown its power. It is possible to stop GM crops. The multinational corporations agenda does not represent an inevitable and unstoppable line of 'progress'. Resistance can stop them, and open up the possibility of alternative paths of progress. These are the paths to a more sustainable, equal and just world.