Direct Action against GMOs

On the 17th of August the “Movimento Verde Eufémia” went into action, targeting the first transgenic field in the Algarve GMO Free Zone in South Portugal. 65 mowers entered the field and were able to mow a hectare of GM corn in less than 20 minutes. The action received support from a parade of dancers and a samba band!

This year the first GMO field ever has been planted in the Algarve Region in Portugal. The Algarve was declared by the Junta Metropolitana do Algarve (County Council) the first GMO free zone in Portugal in 2004. Despite this the policies of the Portuguese Government and the European Commission constantly disrespect the moral and democratic right of those opposing actors to ban GMOs from their fields and their plates.

The direct action involved 65 mowers, destroying 1 hectare of the 50 hectare GM corn field in less than 20 minutes around midday. The activists took the well considered risk to announce the action beforehand in the media. This was done in order to receive the largest media coverage for the largest direct action since the post revolutionary period in Portugal.

After 10 minutes, the owner and his colleagues noticed the action. About 8 farmers attacked the group of mowers using physical violence. The mowers took a defensive stand by using their higher number but did not use violence in return. One farmer fired shots from an alarm pistol and the activists were threatened with poison sprayers. One police patrol arrived shortly after. All mowers aborted the action after 20 minutes and moved on the public road to mingle in the parade. The 10 police officers that were in the area did not do anything else. The whole group was picked up by busses and the action ended all in order.



Knowing that the activists were hitting the property of a farmer, even though it was a big one they announced that they would provide compensation for the damage inflicted. In the end the activists intended no harm towards the farmer himself who for one or another reason choose to cultivate GM crops. The activists proposed that they would provide the farmer with organic seeds for the surface (50 hectares) which is currently being planted with GM corn.

The Aftermath

Now, five days after the action, the name Movimento Verde Eufemia is still frontpage news. The movement takes its name “Movimento Verde Eufémia”, in homage to the peasant struggle against the former Portuguese fascist regime. All television stations and radio stations give continuous updates on the case. Major political party leaders are now involved in the debate. The Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Internal Administration are main actors in the debate while the President has commented on the issue as well on television.

Once the media exhausted all variations on head lines stretching over two pages, they started to go more in depth, covering the different opinions and position on GMOs and explaining the status of GMO Free Zones. Through their press releases, MVE has invited all associations in Portugal to use the media space created to voice their arguments against GMOs. In a reaction to that, some main actors in the GMO debate, who initially distanced themselves from the action, and still do, have now taken up the opportunity to voice their concerns on GMOs. For that reason and other reactions that the action has provoked from the political field the MVE has expressed contentment that their action has resulted in an opening of the debate on GMOs