„Nature for people, not for business“! and “Resistance is fertile” were the slogans that a broad international alliance of social movements and activists alongside with La Via Campesina had used to call for protests, for an immediate stop to privatizations and a just sharing of natural resources to the benefit of local communities.
On the 17th of May, about a 100 persons protested in a demonstration leading to the seat of the agro and pharmaceutical company BAYER in Leverkusen against the destruction of biological biodiversity through this company. Protestors did not only criticise sharply the devastating destruction resulting from the use of poisonous pesticides produced by the company, the use of gene technology in agriculture and the company`s activities leading to the privatization of life, but also the company’s green-washing campaign. The company was accused of the destroying biological diversity and causing climate change. In the end, a letter of protest was handed over to the company’s main office.
On Sunday the 18th the Action Network organised a protest on agro-fuels. In front of two filling-stations, car drivers were given the choice between “food” for their cars or real food. The destructive effects that an export-oriented, industrial agriculture based on monocultures has for soil, water and forests – in short: biological diversity – are multiplied through the cultivation of agrofuels. The action ended in a spontaneous demonstration of about 60 people and a joint picknick in a nearby park.
During the opening of the COP on Monday the 19th of May, La Via Campesina and the Action Network protested in front of the conference hotel Maritim. The position paper of La Via Campesina (http://viacampesina.org/main_en/index.php) and invitations to protests concerning seeds were handed out to delegates and observers participating in the COP negotiations. The central role of farmers to agriculture and the preservation of agricultural biodiversity are generally not disputed. Nonetheless, farmers are hardly granted a say during COP negotiations.
On Monday afternoon, the action network organised a demonstration towards the building of the German Plant Breeders’ Association. The Association was criticised for its lobby efforts in favour of stricter intellectual property rights for agricultural plants and their policies on fees for the re-use of seeds. Breeding achievements of many generations of farmers are thus privatised. During a short stop at the botanical garden in Bonn, the century old tradition of biopiracy was mentioned.
Back at the seeds market, La Via Campesina performed a “Mistica”, a kind of street theatre on the controversies surrounding seeds. Bio-pirates robbed farmers of their seeds and stored them in a gene bank. Multinational seed companies afterwards sold pesticide-contaminated, privatised seeds back to poor peasants and thus exacerbated their miserable conditions of life. Nonetheless, the farmers resisted the bio-pirates and liberated the deep frozen seed diversity.
After this, a ceremony was held by the International Emergency Committee on Wheat during which lists of seeds that are kept in Gatersleben gene bank were solemnly handed back to representatives of the respective countries. This served to draw attention to the fact that the wheat collection in Gatersleben is in endangered by field trials of genetically modified wheat as well as to give farmers an incentive to actively try to get back their seeds. Moving words were spoken by guests from Chile, Brazil, Turkey, Korea and Mexico. Hope Shand of the ETC Group finally handed over a bag of Mexican yellow beans that only recently had been saved from being patented as “Enola beans” and was cheered by an enthusiastic crowd. The struggle for getting rid of the patents on the bean had lasted for eight years.
More actions are planned for the coming days. Photos of the street actions and background information on the Action Network COP9 may be found at biotech.indymedia.org