Farmers in Poland have risen up against Big Ag and GMOs in one of the biggest demonstrations of its kind the country has ever seen. They are demanding: the right to sell their produce directly to the people, a total ban on GMO sales and production, the regulation of land-grabs by biotech corporations like Monsanto, the implementation of a compensation scheme for farmers whose livelihoods have been damaged, and a change to inheritance laws which currently prohibit farmers from leaving land to their heirs.
A convoys of tractors blocked roads in late February as demonstrations occurred in hundreds of towns across the country. Later, more than 6000 farmers marched on the capital of Warsaw to demand the restoration of their basic rights. Many Polish farmers use traditional methods of farming, meaning that their crops are organic (although uncertified) and pesticide-free. At the moment, these small family farms simply cannot compete with corporations in the marketplace, and many have been made bankrupt as a result.
Protests took place throughout February and into March. They are co-ordinated by the farmers’ branch of the Solidarity Union and the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC) and have been supported by striking bee-keepers, nurses and coalminers. A basket of ‘illegal‘ farm foods was taken to the Prime Minister’s office, while a table was set up outside to display these items and highlight the absurdity of Polish agriculture laws.
Jadwiga Lopata, a family farmer and co-director of the ICPPC said: “The health and welfare of the nation depends on consumers and farmers having access to traditional seeds and good quality food. The Polish government does not accept this and is destroying the roots of Polish agriculture by listening to corporations rather than the Polish people.”
In 2012 Polish environmentalists surrounded the Prime Minister’s office and banged a giant drum to demand a ban on GMO maize. Similar protests also took place in 2009 and 2010, but none have been as damaging to the government as the latest spate of demonstrations. Farmers vow to keep up the pressure until their demands are met, but whether they will win the war against Big-Ag remains to be seen.