ICC stop in London

visit also: www.stalk.net/caravan/

On Friday 28th May,

the day of the London public hearing, a report from the Nuffield Council was released which declared we had a 'moral imperative' to develop genetically engineered crops to feed the Third World, and the papers were full of images of starving third world children scrabbling in the dust. It was nauseating. The report did not consult EVEN ONE PERSON from a developing country out of its 87 or so experts.

Thanks to the utter and total brilliance of GEN and assorted genetics and other campaigners, who set up an impromptu working group outside the hearing to develop a plan, at 4 o clock we cut short the meeting and marched over, farmers in the lead with banners saying "Food Control Eats YOu" and "Say no to GMO" and shouting "GMO hai hai, WTO hai hai", took over the main road,marched down it to the Nuffield Foundation offices which were luckily 10 minutes away. The crowd blocked the lobby and negotiated for 5 of the farmer leaders, and 3 of us and a translator to go inside. We had a 30 - 45 minute meeting with the director and assistant director, both of whom were quite embarrassed and surprised but civil.

The farmers told them they were astonished at the findings of the report and they were so frustrated their point of view was not heard that they had to come in in such a manner. They said their problem was not production of food- in fact that poor farmers prices were low because of overproduction and that storage was a problem - but distribution, and they criticised genetially engineered crops and intensive agriculture. It was quite late in the day so i don't know what media coverage it got - it certainly got a huge photo and caption in the Guardian (of course!) the next day. Nuffield said they would pass on the message to the bioethics council.

On the Saturday 29th May,

we took the caravan up to a crop squat, again thanks to the last minute salvation of genius genetics campaigners, all of whom I will love forever and ever. It was Monsanto test site in Essex that had been pulled up a few weeks earlier by protesters. We walked over the fields and one squatter said when he saw the first Indians coming with their turbans, and pink ribbons on their banners, and chanting, he had tears in his eyes.

The genetics people had set up a small camp, with new plantings of vegetables, information stands on genetics, tripods, benders, and welcomed us with an Irish jig on fiddles and flutes. Anarchist teapot, who were also total stars, cooked a big stew for everyone. The police came and were very fluffy, although there seemed to be helicopter surveillance.

We all had tea and sat in the sun swapping stories of genetics and campaigning and generally chatting and enjoying the peace of being out of London. Some activists demonstrated lock on and tripod techniques to the famers, and swapped banners with them. A nice sight - a climber going up the tripod to fly the punjabi farmers union flag next to the rts flag already up there.

The farmers planted organic vegetables into the earth of the destroyed test site, and watered them. this was incredibly moving. One of the farmers sang Punjabi songs whilst Dave, an English guy, played the sitan (a type of banjo) and accompanied him. It was a totally beautfiul combination of western and eastern music, for some reason it really worked. the singer, Jagdish Singh, sang a song about resistance to the british colonial rule, and then the squatters sang an Irish tune on the same theme! Then Jagdish sang a song which he summarised afterwards saying, "this is a promise to our guru that we will never run away from our fields of battle", and the campers, who were staying overnight in the field, said, "Us too!".

We were all blown away by the day, it was really really special. There was a journalist from the Economist who came along with us, and when I asked her what she thought of the crop squat, she said "absolutely brilliant! I've had more intelligent conversations in the last hour than I have had in three months of cafe squatting in South Kensington." (i guess that's no guarantee of what the article will be like though).

Media coverage of the caravan that I know of so far has included:

  • 4 or 5 pieces in the guardian
  • some in the asian press
  • 2 BBC radio interviews - one world service
  • one BBC south east TV footage, also to go into documentary on genetics campaign
  • another Inter Press article, this one from London
  • the BBC Food programme
  • probably something in the Big Issue (magazine)
  • Head Magazine
  • Red Pepper