The French anti-GMO activist group, the Faucheurs Volontaires, was in the news recently after they stealthily scythed genetically modified grapevines in the Colmar region of France this Summer. The Faucheurs targeted the Colmar vineyard in response to the use of chemicals in order to treat presence of the grapevine fanleaf virus that was attacking the grapes.
In reaction to the event, environmental activist and Vice-President of the Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development for the European Parliment, José Bové commented, “the grapevine fanleaf virus is an agronomical problem...which can be addressed by innovative solutions arrived at through participatory research which the farmers can benefit from... [the research] should be oriented towards the multiple alternatives and the many possibilities that need to be further pursued, notably the alternatives that are the result of the know-how of the farmers themselves.”
The government, however, “firmly” condemned the act in a press release issued on August 16 saying that they “insist upon the necessity of scientists to be able to work in serenity, especially given that the modes of testing the GMOs were the product of a large consensus.” The authors of the press release, which included the Minister of Research and Higher Education Valérie Pécresse and the Minister of Food, Nutrition, and Fishing Bruno Le Maire vowed to “continue to support research in biotechnology, which is indispensable for the future of agriculture”.
Les Faucheurs Volontaires must be used to these mixed reactions and accept them along with the legal fees and punishments that come along with their special brand of agricultural activism. Fines and prison sentences are often the aftermath of their protests, which have taken place in French regions such as Nonette, Avelin and Poinville.
The price of their actions pales in comparison to the cost to the environment and our health that results in the use of GMOs and the Faucheurs are dedicated to eradicating the use of chemicals in France's vineyards. The website Amis de la Terre sums up the groups mission statement and justifications for civil disobedience explaining “what the Faucheurs denounce is the out in the open experimentation on crops which lead to the irreversible contamination of vegetable species. They stand up for humanity's heritage. What they denounce is the patenting of living organisms which places farmers from both the North and South under the domination of biotechnology companies which, rather than reducing hunger in the world, risks to increase it.”
Given the group's charter, it's no surprise that their enemy number one is the American biotechnology giant, Monsanto. In his 2005 article Monsanto, Dr. Raoul Marc Jenner calls Monsanto a “transnational company which, from agent orange to “Terminator” seeding, not to mention the production of PCB, pesticides and highly toxic herbicides, along with carcinogenic growth hormones and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), has sought out higher profits through the manufacturing the most noxious products.” Jenner cites Aldous Huxley and George Orwell's theory that total control of our food chain is the ultimate objective of international agricultural companies and notes its validity and eventuality writing, “the manufacturing of GMOs and patenting living organisms are the technical means [to this end]. The European Union and the World Trade Organization provide the legal framework.”
The Faucheurs Volontaires represent a movement to stop the control and inotoxication of our food chain and, regardless of fines, prison time and governmental condemnation, we all reap the benefits of their actions and their activism. This was recognized by the courts in Orléans and later in Versailles which acknowledged in 2005 that the Faucheurs' scything of a crop of Monsanto's transgenic corn was an act that was motivated by a “necessary state” of concern for the detrimental affects of GMOs.
If you live in France, you can support the Faucheurs Volontaires by buying their wine (see biocoop entry, Day 4) you can also support by donating money in order to defray legal fees, or you can sign this petition.
The least you can do is buy some organic booze and raise your glass to some of France's favorite saboteurs: the Faucheurs.