Tag Archives: Africa

Millions March against Monsanto

Durban GMO protest

Wow. On Saturday 25 May 2013, two million people worldwide marched against Monsanto, reported the Guardian. (Image above by Phillip Martin of the Durban protest from No GMO South Africa).

One of the top ten US chemical companies - think Agent Orange and DDT -Monsanto started buying up seed companies in the 1980s. Now it is the biggest producer of GM (genetically modified) seed.

Portman Square Bristol BS2 Sat 25 May 2013

Portman Square Bristol BS2 Sat 25 May 2013

Here in Bristol, we chanted: “We don’t want no GMO.”

GM (genetically modified) technology is based on the outdated scientific premise that a gene is responsible for a characteristic. So all you have to do is add a desired characteristic from one species  into another species and ta da, you have a nice new genetically modified organism (GMO).

It’s nothing like traditional breeding because it crosses species barriers, creating organisms that would never exist in nature.

Once a seed is genetically modified it can be patented – which means the company that patents it, owns it.

Which means you can now prosecute farmers who have your patented seeds on their fields. Even even if the seeds arrived (as seeds do) by wind or bees.

Check out GMO Myths and Truths for more info. This fully-referenced report shows that Monsanto et al‘s claims – that GM crops yield better, reduce pesticide use, and are safe to eat – are dubious.

Also check out: GM Education, GM Freeze and GM Watch. Also: Thierry Vrain, former pro-GM research scientist for Agriculture Canada now promoting awareness of the many dangers of GM food.

NO GMO Monsanto couple

Back to the march.

Well, despite some “trolling” beforehand including fake reports that marches were not going to happen, or would be violent, they happened and they were 100% peaceful.

See these pics of the London march and below.

Bianca Jagger - image from http://www.demotix.com/news/2088303/environmental-gmo-activists-march-against-monsanto-london#media-2088296

Bianca Jagger – image from
http://www.demotix.com/

I was a steward (I have an NVQ in Green Stewarding, I’ll have you know) for the approx 500-strong Bristol march and I can report it was filled with good humour and co-operation.

Portman Square Bristol BS2 Sat 25 May 2013

Portland Square Bristol BS2 Sat 25 May 2013

As we waited at Portland Square before setting off from the march, a man with a beautifully-ironed shirt volunteered he had escaped his “corporate pay masters” to support us.

“O, that’s great,”I said. “Are you coming on the march?”

Well, no, he wasn’t because he had already been there 45 minutes already.

He said Monsanto probably had some observers at the march but they were likely dressed in a “bohemian” way.

He was keen to meet local organisers but was uninterested when I suggested Bristol Friends of the Earth.

Monsanto has used a PR firm in the past to discredit opposition and according to some, employed a security firm to monitor activists online.

I think a security firm will have its work cut-out. The thing is there is not one over-arching or hierarchical body behind people like us.

These marches are organic and spontaneous – the human spirit rising up to protect our food.

Veg fest

After the march, Julia and I went to the VegFest (above), and reaped the benefits of a happy healthy food movement.

Who would have thought that wholesome food could be subversive?

La Pirogue – stolen fish and refugees


“Y’a plus de personnes ici, y’a plus de poissons.”

“No more people here, no more fish,” says one of the characters in La Pirogue, the Senegalese film directed by Moussa Touré, selected for Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2012.

Here’s a clip from La Pirogue.

Illegal fishing on a fierce industrial scale is robbing West African coastal countries of its fish, often the only protein source for millions of people.

Instead of being used for local, sustainable fishing, the painted pirogue is used to transport desperate people on a perilous sea journey. The film is dedicated to the thousands of Africans who have died crossing the Atlantic to Europe.

If they had their fish, they would not risk crossing the ocean in a wooden boat.

Much of this stolen fish ends up in Europe, says the Environmental Justice Foundation in its recent report, Exposing Pirate Fishing: The Fight Against Illegal Fishing in West Africa and the EU.

Everything is connected. The would-be migrants who try to enter Fortress Europe are suffering from the illegal trade in seafood sold to Europe.

La Pirogue opened the Afrika Eye Film Festival on the 9 November 2012. I was helping the sixth Afrika Eye Film Festival with its social media, and saw a connection for another client, Charles Redfern’s sustainable canned fish brand, Fish4Ever.

He in turn saw a link with the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and sponsored their stall at La Pirogue’s screening.

Here is Charles Redfern and Kate, a marine scientist, who ran the EJF information stall at the Afrika Eye Film Festival, at the Watershed, Bristol.

Charles has family links to Sierra Leone, also ravaged by illegal fishing.  In 2011, he raised £9k to help the EJF buy Sierra Leone a new monitoring boat. This boat featured in an Al Jazeeera video investigation as it chased two South Korean trawlers fishing illegally.

David Dravie-John from Sierra Leone, and Charles, connected at the opening night. David Dravie-John wanted to interview Charles on his Bristol-based radio on Ujima 98 FM, but as Charles is Reading-based, I agreed to be interviewed instead.

Positive change starts with awareness. I have to communicate the problem because it’s part of finding the solution.

The Zimbabwean film maker, Afrika Eye Film Festival co-founder, and director of Robert Mugabe – What Happened, Simon Bright, says in my interview for Bristol247, “Film has the power to transform political events”.

…”so that the beautiful African pirogues will never again serve to transport human misery,” as a blogger wrote.

Fish4Ever’s ethical sourcing policy refuses to buy from long distance foreign fleets fishing in the coastal waters of developing countries.


And here’s a picture of Charles eating lentil soup I made with Fish4Ever anchovies, + cut-up sweated small cubes of fennel, leek and swede (a veg trio inspired by healthy-food-on-a-budget Square Food Foundation’s chef Barny Haughton).

Delicious sustainable fish, and food security for poor countries.

Have I helped join up the dots?