Around twenty tractors and dozens of farmers demonstrated on Tuesday in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to challenge the MEPs meeting in plenary session.
Two separate demonstrations were organized: one from the rural coordination, to denounce the importation of products which are not subject to the same standards as in France, and the other from the peasant confederation opposed to “New GMOs”.
“We are demonstrating here to meet European parliamentarians, to tell them to stop importing products that do not meet the standards imposed on us. In Ukrainian chicken for example, there are antibiotics which are banned here,” Germain Krantz, a farmer in Rangen (Bas-Rhin), told AFP, denouncing a “distortion of competition”.
This member of the rural coordination is also opposed to land fallow obligations in the EU and deplores the “red tape” under which he says he is “burdened”.
“All we ask is to be able to make a living from our job,” testified Marie-Paule Boehler, 43, who says she earns “500 euros every two months” and depends financially on her husband. “These people don’t realize it because they receive their salaries every month,” she adds, pointing to the European Parliament.
A few meters away, another demonstration brought together members of the Confédération paysanne and 12 environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Future Generations.
These activists from all over France, some disguised as bees or cows, ask MEPs to reject the European Commission’s proposal to relax the rules on “new genomic techniques” (NGT), aimed at developing plant varieties resistant to climatic hazards or insects.
On the eve of a vote by MEPs on this proposal, Sylvie Colas, national secretary of the Confédération paysanne, is concerned that there is no evaluation, no traceability or labeling of these “new GMOs”, fearing contamination of organic farming and “standardization” of crops.
“Voting for this text is going against the right of citizens to choose their food, it is killing the organic sector, peasant culture, by eliminating the diversity of production and it is developing pesticides and nitrogen fertilizers”, she told AFP.
Faced with the anger of the agricultural world, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday buried a legislative project aimed at reducing the use of pesticides.
In a gesture towards farmers, the Commission had already proposed last week a partial exemption from fallow obligations and a limitation of Ukrainian imports, while promising to “simplify” the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).