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Mass Demonstration and Teach-in for Organic Farming in EU

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That could well be the title of a report about the Good Food March in ten years time, on 19.9.2022. On this first occasion, however, the success of the joint march from across Europe (plus bikes) was expressed in terms of the high level of esteem for the marchers and the march in front of the buildings of the EU Commission and the EU Parliament. Around 500 people from 20 countries met at around 10.00 on 19.9.2012 in a park in Brussels and took part in a two-hour demonstration march past various public buildings belonging to the EU. The Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolos, received a delegation from the demonstrators in front of the Berlaymont, that houses the headquarters of the European Commission. In many speeches, time and again you could hear a particular expression being used: system change.

It was an historic event: for the first time ever, European environmental and agricultural organisations joined forces to arrange a march that was followed by a rally at the centre of political power in Europe. The organisers were Slow Food, Friends of the Earth Europe, Meine Landwirtschaft, Agricultural and Rural Convention ARC2020, European Coordination Via Campesina, European Milk Board, IFOAM EU Group and Group PAC2013. Also involved were over 100 other organisations in more than 20 countries.

A good 50 marchers set off from Munich on 25.08. 2012 (see our earlier report) - from Linz in Austria a week before - and they all walked via Strasbourg and Luxemburg to Brussels. In the Netherlands, a group started out on16.9. 2012, and in the Basque country in the south of France the starting date was 1.9. 2012. All three contingents came together on18 September in Brussels. An internet blog carried a large number of pictures and detailed reports in different languages of all stages of the march. The different stages enabled the walkers to visit organic farmers or food manufacturers along the way. "From Munich, there were mostly 20 - 40 people who walked for single days," said Iris Kiefer from the German co-organiser Meine Landwirtschaft. A hard core of a good dozen cycled the whole route of 1,200 km.

In Brussels, the approximately 150 m long march stopped the traffic in front of the EU Commission's building at Schumann Square near the Parc des Cinquantenaire, which was where the demonstration started. There were brightly painted plastic cows on a trailer pulled by a tractor, and a great klezmer band (picture) from Brussels was playing. They did their best to make themselves heard over the street noise and to let people in the EU building know they were there. Fanfares on the vuvuzela added to the effect of the band, as did the chant: "What do you want now?" Answer: "Good Food - Good Farming". People carried green anti-GMO flags and many of them were wearing green T-shirts with the march logo. The route led past the Council of Ministers, the Directorate-General for Agriculture and the Committee of the Regions, and ended after an hour and a half at the EU Parliament. For Brussels this may well have been one of their smaller demonstrations, but it was big on quality and symbolic power.
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