"Polish Jose Bove" faces prison - call for pardon
"Punishing activists such as Zagorny exemplifies the powerlessness of individuals and groups who challenge the corporate, globalised food system. Any well-intended efforts taken in the name of establishing a more just and sustainable agricultural system are being discouraged." - Julian Rose, director of International Coalition to Protect Polish Countryside
NGOs support Polish anti-GMO activist Zagorny
For immediate release, June 23 2008
Contact: Anna Witowska
Phone: (48) 642 2127
Farm Activist Zagorny Should be Pardoned, Groups Urge President Kaczynski
"Polish Jose Bove" Faces Prison for Support of Family Farming and Opposition to GMOs and Industrialised Agriculture
More than 30 public interest groups from throughout the world today urged Polish President Lech Kaczynski to pardon activist-farmer Marian Zagorny, who faces more than two years in prison for his work against genetic engineering and other practices harmful to family-scale farming.
Food & Water Watch Europe, the GMO Free Poland Coalition, Friends of the Earth USA, US-based National Family Farm Coalition and members of the international farmers' group Via Campesina are among the organisations that signed a letter mailed today to President Kaczynski in support of Zagorny.
Known as the "Polish Jose Bove" because of his unconventional tactics in defense of family farming, Zagorny comes out of the Solidarity tradition. His actions have included destroying a shipment of genetically modified grain at the Polish border and placing a pig in the office of Lower-Silesia's governor.
Zagorny who previously was among the leaders of Polish farmers' union Solidarnosc RI and now is the president of another farmers union Solidarni that he helped create, was imprisoned in the late 1990s for similar actions. Then-Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski pardoned him in 2000 on the condition that he avoid additional convictions. Zagorny put his freedom at risk, however, and once again joined farmers' actions. He was sentenced this past April for destroying genetically modified cereals, which activated 16 previously suspended sentences. He now faces up to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Under the lead of Food & Water Watch Europe, civil society groups in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa are working to keep Zagorny out of prison so he can continue his work in support of family farming in Eastern Europe.
"It is a shame that people like Marian lose their freedom over their commitment to sustainable agriculture, while biotech corporations and factory farms go legally unchallenged for the harm they inflict on consumers, farming communities, the environment and animals," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.
"I am particularly appalled that Marian has been charged with animal cruelty for bringing a pig to the governor's office," said Hauter, who met Zagorny on a tour of factory farms in the US in 2003. "If this is cruelty, then what word should be used to describe the treatment of pigs on farms run by Smithfield Foods and other multinational agribusinesses?"
Julian Rose, British exponent of organic farming, who now resides in Southern Poland and fulfills the function of the director of International Coalition to Protect Polish Countryside expressed a similar opinion on this matter: "Imprisoning Zagorny would further weaken the position of family farmers and the organisations that represent them. Punishing activists such as Zagorny exemplifies the powerlessness of individuals and groups who challenge the corporate, globalised food system. Any well-intended efforts taken in the name of establishing a more just and sustainable agricultural system are being discouraged."