GB No. 1(24)/97
The Green Federation - Krakow Group has recently published, together with Greenpeace, a report on the genetically engineered organisms in Central and Eastern Europe. Following is the text of the press release prepared after the conference.
Warsaw - 7 November 1996 - a Greenpeace report released today reviews that Poland and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have already released genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) into the environment. These genetic experiments are being carried out with no legal controls and no procedures for public consultation, even though they are financed mainly by taxpayers.
The report entitled "Playing God - Genetic Engineering of Food in Central and Eastern Europe" alerts the public to the potential threats posed by the genetic experiments being undertaken in food production. In Poland, genetically engineered carp containing human genes to make them grow faster are swimming in ponds. Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia have released genetically engineered potatoes, tobacco, corn, oilseed rape and alfalfa into the environment during field trials.
"Although today, our countries call themselves democratic there are no procedures in place to ensure a participatory democracy", said Dr. György Stuber, a Hungarian working for Greenpeace Sweden. He added, "In the past we were contaminated by toxic chemicals and radioactivity without our knowledge; now, we may have to live with genetic pollution. Again we are being used as guinea pigs. So, what has changed?"
The report's release coincides with talks being held in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the Convention on Biological Diversity, under which a Biosafety Protocol is to be negotiated. It also coincides with the first harvest of genetically engineered soybeans in the US. The first imports of this genetically engineered crop are to arrive in Europe any day. "Clearly, CEE is threatened not only by its own genetic experiments, but also by imports from abroad. With no legislative requirements for notification, inspection and labeling, at least in Poland, Poles may soon be eating genetically engineered food without knowing it", said Dr. Stuber.
The report highlights the absence of legislation in CEE to protect human and environmental health from the nasty surprises that genetically engineered organisms might cause.
"It is ironic that Poland's priority regarding genetic engineering activities has been to regulate their commercial aspects", said Łukasz Kurnicki, from the Information Centre for Environmental Law. "Poland has legislation allowing the patenting of products of genetic engineering, but none to protect the environment and public health from the potential threats of GEOs", he said.
The report examines the implications of consumer rejection of genetically engineered food in Western Europe which might effect the agricultural economies of CEE countries. "If Poland gambles on genetically engineered agriculture, it might not only find itself without customers for its food in the EU, but also destroy efforts being made to produce organic food", said Darek Szwed, campaigner from Green Federation, Krakow.
This report focuses on the environmental impacts of the agricultural application of genetic engineering. However, manipulation of life also raises ethical and social questions.
"Austria and Switzerland are planning public referendums on genetic engineering, on environmental releases of GEOs and their patenting. We call on all concerned social organizations - environmental, consumer and church groups - and organic farmers in Central and Eastern Europe to raise public awareness and campaign for a public referendum on these issues", concluded Iza Kruszewska, journalist and author of the report.
For further information call:
Darek Szwed, Federacja Zielonych, Kraków,
tel./fax 48/12/4222264, 4222147
Iza Kruszewska, ANPED, tel./fax 44/181/6723454
Dr. György Stuber, Greenpeace Sweden,
tel. 46/8/7027070, fax 6949013
Łukasz Kurnicki, Punkt Informacji o Prawie Ekologicznym,
At the meeting in Warsaw a clash of opinions took place among the representatives of The Main School of Farming (SGGW), Warsaw. The statements by employees of genetic engineering at SGGW about genetic manipulations on food was sharply criticized by Dr Urszula Sołtysiak: "Genetic engineers do not understand how complex a system nature is. They think nature can be easily manipulated. I also graduated from the School, but only later did I realize, working with farmers and gardeners, how much man had destroyed - having intruded on nature. We have to stop genetic engineers before they change nature".
The day after the conference in Warsaw, Greenpeace activists blockaded the Polish ship Ziemia Zamojska in Antwerp, Belgium for 24 hours. It has shipped genetically engineered soybeans from the United States. The ship was afterwards successfully unloaded.
Saturday, 9. November, 17. 15. "Teleekspres", a Polish tv news program, informs that scientists from the Institute of Ichthyology and Fish Farming in Gołysz, near Chybie, assure that the carp with human genes living in the ponds of the Institute are used solely for scientific, not commercial, purposes.
Tuesday, 12. November, a program on the RMF Radio: a scientist conducting an experiment on carp in Gołysz states that most of the fish "have been turned into fodder"; he ate one himself and a few young carp are kept in ponds. When asked whether any international food concerns (e. g. Monsanto) are involved in the experiment, he flatly denied. For the next question, "in the near future, would you like the carps equipped with human genes to appear on Christmas Eve's tables?", he answers, having considered the problem for a few seconds, "No".
(high employment, small farms, small energy/chemicals - great potential for developing ecological agriculture, Monsanto wants "to give modified seed for free or at a discount" to Polish farmers, CAP threatening Polish "almost ecological" agriculture, first PHARE (grant program for CEE countries to help them in transition period) grant in 1989 was a donation of $60 million of pesticides banned in the US and Europe)
Green Federation-Cracow Sustainable Product Campaign
"Menu for the next Millenium"
PS Good article on Polish Agriculture: "The Ecologist", Jan/Feb 1996 Bread and Freedom - Agriculture in Poland by Janusz Nagiecki.
PPS Iza Kruszewska wrote a report on some multinationals (ABB) in Poland (Open Borders, Broken Promises) firstname.lastname@example.org
Although the rural technical and social infrastructure is not sufficiently developed, the percentage of women who find advantages of living in the country side has been encreasing in the last few years. The main "uncomfortabilities" of living which are described by women are: lack of free time, lack of anonymity, alcohol consumption, difficulties with city offices, lack of the proper health-care services and cultural centres. At the same time, as many as 27% (in 1992) of women found their rural life perfect. It is also interesting to mention that there are more and more women who indicate ecological values and advantages of living in villages: clean environment, safe food produced by themselves, ease of raising children and wider social and family contacts than in cities.
This information seems even more valuable if one takes into consideration the fact that about 37, 6% of the total Polish population lives in rural areas and that Polish agriculture is mostly individual small scale farms (averaging 7 ha) with a low input of chemicals and energy. It is also important to mention here that there was a strong correlation between individual farming and the rate of unemployment. The unemployment rate for rural areas was only 6, 2%; which at the same time was 16, 9% in cities.
In 1993 48, 7% of the total people employed in individual farms were women. It is important to underline here that women are involved as much as men in the everyday workings of individual farms. Average working time on the farm is about ten hours a day, but during spring-summer period it reaches as much as 13 hours. It is also recently noticeable that more and more women under 18 years old are actively involved in daily farm activities. However, the average age of women working on individual farms is still 46, 8 years (1993 data, for men - 44, 8 years). The difference between the average age of men and women is due to the fact that there are more men in younger age groups in rural communities. It is also the case that there is still a relatively high percentage of elderly people (65 years and more) active in farming. It is about 24% in the case of women and 13, 2% in the case of men.
Another characteristic which makes living in the Polish country-side interesting: 20% of the farms in Poland are run by women. It is a very high number in comparison to the level found in the European Union - where only up to 10% of the farms are managed by women. The majority of farms run by women in Poland are small farms - not exceeding 5 ha. This is regionally diversified, however. Most of the farms operated by women are located in the southern and south-eastern regions of Poland (about 30% of all farms). This type of women's activity is necessary because of husband's illnesses or men's double professions (many farmers also work part-time in another location, although due to the high unemployment rates in cities, there are less and less "two-profession" farmers). The Agriculture and Food Economy Institute assesments show that the number of farms run by women will be more or less stable in coming years.
Several other aspects of the discussed subject are worth noticing here. Women managing farms do not have a high level of general education (as high as 13% of them do not have a primary school certificate). Single women's situations are especially difficult - ca. 9% of farms are run by single women. The average woman in this group is 65, the farm size is as little as 3. 7 ha and 40% of women do not have full ground-school education. This group of women live at the very basic level - 23% of such farms do not have any washing-machines, 22% do not own a refridgerator and 96% have no car.
In summary, I would like to point out a few important things relating to women running farms. Farms run by women generally produce more, in comparison to farms managed by men. The production level is kept lower due to lower use of chemicals and machines (only 46% of women-run farms own a tractor; this number for men-managed farms being as high as 70%). Women farmers use bank credits less often for their activities on the farm: the average debt of women-owned farms is about 1000 PLN (350 USD) per farm which took credit and the respective number for men-owned farms was 2200 PLN (770 USD) in 1993. Generally speaking, women-run farms are low-input (low level of machine use and extensive farming methods are often supported by free or paid relatives and neighbours). Due to this fact, and because of the low standard of households (28% lacking running water, 40% lacking bathrooms, 39% lacking water heater/boiler), only 10% of women declared a willingness and possibility to develop their farm.
Rural women claim that work on farms is burdensome. However they remain working there, pointing more and more often at positive aspects of rural living (which was previously discussed). This is even more important if we keep in mind that every fifth farm in Poland is run by woman. Additionally, women's ecological awarness is increasing and more and more farms are being transformed to biodynamic and ecological methods. This happens despite the lack of technical and social infrastructure in the rural areas.
(The author is a student of psychology at the Jagiellonian University. She also works at the Womens' Foundation "eFKa" in Kraków)
* (the information was collected from a publication of the Women and Economics Global Working Group, Main Statistical Institute and Institute for Agricultural Economics and Food Economy in Warsaw)
"Creating an Ecological Farmers Cooperative" is an innovative programme to introduce a model ecological farmers cooperative as a positive ecological and economic solution to one of the biggest ecological threats facing Poland today. That is the gradual elimination of up to 2,1 million small Polish farms which are relatively ecological and non-polluting, and their replacement by large-scale, non-ecological factory farms after Poland joins the European Union. Individual small farmers may not be able to survive highly organized competition from very large, intensive, highly polluting factory farms unless the small farmers get together and work cooperatively and ecologically to provide consumers with better, ecological products at affordable prices.
In the present project, a group of small farmers (some currently organic farmers and others interested to become organic farmers), as well as several ecological activists and members of the public from and nearby the village of Stryszów will be given regular training seminars at the only organic farm in Stryszów. Training will be in organic farming, ecological cooperatives, production and distribution of ecological food and non-food products and eco-tourism to ecological farms. During the seminars a farmers ecological cooperative of 10-15 farmers will be formed to grow and process organic foods and non-food products and sell them directly to consumers locally and in nearby cities, and to organise trips for tourists to visit their ecological farms and farmers cooperative.
The project is organized by Ecosolidarity in cooperation with several other Polish ecological associations, including ECEAT-Poland, Ekoland, and the Green Federation. It aims to stimulate the revival of the ecological farmers cooperative movement that was very successful in Poland up to about 50 years ago. In this way, Poland's 2. 1 million small farmers will have a chance to survive the economic restructuring taking place in Poland as a result of Poland's coming entry to the European Union. The Polish countryside and the health of the Polish people will be benefittedas well.
Polish agriculture, like the rest of Poland, is today in transition from a discredited and inefficient communistic economic system to a socially and economically uncertain capitalist economic system. Although most small family farms remained in private hands under the communist system in Poland, their production was mainly for the survival of the farmers' families. State owned and controlled cooperatives were very unpopular and inefficient. Poverty prevented the widespread purchase and use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, so the food produced by small farms was relatively healthy.
Now with the transition to capitalism and pending membership in the European Union, many of Poland's 2. 1 million small family farms are threatened to be superceded by large scale factory farms using high levels of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. This will lead to the degradation of the quality of food, as well as the cultural and social life of rural Poland, as many small farmers sell their farms and move with their families to overcrowded and polluted cities.
This depressing scenario seems to have a certain inevitability about it (unless a positive and acceptable alternative emerges quickly), as it corresponds to the recent agricultural picture in more developed Western European countries. The Polish government's agricultural policy is now guided by Western European economic ideas and pressures, as well as by the self-interest of large rural landowners, including land-owning politicians, who hope to reap big agricultural subsidies from pending membership in the European Union. The government is moving at full speed to implement this approach, to the expected detriment of the health and welfare of Polish citizens and the already overstrained and polluted Polish cities and countryside.
Ironically, many Western European governments have now realized many advantages of ecological agriculture and are giving it sizable support in their own countries, while Poland lags far behind in such support, even compared to Hungary and the Czech Republic.
The goal of this project is to give farmers, ecological activists and members of the public practical training for creating ecologically-based farmers cooperatives, and to create at least one viable ecological farmers cooperative in Stryszów village, to organise the distribution of ecological food and non-food products locally and in both Kraków and Bielsko-Biała. The initial farmers cooperative will be organized around eco-tourism as well as organic farming. The project will be accomplished through practical and systematic training sessions in organic farming, ecological tourism to organic farms, and ecological cooperative theory and practice. This will be implemented through 10 weekend training sessions for 50 farmers (for creating the farmers cooperative) and 50 ecologists, students and members of the public (for the work with distribution).
This project will be a concrete example of how unecological large-scale intensive chemical farming with its harmful social and economic consequences for small Polish farmers and the public can be avoided. It will demonstrate an alternative economic and ecological approach that will benefit small farmers and others in rural areas, as well as city dwellers. The project will initiate the creation of an ecological farmers cooperative managed and operated by the farmers themselves. The project will demonstrate the cooperative production of organic whole and processed food products, along with the cooperative production on the farms of ecological, local culturally-based non-food products, and their distribution in nearby cities. Cooperatively organized eco-tourism will supplement the farmers' income from organic food and non-food production.
Food that is produced organically is both healthier and better tasting than conventionally grown food using high levels of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Organic agriculture also does not polluted land, water and air the way intensive chemical agriculture does.
Locally-owned and controlled cooperatives are the most democratic form of economic organization. Well-run ecological farmers cooperatives existed in Poland before World War II, notably in the Stryszów region. This tradition needs to be revived for the benefit of the small farmers and others living in the countryside, and also to benefit city dwellers. But given the farmers' more recent negative experience with state cooperatives in Poland, the reintroduction of ecological, locally-owned and controlled cooperatives needs to be implemented carefully, voluntarily and psychologically, showing their benefits to the farmers and other local people at every stage. The project will be carried out with the informed support of the local people and local government.
When successful results are achieved in this model ecological farmers cooperative project, a similar approach, adjusted to local conditions, may be found applicable for phased implementation throughout Poland (as well as other Central and Eastern European countries facing similar transitional economic and ecological problems as Poland.) This approach offers a positive ecological and economic solution for Polish agriculture so needed today.
by Richard Richardson, Project Author and Director
A determined group of Polish ecological activists and supporters are unwilling to let Poland's family farms be replaced by large-scale, unecological and socially destructive factory farming, as proposed in the government's agricultural restructuring policy. Meeting in the historic Białowieża forest region, 30 members of the 9th Green Federation Congress discussed and then opposed the Polish agricultural policy to replace millions of small family farms with large-scale factory farms similar to those in more "developed" countries. An open letter and petition were prepared and are being circulated amongst many environmental, social and political leaders as well as the public, asking for a reassesment of the present agricultural policy.
Not satisfied with opposing the existing policy, several Polish ecological groups have joined forces to propose an alternative, more ecologically and socially beneficial program for agriculture in Poland. The proposal is to create an integrated, ecological system of farmer, producer and consumer cooperatives based on the model given by P. R. Sarkar, the founder of PROUT. The newly registered Polish Prout-based movement Ecosolidarity is spearheading the project, with the cooperation of other established ecological groups, including Green Federation, Ekoland, Green Brigades Magazine, and ECEAT-Poland.
Ecosolidarity is planning to create a model eco-agricultural project (including farmers cooperatives, producers cooperatives and consumers cooperatives) in and near the village of Stryszów, a village halfway between Kraków and Bielsko-Biała consisting of 5000 people and 500 family farms. The purpose of this model is to demonstrate the feasibility of this alternative proposal.
Stryszów's only bio-dynamic farmer, Maria Bołdys, the president of Ecosolidarity, will make her farm part of the project and help spread the idea to other farmers. ECEAT-Poland's president Jadwiga Łopata has been organizing training programmes for local farmers on ecological agriculture and tourism and the PROUT theory and practices of ecological cooperatives. A booklet for farmers on PROUT-based ecological cooperatives will be published, with an introduction by Ekoland's founder, Prof. Górny. Green Federation's Darek Szwed and Sławek Pietrasik have made contacts with Kraków politicians and administrators to promote the idea of creating consumers cooperatives in Kraków that will cooperate with neighbouring ecological farmers.
The Ecosolidarity proposal for an integrated system of ecological farmers, producers and consumers cooperatives will be put forward and discussed at the upcoming planning meetings for the 11th annual Kolumna Ecologists Conference that will take place next May in the Polish town of Kolumna near Łódź. Associated with this meeting, a representative group of the main ecological organizations called Lista 21, has been asked by the Polish government to prepare a set of recommendations for an alternative ecological programme for Poland. The proposed PROUT-based integrated ecological cooperative program for Polish agriculture could be a part of it.
See the article 'congress' for the open letter mentioned above. Enquiries and support from ecological and social groups outside of Poland are welcome and would be greatly appreciated.
In 1989, Poland was the first country of the former Eastern Bloc to launch into a programme of conversion to a new political and economic system. Agriculture is one of the key sectors in the reconstruction of the Polish economy. There are over 2. 5 million private farms in Poland, most of them very small and only self-sustaining. There is a shortage of equipment and general infrastructure such as flour mills and slaughter-houses.
It is a challenge to develop agriculture in such a way that the social and ecological richness of the countryside remains preserved. If Polish agriculture were to develop in the manner of Western Europe, the number of farmers would be drastically reduced, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides would rise. This kind of development would have negative consequences for the natural environment. Most farmers see this intensification as a huge threat and would prefer to continue working in the traditional way. But this will not solve the problem in the long run. The solution lies in a third way. Environmentally-friendly modernization could avert the disadvantages of Western agriculture and still create sufficient employment. More and more farmers are making a start on this path, and they set a good example for Polish agriculture.
Many of these farmers are members of Ekoland, the Polish society for organic farmers. Ekoland, which has 300 members, manages seven support centres providing information and training in organic farming. Inspectors are trained to control and certify farms. Seminars, lectures and trips to Western European organic farms are also being organized. Many members of Ekoland have opened their farms for tourists, through which finances are found for setting up a modern farm that is not harmful to the environment.
Coming to Poland? - visit our 60 lovely small ecofarms co-operating within a network coordinated by the European Centre for Eco Agro Tourism - Poland. We try to promote small scale farming practices and soft tourism together. Your visit may help us to put our ideas about sustainable future into practice. Real countryside, real food, real rest and real people at their home - you can find all this in our eco-farms. If you want to find out more - contact us. We also have a brochure with addresses of all farms.
Contact us at:
European Centre for Eco Agro Tourism-Poland
34-146 Stryszów 156, Poland
ECEAT-Poland (European Centre for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism - Poland) offers cosy camping or lodging on small organic farms in Poland. In the most beautiful natural areas, especially in mountainous regions, tourists can meet with local people, learning both about the culture and environmentally-friendly farms. These farms are well-suited for people who appreciate a quiet atmosphere, unspoiled nature, unchanged traditions and healthy food. On the other hand the farmers especially appreciate the cultural, ideological exchange, as well as the substantial increase in their incomes which they happily reinvest into organic agriculture.
The EAT (Ecological Agriculture and Tourism) program has been functioning in Poland for 2 years now and has gained a lot of interest from both Polish organic farmers and eco-tourists (mostly from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany).
ECEAT is a non-profit, non-governmental organization and not a tour operator or commercial travel agency. However, ECEAT does cooperate with travel agencies and tour operators who are willing to incorporate ECEAT accommodation into their programs.
ECEAT-Poland networks with other ECEAT centres in Eastern Europe and the International office in Amsterdam.
M. Sc. Jadwiga Wietrzna-Łopata
PS Also see The Green Holiday Guide - address book of ECEAT-Poland. Available also in German and Dutch
ECOFARMA - Polish Ecological Farm is a foundation which has been established through a collaboration between the Kashubian Association, Polish Ecological Club and the Danish foundation, Solhvervfouden. The aim of the foundation is to advance the production of ecological foodstuffs in the environmentally sensitive Kashubian lakeland region. The collaboration has made it possible to build a modern ecological farming enterprise ECOFARMA. One technologically advanced model farm in Małkowo, and two reorganized farms in Wyczechowo and Przyjaźń comprise ECOFARMA's 670 hectares.
ECOFARMA has been producing more environmentally friendly produced goods since 1993. Profits from the sales of these products - milk, cream and butter - are intended to make progress in the field of environmental protection. Those interested in following the different stages in the development of 100% ecological products are invited to visit an ECOFARMA site to see it for themselves.
Ecological farming is important because it provides modern operational methods of producing healthy foodstuffs, while also ensuring that these methods safeguard the environment. The use of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers are prohibited at ECOFARMA's ecological fields. Ecological fodder is exclusively used and livestock have access to ample supplies of light, fresh air and exercise.
ECOFARMA strives for the best possible conditions for the environment and the animals.
ECOFARMA can be contacted at:
What is the PTPP "pro Natura"?
We are a Polish organization which is concerned with the protection of nature in Poland. We have been in existence since 1990 working on this matter. Our activities cover the whole country of Poland. We have members throughout the country, as well as supporting and sympathizing members from abroad. Our main goal is the conservation and restoration of the endangered elements of the natural environment.
Our activities include:
Current Activities and Projects of PTPP "pro Natura"
PTPP "pro Natura",
50-449 Wrocław, Poland
tel./fax 48/71/22 33 44