In this section...

"All people, all living things, are part of the earth life, and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom. Only in freedom can .... spirit flourish in its full diversity.

"To honour the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive. To honour the sacred is to make love possible.

"To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives."

Starhawk, 1993.

1.1 Motivations

genetiX snowball is a campaign of nonviolent civil responsibility aiming to build active resistance to this new gene technology which is unwanted, unnecessary, unsafe and irreversible

After half a century facing the dangers of the nuclear age and the splitting of the atom, we now find ourselves with a new threat posed by the splitting of the genome through genetic modification. Radioactivity has a "half life", it gradually becomes safer over thousands of years; but gene technology creates a pollution with "multiple life" - it keeps on replicating and cannot be recalled (for more information about this see appendix 1.1). Genetically modified (GM) plants are being released into the environment at deliberate release sites all over Britain.

genetiX snowball is a campaign of nonviolent civil responsibility aiming to build active resistance to this new gene technology which is unwanted, unnecessary, unsafe and irreversible. We want to challenge the sheep-like habit of doing as others do and not stepping out of line. Whilst individuals unthinkingly follow others, or give their consent by their failure to act, our society will never grow out of making war and destroying the Earth

Our democratic system has failed us; government has waived its responsibility to respond to public concern and regulatory bodies are wholly inadequate. Meanwhile transnational corporations hold the reins and pull the strings of power. Profit is being prioritised over the health of people and our environment.

When biotechnology companies refuse to accept liability for the risks of GM; when our legal system becomes devoid of morals and ethics - then we must take responsibility. We believe that one way of taking responsibility is to safely remove a small, symbolic number of GM plants from the ground and then to encourage others to take similar action.

Since GM crop release sites or 'test field sites' are sometimes several hectares in area, and there are possibly more than 300 in the UK, it is essential to involve lots of people. Each participant in genetiX snowball is asked to invite two or more people to join in the campaign, thus the image of the rolling snowball gradually growing bigger. Hopefully the action should not only perpetuate itself, but also get big enough to effect real democratic change.

We have set some ground rules for the genetiX snowball so that you can decide if this is the kind of campaign you want to join. These ground rules are consistent with our vision of a society which is founded on democracy, social justice and peace.

We are nonviolent because we want to help to create a peaceful world. The use of any kind of violence alienates people, polarises opinion and deflects from the real issues at stake. Taking nonviolent action in a group needs thorough preparation including discussing what each of you may consider to be violence. We need to confront the violence within us and to learn ways of dealing with the violence of others.

Openness and accountability are cornerstones of a real democracy. Multinational companies, and the majority of those involved in the biotechnology industry, are largely unaccountable to the rest of society. They have, for example, taken no steps to accept liability if anything goes wrong with gene technology. We show our openness by writing to the farmer in advance of the action - either the specific farmer, or all farmers hosting GM crops in the county in which we plan to do our action. We show our accountability by leaving personal statements explaining why we have taken nonviolent action.

An intrinsic part of our action is our readiness to accept the consequences of our action as part of our resistance. We recognise that people may well be arrested for participating in this action but by making ourselves vulnerable we are challenging our opponents. It is more difficult and challenging to condemn somebody who is apparently proud of their action, shows no violent resistance and seems undaunted by the consequences. There are however essential roles within each action which have a lower risk of arrest, such as talking with the farmer, police, media and legal support.

We believe that GM plants are a biohazard and we will be decontaminating the test site using safe methods. The measures we are taking are primarily to guard against the spread of genetic pollution which could result in further horizontal gene transfer (see appendix

We have tried to reach a definition of nonviolence and a way of being open and accountable that is appropriate for the circumstances in which genetiX snowball is taking place. We are inviting everyone who takes part in genetiX snowball to sign a pledge agreeing to these groundrules. There are opportunities to experiment within the terms of our pledge and we do not know how circumstances will change in the future so we need to be adaptable.

1.2 Inspirations

The genetiX snowball draws inspiration from three sources: the Snowball nonviolence campaign which resisted the presence of US military nuclear arms bases in Britain in the 80s; the Swords into Ploughshares tradition which uses simple hand tools to nonviolently disarm weapons (see appendix 1.2); the many inspiring actions to protect the environment in Britain and throughout the world which have incorporated nonviolent, open and accountable methods.

Hopefully we are combining the best of the original Snowball and the best of Ploughshares with our experience and understanding of environmental actions to produce an action that builds on these methods and is appropriate for the particular circumstances of genetically modified crops.

1.3 How genetiX snowball is organised

Seven people formed a coordinating group based on the "spokes- council" model - each coordinator is in one of five spokes- groups: outreach, support, administration, media and resources. At least one person from each spokes-group attends core- coordination meetings with the other spokes-group coordinators where they can bring up issues relating to their group and make policy decisions in consultation with the other coordinators. Coordinators of each spokes-group work and consult with other people to organise and do the work. The coordinators invited other people to join them in forming an "affinity group" which launched the first snowball action. The coordination group intends to invite new people in once the campaign is up and running reasonably smoothly. All the work is unpaid and we have very limited funds.

The coordination group intends to facilitate the campaign in fulfilling its aims, to be accountable for the overall campaign (but not for the specific actions of individuals or groups) and to serve the needs of existing snowball groups.