Thousands of angry Polish farmers have marched on Warsaw demanding land rights, a ban on GMs and government compensation for losses in the agricultural sector.
More than 6,000 Polish farmers took part in the rally on Wednesday (18 February) to protest the Polish government’s failure to address their longstanding demands.
Farmers are demanding restrictions on the sale of land to western companies, a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops, compensation for damage caused by wild boars to crops and a dairy payout for 2013 and 2014.
Demonstrations have been taking place over the past three weeks involving road blockades and rallies outside government ministries.
The protests are being co-ordinated by the farmers’ branch of the Solidarity union. Unions representing beekeepers, coal miners and nurses, who are also on strike, are supporting them.
The farmers’ demands build on longstanding grievances over claims the government has not fulfilled agreements and contracts, leading to bankruptcy for many farmers and loss of agricultural land.
Polish farmers say the government has prohibited the direct sale of products, which has forced them to focus on selling raw products into the low-priced export market.
International companies then process and re-import products, leaving farmers with little of the real value of their goods.
Speaking at the protest, family farmers Maria and Mariusz Nowak, from Zachodniopomorskie province, called for a change of government.
Mrs Nowak said: “We should withdraw our membership of the European Union and recover our national food self-sufficiency.
“It is crazy that we import products we can produce here. Our products are better quality and are healthier. The government is undermining Polish farmers and needs to resign.”
Jadwiga Lopata, a family farmer and co-director of the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, said: “The health and welfare of the nation depends on consumers and farmers having access to traditional seeds and good-quality food.
“The Polish government does not accept this and is destroying the roots of Polish agriculture by listening to corporations rather than Polish people.”
Talks are continuing with the Polish government’s ministry of agriculture.