The speed of my walking was becoming clear to me by now. I had arranged a detour into North Devon to meet Hector Christie and talk about his campaigning, but I now realised it would add a couple of weeks on to the trip. I decided to see him anyway but treat myself to a cheeky detour. My parents wanted to see the village of Clovelly, that they’d last visited thirty years ago, and afterwards they would drop me off to meet Hector.
When we arrived at Clovelly on the coast, there was a sign requiring visitors to enter through a tourist visitors center. It also then required visitors to pay £6.75 to enter the cliffside cobbled village.
“None of this was here before.” Dad told me.
“There’s a beautiful view, when we get there.” said Mum.
The entire village is owned by one family and had previously had large numbers of visitors that were deemed to be excessive. The tiny village does indeed have beautiful views, as well as donkeys, a miniature museum and cafes. But the price, is like the famous cobbled streets – very steep.
Hector arrived to meet me at the train station in a large five door car that had seen better days. Resonating with enthusiasm and an enormous smile, he was fresh from a football game. Tall and thin, his shoes were ripped and his t-shirt had a hole in it. He was full of energy for his new anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) campaign as we drove to meet his friend Karen and discuss plans for a national demonstration.
“Most of the GM crops are developed to be resistant to a pesticide and then farmers can use more of it. The GM crops do work for the first few years,” he told me “then you’re using the same herbicide, resistance builds up and Roundup stops working. You only have to look at what’s happening in North America. At Rothampstead research they inserted a synthetic cow gene into a wheat plant to repel aphids. If there had been long term independent testing to prove it was safe I wouldn’t have a problem with the GMO itself. Now that’s never been done. There are even heritage breeds of plants that exist that do many of the things they’re developing GMOs for. But of course they can patent the GMOs and you can’t patent heritage breeds.”
Karen was managing the social media for the campaign and they discussed what towns already had someone organising a demonstration, and where they still needed to find someone. The demos were to be a few days before the international “March Against Monsanto” day. The previous year after the March Against Monsanto their share prices fell considerably.
“Protest is one thing they really listen to.” said Hector. “Just standing outside, with a banner, these big corporations absolutely hate it. They like to promote a nice squeaky clean image. It’s not difficult to show they’re not. The whole world is watching what’s happening in the UK. If we allow GM in to this country, the whole of Europe will go.
“Anyone who wants join in will be sent a poster like this,” he said gesturing to a big picture of Snow White killed by a poisoned apple with the Monsanto logo, “they’ll be given this biohazard tape to wrap around the area, and hymn sheets with the chants. Basicly a protest package. If we can do this well we can knock them back a bit.”
“That’s a lot of organising. What has it taken for you to organise a national demo?” I asked.
“Sheer bloody minded determination!” He said smiling grimly. “It’s not the first one I’ve done and it won’t be the last.”