The idea is simple, to stop the growing of GM crops by ensuring that there is no market for the GM fodder maize the government is trying to commercialise. In Holland supermarkets made a commitment not to use GM feed and, although they have GM maize with full approval, no-one has planted any.
Sainsbury's are seen as the first domino in the chain that needs pushing over. The one to crack is Tesco, because of their sheer size, but they won't change if Sainsbury's don't. Sainsbury's are financially vulnerable at the moment, and have a reputation for 'quality food'. Greenpeace is currently targeting them on their animal feed policy, and if we all focus our efforts in one area it should be enough to get them to keep their existing pledge to phase out GM feed. Lord Sainsbury is, of course, the Science Minister with millions invested in GM, but it’s his brother who actually runs the supermarket chain and, apparently, they don’t get on, so there’s obviously no conflict of interest there.
The hope is that by targeting as many stores around the country with as many people as possible, we will get local coverage and enough momentum for national publicity. At the very least we should be able to get a commitment from them not to take dairy that comes from animals fed on the new variety of maize (Chardon LL), as this would represent an increase in, rather than a phasing out of, the use of GM feed. The prospect for Sainsbury's of having a co-ordinated campaign against them by both Greenpeace and an on-the-case 'ordinary shoppers' grassroots group, will shake them, and they need to be shaken soon if we’re to have enough time to get on and deal with Tescos before next year. This is a tactic we know can work, so go on, go on, you know you want to… .
Below are some ideas for things you may want to do on your action.
CUNNING PLANS FOR SUPERMARKET ACTIONS
This is a great way to engage shoppers and cost Sainsbury’s loads of money (as they tend to just remove the products from the shelves). Simply print stickers (available from www.togg.org.uk) on to a sheet of undivided label paper, cut up and stash in your pockets. You can get loads done if you peal off the backing in your pocket and then just slap them on something you've pretended to read the label of. Head for the dairy aisles and label any own brand non-organic dairy (don't forget the freezer cabinet with the ice-cream and puddings) and non-organic own brand meat ranges (apart from their Taste the Difference pork, which is non-GM reared). You look less suspicious if you have a half-full trolley or basket. If possible stick the labels on pictures or non-printed parts of the label so the manager can't allege that you’re dangerously obstructing other important information on the packaging.
Stickering has been done for years, and to our knowledge has only once secured a conviction for 'tampering with goods' (four years ago, fined a grand). They might think to try and arrest you for criminal damage. However, it's pretty difficult for them to catch you at it and prove it was you, and even on the couple of occasions when I've been asked and cheerfully confessed, the manager and the police seemed reluctant to do anything about it, especially as they feel rather shaky on whether they have a duty to label it themselves and have failed. There 's also an idea to do long stickers that attach to the handles of trolleys, but these haven't been done yet.
Dressing up in the toilets, say as a giant maize and a purple cow, and going out into the aisles to hand out leaflets, is a good way to get a nice photo opportunity. Some local rag photographers are reluctant, for legal reasons, to take photos inside stores. If you're up for sitting down and being carried out by the shop staff then the media can snap you being forcibly evicted, which gives them an unusual image, and makes Sainsbury’s staff look all intimidating. A few years ago some guys dressed up in smart black suits with black shades and made up name tags with MIB on them (Men In Black) and got out that chevroned yellow and black tape and cordoned off the dairy sections, explaining to the public that they were from a secret department and that they needed to protect them from genetic contamination. Which was pretty cool.
Good old-fashioned informing the public can really freak supermarkets out and be totally legal. Leafleting people in the dairy aisles discretely is fun, or you could just stand to the side of the entrance and approach people, but you can get evicted from the premises if you're clocked on Sainsbury's property. A top method for Saturday mornings, when queues of traffic can build up near the car-park entrances, is just to stand on the pavement with a banner and hand them to cars that wind their windows down. If you have the joys of a multi-storey car park you can stand by the ticket dispenser at the barrier and help people out by passing them their tickets and a leaflet at the same time (two kinds of leaflet enclosed for copying). If you're on a public footpath and not obstructing it then you have every right to be there, you don’t need any sort of ‘permission’ from the council, and the police can't move you on. If they claim they can, argue with them. If you get individuals who are really interested, encourage them to go up to the customer service desk when they go in and complain in person, preferably to the manager. If they’re too shy for that, carry a clipboard that they can write a letter of complaint on and offer to post it for them.
We reckon if you made small clear flags to attach to trolleys, and approached people at the trolley banks, you could offer them one to put on the back of their trolleys if they wanted to register their displeasure without being too confrontational. This has the added advantage of making the store paranoid because the line between shoppers and protesters is blurred. However, if you’re doing labelling at the same time, it’s only fair to warn people that they may be asked if the stickers came from them.
Sainsbury's seem very eager to avoid getting the story into the papers. Notifying your local rag in advance can be a bit tricky, as the first thing they tend to do is go and ask for a comment from the supermarket manager (thus blowing your element of surprise), even if you 'embargo' it. We managed to get a fairly good result by just explaining to our (admittedly sympathetic) newspaper that we were going to do an unspecified action, and if they could send a photographer to meet us at the station ½ hr before the start, we'd take him along with us. It may be a good plan to do this a few days in advance, so they know to leave enough space for it. It's great to do your own press release based around the idiosyncratic events of your own action, but keep it to one side long or they won't read it. To ensure local and national coverage, send your press release to your local paper and one to the Guardian, the Mail and the Independent on Sunday (all of which have done anti-GM campaigns). If you can get someone to take photos, some outside and some inside the store, then this gives you almost infinitely more chance of receiving coverage. If you get your actions or the issue covered in your local papers, don’t forget to send a copy to Sainsbury’s director.