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This man is dangerous 
- Sabine Brandt, TLZ.dOct. 25, 2008Tonndorf - (tlz) The white giant carefully shakes your hand. Essentially, he is strong enough to crush you into paste. Theoretically. But Michael Grolm would never even hurt a fly. The nature of his occupation is such that insects are safe with him. Even so, there is a form of life, against which Michael Grolm is able to raise his fist: genetically altered plants.

Grolm is the beekeeper of Tonndorf Castle. Whoever visits him in his bright honey-kitchen can select among nine products, all certified with the strict Bioland label.

Between fifty and 100 bee colonies prepare the basic materials for Grolm's livelihood. As a professional beekeeper, he travels with his bees from one aromatic stand of flowers to another. From the orchard in Tonndorf to the acacia blooms at Halle, from the linden trees at Leipzig to the chestnut trees of the Pfalz, and from the Thüringer forest to the Black Forest, where the white fir stands.

During the long summer's work with the bees, and particularly during the winter, the sale of honey and related products - Michael Grolm, with his calm efficiency, shows himself to be the very model of a good guy. And yet: this has to do with a condemned criminal.

Michael Grolm is a "Field liberator". He and his "Away With Gene Dirt" campaign have succeeded in liberating fields in Brandenburg and Bavaria - in Straußberg, Badingen, Zehdenick and Kitzingen. Liberation, in these cases, means ripping out the genetically altered maize being grown there. The activists have only seldom succeeded in complete liberation of a field, because in areas where large-scale agriculture is practiced, 50 hectares is too large for a handful of liberation warriors to clear before the police attack. With swift, surgical strikes, however, a tenth of these fields can be can be re-conquered on behalf of nature.

Michael Grolm is headed shortly for the slammer [can, joint, pokey]. The man is dangerous - for the biotech industry. In two days, if worst comes to worst, he will be taken into detention for as much as half a year, while judges and lawyers negotiate. But it makes no difference how things turn out: it is certain that walking him into the slammer will be accompanied by a ruckus. Tractors will roll, transparencies [?] will be held aloft, handbills will be distributed, and crowds will appear. It will be loud and colorful. The point: people must be shaken to gain their attention. That is part of the strategy.

The future ex-convict knows that the initiative against "Gene Dirt" needs faces, people willing to stand up as examples of how vast are the number of third parties who suffer damages from genetically altered plants. He is such a one.

Grolm says he had "emergency justification" when he committed a crime in order to prevent another, weightier crime. His argument is quite plausible: As a beekeeper, it is impossible for him to steer his bees away from genetically altered plants, even though he is obliged to do so as a supplier to Bioland. Thus, his emergency.

With the beehive before the judge

The "Away With Gene Dirt" activists do their work during the day, undisguised. Anonymous field liberation is not their thing. "We are not agents of chaos[? original: "Chaoten"]", Grolm says. Quite the contrary, because often, replanting is part of field liberation. To a great extent, the group consists of people which are vocationally involved in the subject. Grolm is agricultural engineer; another activist is a plant breeder. That makes it possible to exchange "Bantam", a resilient variety of maize, for the gene-maize offered by the controversial Monsanto Company. Regardless, the protest of the field liberators is multi-hued and imaginative. At times, Grolm takes his bees with him to court, when his opponents -- mostly from the Monsanto-supported Innoplanta, a self-serving network of agricultural enterprises which use biotech plants -- once again raise complaints against him. At times, he offers honey samples to the judges, and at other times, the activists try to make clear to the German Monsanto agency in Duesseldorf that they are weary of "Gene Dirt" by delivering to them a cart-load of manure.

The beekeeper of the Tonndorf Castle in Freistaat doesn't concern himself with the roles of David and Goliath. And, with Frank Reichardt, Grolm knows he has the backing of the Thuringian beekeepers. The bee breeders have long known that they cannot choose between genetic manipulation or nature - and known that, even as the consumer spreads honey on bread, biotech, instead of nature, drips from the honey-spoon. [very poor rendition -- aa.]

"It all has to do with lots of money", raged Frank Reichardt this summer, when a Monsanto field trial in [the state of] Buttelstedt was recommended. It would be the business of the state's head beekeeper to conduct sufficient investigations of whether the pollen of these plants is harmless for the bees and their honey. "What could biotech pollen in the honey we produce set off, and what if that comes back on us? What happens if our honey sales collapse? In cases like that, are we liable to pay damages?"

Meanwhile, Michael Grolm has envisioned how publicity can be packaged. The fact that it portrays him as an impressive giant does not detract: huge, powerful, and when push comes to shove, the schism [between others and] beekeepers. This is obvious, but not unpleasantly so. "Politics can only be influenced by the pressure which comes from the people". Those who only destroy, and hide themselves, cannot be taken seriously. On that point, he hangs his head, beneath his beekeeper's bonnet.