In Belgium’s former coal-mining heartland, locals say the potato industry is the new top polluter. Eddy Wax reports for POLITICO that inhabitants of a small town in the French-speaking province of Hainaut are trying to stop one of the country’s largest potato processors from constructing a gigantic €300 million factory on their doorstep, which the company says will create hundreds of jobs in Belgium’s south, which has been economically hammered by deindustrialization.
A residents’ collective called Nature Without Frying has managed to delay Clarebout’s project, arguing the factory will bring bad smells, pollution, noise and precarious, unsafe employment. The campaigners’ dogged resistance has triggered a broader debate about whether Belgium’s gastronomic heritage is being forgotten in the increasing industrialization of modern food production. While Belgium may conjure up romantic images of moules-frites, the country is an industrial heavyweight when it comes to its starchy national staple, and is the world’s largest exporter of frozen fries.
“This site is not suitable for industry, not at all,” Florence Defourny, spokesperson of Nature Without Frying, told a 100-strong crowd who protested at the prospective site southwest of the city of Mons last weekend, to mark the International Day of Peasant Struggle. She described Clarebout’s frozen potato products, which vary from curly fries to potato wedges and are marketed in supermarkets by private brands, as “junk food.”
Raphaël Tassart, Clarebout’s spokesperson, described as “false” the assertion that the company pollutes at the two processing factories it currently operates in Belgium, in Nieuwkerke and Warneton. “We undergo checks and we are on the side of nature,” he told POLITICO.
Source: POLITICO. Read the full story here
Photo: Locals protest against building a factory in Wallonia | Eddy Wax/POLITICO