Militant ‘Farmer’ and French Government Make Common Cause in GM Crop Ban

Militant ‘Farmer’ and French Government Make Common Cause in GM Crop Ban

PARIS -- It was one of the most surprising and revealing images of the New Year in French politics: José Bové, the famously mustachioed "anti-globalization" activist and self-appointed scourge of genetically-modified crops, being greeted by France's prim and proper Deputy Minister of Ecology Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet . . . with a kiss. The highly publicized encounter took place with cameras rolling on Jan. 3 in front of the French Ministry of Ecology in Paris. Technically, Bové was supposed to be in prison, serving a four-month jail sentence as a consequence of his role in vandalizing a field of genetically-modified (GM) corn in the French department of Haute-Garrone in 2004. But in mid-December, a judge "converted" his jail sentence into a fine of €4,800.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and José Bové (Source: France 3; video available here)

For several years now, Bové has been the leading figure in a movement of so-called "Volunteer Reapers" (Faucheurs Volontaires) whose members express their opposition to the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in France by tearing up fields of GM crops. The friendly kiss in front of the Ministry of Ecology provides perhaps the most striking illustration to date of the remarkable complicity that exists between French authorities -- ostensibly sworn to uphold the law -- and the small band of radical anti-GMO militants who make a regular practice of breaking it. (For earlier examples, see my December 2005 report.)

Bové had come to Paris to demand that the French government invoke a "safeguard clause" that will permit it to prohibit the cultivation in France of a genetically modified strain of corn that has long been authorized by the European Union. The MON 810 strain, developed by the American biotech firm Monsanto, is the only genetically-modified crop that is commercially cultivated at present in France. Bové and fifteen other "Volunteer Reapers" who accompanied him on his visit to Paris were reported to have embarked on a hunger strike to underscore their demands.

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