Reaping What They Sow – Convictions of Eight French GM Protesters Upheld

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The conviction of eight "voluntary reapers", whose number includes veteran campaigner and elected member of parliament José Bové, for the destruction in 2008 of cross-genetic experimental maize belonging to American agri-food business Monsanto became a definitive one after the rejection of their appeal by the Court of Cassation.

Bové is a well-known personality in France and his public protests and stands against globalisation have earned him a strong following. He is often affectionately nicknamed “Asterix” because of his fighting spirit and his large Gaulish-style moustache.

The EELV (Green party grouping in the French parliament) deputy indicated that he would wait until he got the opportunity to read in full the text of the decision of the Court of Cassation before deciding on the possibility of recourse to hearing before the European Court of Human Rights. According to him, several elements of the decision “are worth pursuing to the end of the procedure.”

Although acquitted as a matter of form in the first instance in 2011, the eight were convicted on the 16th of February 2012 by the Court of Appeal of Poitiers for the reaping of two trial fields of genetically-modified maize belonging to Monsanto on the 15th of August 2008 at Civaux et Valdivienne (in the department of Vienne).

As well as a variety of fines imposed, the entire ‘gang of eight’ were ordered by the court to pay €135,700 to Monsanto and a further €38,000 to the owner of the lands where the crops were destroyed.

José Bové said last Wednesday that he found it “highly improbable” to be “convicted for an action on a parcel of land which should never have been cultivated,” given that GM trials in open fields had been outlawed in February 2008 and the State Council had adjudged the trial crop in question to be “illegal” at the end of 2008.

“We have been convicted for essentially being right,” declared Mr Bové. “It’s the justice system itself that should have destroyed those trials if justice had only been served in time.”

This trial is the latest and quite possibly the last in a long series involving the “reaper volunteers” of GM foods being put before the courts since the beginning of their campaign in 1997.

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