Biosafety Protocol

The protest in the Ariege region on Thursday involved around 400 people who reaped an entire hectare of GE rape using traditional hand tools whilst ten gendarmes looked on, no arrests were made.

This is the latest in a line of French direct actions against genetically manipulated crops, only this month a small test plot of GE oil seed rape in Ariege was sabotaged for the second time in less than a year. It had all begun in January 1998 when 120 Members of France’s second largest farmers union, The Confederation Paysanne, broke into the Novartis Seed Company warehouse in N?rac in Southwest France. After locating a store of genetically engineered Bt corn they ripped open the sacks and drenched 5 tons with a fire hose, rendering it useless. There followed a high profile trial, three of the farmers were given suspended sentences and Novartis were awarded half a million French Francs in damages, which the farmers don’t intend to pay.

The Confederation Paysanne were formed in the mid eighties to represent small farmers as an alternative to the main farmer’s union FNSEA which supports large-scale industrialised agriculture. On the 23rd of June 1999 Confederation Paysanne members joined with Indian farmers who were visiting Europe as part of the Intercontinental Caravan to protest the G8 summit in Cologne. Together they broke into a greenhouse at the CIRAD crop agency, a publicly owned research facility in Montpellier and destroyed a crop of genetically engineered rice.

France has been gripped by a wave of anger at American transnational food corporations. Every year, new McDonald’s franchises are opening throughout France. One of the Confederation Paysanne leaders Jose Bov? has became a national hero following his arrest for using a tractor to dismantle a partially constructed McDonalds being built in Millau on August 12th last year. Bov? was jailed for three weeks, the McDonalds is completed and now open and the area is covered in graffiti such as, “End McDomination” and “Free Bov?”.

The McDonalds action was a direct response a World Trade Organisation ruling about the European Union ban on imports of hormone-treated beef. 90% of US beef is given hormones and the WTO ruled the ban an unfair barrier to trade, allowing the US to impose import duties on products from the European Union. French Roquefort cheese, one of the products penalised saw it’s price double in August, virtually eliminating the market in the US.


“Protesters Destroy Genetically Modified Field” Yahoo news

“Why French Farmers took direct action” Includes a statement of Jose Bove regarding the Novartis maize, 3rd February 1998.

“French activists arrested after GM rice destroyed”, Bioengineering Action Network

“French chefs, farmers denounce US tariffs, eating habits and McDomination” The Agribusiness Examiner, Issue no. 51, October 13, 1999