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Sunday, 26 August, 2001, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
French protesters destroy GM crops
Jose Bove and other activists at a Brazilian field used for GM crops
Mr Bove is known abroad as an anti-globalist
By Valerie Jones in Paris

Protesters have destroyed two fields of genetically modified (GM) crops near Montelimar in the Drome region of southern France.

It was part of a campaign launched last week by the radical Farmers' Confederation led by Jose Bove.

The GM crop protesters marched into the fields armed with machetes and shears and began systematically chopping down the maize.

They collected the maize stalks and dumped them outside the offices of the regional government.

The protesters said the crops were being grown to test their resistance to weedkillers.

They are concerned the modified genes could spread into the environment.

'War' on GM

Earlier in the week, when another field of corn was destroyed, radical farmers' leader Jose Bove announced it was the start of a campaign, with more action to follow in the coming weeks.

French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavinet has said he is already considering making a distinction between GM trials in the public interest and those carried out by companies simply to increase productivity.

Members of Peasant Confederation
Mr Bove has attained folk hero status in France
Mr Bove shot to fame after he attacked a McDonald's restaurant in his home town of Millau in protest at US trade restrictions, and he has become a popular champion of environmental and farming issues.

In June 1999, he and two colleagues destroyed 3,000 genetically modified rice plants at a research institute, for which a court in Montpellier gave him a 10-month suspended sentence and put him on two years' probation.

At the court hearing, he defended his actions as a "battle for the future".

This July, Mr Bove called or a campaign of "civil disobedience" unless the government ordered the destruction of all GM crops being grown for test purposes by 12 August.

See also:

13 Sep 00 | Europe
France's farm crusader jailed
30 Jun 00 | Europe
Massive demo at Big Mac trial
30 Nov 99 | Americas
Protests overshadow WTO talks
30 Jun 00 | Europe
Profile: France's farm crusader
15 Mar 01 | Europe
Bove sentenced for GM destruction
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