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Wave of GE Crop Sabotage Sweeps Across France, UPDATE - French activists destroy more GM test sites

Wave of GE Crop Sabotage Sweeps Across France
UPDATE - French activists destroy more GM test sites
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FRANCE: August 28, 2001

CLEON D'ADRAN, France - Hundreds of activists destroyed test sites for
genetically modified maize in southern France early on the weekend, the
fifth incident of GM crop destruction in the country since late June.

Armed with scythes and shears, members of the left-wing Confederation
Paysanne attacked two fields used by U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co in
the southeastern towns of Cleon D'Adran and Salettes.

"These tests are not for medical research but for pesticide testing," said
Confederation Paysanne spokesman Bruno Clavel.

In Salettes around 100 activists destroyed a patch of GM maize covering
roughly 1,000 square metres. In Cleon D'Adran some 300 protesters destroyed
another maize parcel of about the same size.

"We are here because we oppose the uncontrolled development of GM crops. If
no one does anything, the future could prove dangerous," said activist
Jean-Claude Perignac.

In a communique released later in the day, Monsanto said the destruction was
contrary to the "democratic spirit" and was an obstacle to "calm and
scientific debate...for the benefit of consumers and citizens."

"Monsanto France once again denounces such a practice as it is against the
law and an act of public delinquency," the company said.

On Wednesday around 150 activists had torn up bio-engineered maize being
grown on around 800 square metres in the southern French town of Beaucaire.

French Environment Minister Yves Cochet said last week he wanted a public
debate on whether genetically modified crops should be grown in open fields
rather than enclosed sites. Cochet condemned test site destruction but said
the issue it raised was legitimate.

In June the farm ministry was forced to publish the list of districts where
genetically engineered plants were being tested. In July, the French food
safety agency AFSSA said it had found traces of genetically modified
organisms in non-test fields, but it insisted the small amount of GMOs found
would pose no threat to human health.

Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany, in an interview published on the weekend
in the French news weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, called for a stricter
process in deciding on open field tests.

"We cannot put all the GM tests on the same level," he said.

"It's necessary to establish a difference between experiments conducted for
public research, which are essentially geared towards deepening our
knowledge and evaluating the benefits and potential risks of GM crops, and
private sector tests, which aim for research into productivity."

Glavany has said that although he is "suspicious and wary" of GM crops it is
necessary to allow research to continue.


REUTERS NEWS SERVICE


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