French anti-GM activists convicted on appeal (28/6/2006)

French anti-GM activists convicted on appeal
Yahoo! News, June 27, 2006

PARIS (AFP) - A French court of appeal convicted 49 activists for destroying a crop of genetically modified (GM) maize, quashing an earlier court ruling which found their actions were justified.

Jean-Emile Sanchez, a leading member of the Small Farmers' Confederation of anti-globalisation hero Jose Bove, was handed a two-month jail term, while the 48 others were given two-month suspended sentences.

State prosecutors had appealed after the activists -- who attacked two fields of GM maize planted in France by the US biotechnology group Monsanto, in 2004 and 2005 -- were cleared in December of charges of organised vandalism.

The judge had ruled they were justified in ripping out the crops because "the unbridled distribution of modified genes... constitutes a clear and present danger for the well-being of others".

The initial verdict had been hailed by anti-GM activists as a major victory in their battle against the spread of GMOs.

Sanchez -- who has been convicted twice before in similar cases -- denounced Tuesday's ruling as "a political decision" and vowed to "continue our fight" for a moratorium on GMOs and a popular referendum on their use in France.

Sixty percent of the French are hostile to GMO crops, polls show, and 78 percent would back a temporary moratorium until their impact on health and the environment is fully understood.

By general consensus, the early generation of GM plants -- mostly maize, soya, cotton and colza (rape or canola) -- has so far had no effect on human health. [??? it would take years to establish that kind of epidemiological pattern and there's been no monitoring that would allow the collection of appropriate data - ed]

But environmentalists say too little time has elapsed to assess their long-term impact -- a concern shared by many scientists who fear genes inserted in GM crops will contaminate other species through wind-borne pollen.


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