TOULOUSE, France - Hundreds of activists opposed to genetically modified crops tore out rows of maize in south-western France Sunday and threatened similar future actions of "civil disobedience" to stop the cultivation of bio-engineered food.
Some 1,500 activists, led by radical French farmer Jose Bove (L), rip up a field of transgenic corn in Levignac, near Toulouse, southwestern France, July 25, 2004, in a symbolic protest against genetically-modified organisms (GMO). European consumers remain largely hostile to biotech foods. REUTERS/Georges Bartoli.
The group of 1,500 was led by Jose Bové, a noted French anti-globalization activist who shot to prominence after helping pull down a McDonald's outlet in 1999 to protest US trade policy and junk food.
Others taking part included a number of public officials from the Green party, among them Noel Mamere, a deputy and mayor of a suburb in Bordeaux who has made headlines of his own for presiding over France's first homosexual wedding.
They gathered in a field owned by US biotech company Pioneer Hi-Bred International and ripped the maize by the roots as police who had been ordered not to intervene stood by and watched.
"This is a legitimate action, because we reject the law serving private interests," Mamere said.
"We are ready to accept the consequences of our acts," said Bové, who has already spent time in jail for destroying a stock of genetically modified seeds in 1998 and ruining genetically modified rice plants in 1999.
Originally sentenced to 10 months behind bars, he ended up serving only five weeks and was released a year ago.
"In the coming weeks, there will be other GM test fields that will be destroyed," Bové said.
France has approved 48 parcels of experimental transgenic food crops in 15 regions.
© Copyright 2004 AFP