French anti-GM activist Jose Bove on hunger strike

4th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Bove says he would not eat until the government imposes a year-long ban on genetically-modified crops

   PARIS, January 3, 2008 - French anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove has
launched a hunger strike, saying on Thursday he would not eat until the
government imposes a year-long ban on genetically-modified crops.
   The 54-year-old Bove launched his protest action with 15 supporters in a
vacant building in Paris' financial district that was taken over last year by
the homeless.
   "I have stopped eating since last night," Bove said.
   "I made this decision because the GM debate is blocked and the government
has not kept its promise," he told France Inter radio.
   Bove, who was convicted last year of ripping up GM crops in southern
France, is demanding that the government uses a so-called safeguard clause
that allows EU countries to ban GM crops.
   While he was spared a prison sentence and instead fined, Bove announced
last month he planned to step up his campaign against GM crops as part of his
crusade against what he calls "malbouffe", or bad food.
   But Bove said talks with the government on the contentious issue had been
deadlocked since a national environment conference in October.
   Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told parliament after the conference
that France would seek to opt out of an EU-wide policy allowing GM crops.
   The government has prepared a request to the EU to allow the moratorium,
with several scientific studies supporting its case, he said.
   "I believe that now we need to push the government to see this through to
its end," said Bove, who was a candidate in last year's presidential election
but won less than two percent of votes.
   Former Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal visited Bove's
protest headquarters, where she praised his "political courage".
   "This is a question of political morality... and public health," Royal
said, calling on the government to "shed full light on the considerable
financial stakes, including for (US agrochemical giant) Monsanto, that are
involved in the spread of GMOs."
   The government has suspended, pending new legislation, use of the highly
bug-resistant MON810 maize developed by Monsanto and the only GM crop
authorised in France.
   Criticizing the hunger strike, Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said he
was nevertheless ready to meet with Bove, even if he recognized that his
opposition to GM crops was entrenched.
   "This is a serious, personal decision, to go on a hunger strike," Barnier
said on Europe 1 radio.
   "I believe that in a democracy like ours, a modern republic, there are
other ways of being heard, of taking part in debate, of convincing," said the
   A bill on regulating GM crops is due to be debated in the National Assembly
this month and a vote is expected before February 9 when the government's
temporary freeze is due to end.
   The moustachioed sheep farmer, who shot to fame in 1999 after trashing a
half-built McDonald's outlet in southern France, has staged several protest
hunger strikes.
   In 1990, he lived on mineral water for 18 days to protest President
Francois Mitterrand's proposed changes to agricultural subsidies for farmers.
   "This isn't a publicity stunt," said Bove. "Physically, this is something
very difficult to undertake."
   GM crops cover less than one percent of farmland in France, Europe's top
agricultural producer.
   While production of GM maize remains small, it has increased: some 22,000
hectares (54,000 acres) of the crop were planted in France in 2007, up from
5,000 hectares in 2006.

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