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August 8, 2000


French 'nostalgia' and biotech and Jose Bove


AgBioWorld Colleagues:

I read with great pleasure "GM foods put French agro
into 'nostalgia,' and then noted with grave concern
the manifestation of that 'nostalgia' with such French
icons as the radical eco-terrorist Jose Bove.

An article in the Sunday Independent, noted below, is
worth reading on this matter. In addition, a web
search reveals additional information on this Bove
character at: http://www.purefoods.org/other/bove.html

I share this noting that Mr. Bove is a featured
speaker at a forum sponsored by the European Studies
Alliance of the University of Wisconsin-Madison this
September 8th. Colleagues may wish to share their
concerns with the UW at rlhess@facstaff.wisc.edu
regarding having the University host someone who
openly advocates and participates in the destruction
of biotechnology research, farmers crops and private

My personal view is that academic institutions, while
promoting open dialogue and free speech, should
excercise more responsibility in giving platforms to
self-proclaimed terrorists who openly engage in and
promote destruction of research, vandalism and other
forms of fear and violence targeted at academics,
researchers and others involved in agricultural
research not in-line with Mr. Bove's political,
economic or social beliefs.

Perhaps there are some members of the faculty of
University of Wisconsin on this list who share this
concern? How would UW feel if Mr. Bove, while in
town, decided to bulldoze some of their research

US Agribusiness Is Under Fierce Attack From Radical
French Peasants Armed With Bulldozers...
Independent on Sunday

The glorious extremes of the climate swirling
between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean is having a
bracing effect on the increasingly inflammatory
politics of food and farming. With an elegance and
elan that we Brits do not associate with our own
state-subsidised farming fraternity, French producers
are improvising direct action against no less than the
Faustian pharmaceutical corporations seeking world
domination, the US beef industry, its icon,
McDonald's, and its patron, the World Trade

An unexpected hero in this scenario is the French
peasant, not a force for conservatism but an activist
for democracy, good food and sustainable and organic
production. The star is an Asterix reincarnation
called Jose Bove and his Confederation Paysanne - the
progressive farmers' union formed by small producers
in the mid-1980s as an alternative to the federation
of big agri-industries. They have compelled the French
government to engage in a great national debate about
food production, genetic engineering and corporate
tyranny. Bove and his comrades turned up at Seattle
last year and are now familiar figures at world trade
assemblies, together with Brazilian and Indian
farmers, trying to withstand the might of Monsanto,
the WTO et al.

Last summer Bove and four other leaders of the
Confederation Paysanne bulldozed a new McDonald's
being built in Millau, their little town in the south
of France, the cradle of Roquefort cheese production.
The French courts took a tough line. They jailed Bove
and his comrades and set bail at pounds 11,000. This
summer a throng of supporters stopped the traffic in
Millau, near where I'm staying, decorated walls with
graffiti proclaiming "End McDomination", and handed
out free Roquefort cheese.

All this is part of their campaign to expose the
tactics of the WTO as sponsors of big US producers.
The WTO has imposed punitive taxes on Roquefort and
other local products in response to the European
Union's decision to ban imports of US beef impregnated
with hormones. Ninety per cent of US beef is

Bove's purpose had already been revealed in
Confederation Paysanne assaults on seed corporations
involved in genetic engineering. In 1998 they took a
fire hose and drenched five tons of GM corn warehoused
by the Novartis Seed Company in Montpellier. When Bove
addressed the judge after the Novartis incident he
insisted that although the action had been illegal it
was legitimate. "The WTO dictates its own law," he
said. "The obligation to import bovine somatotropin
meat from the USA is a good example." The WTO decides
"without consultation or a right of appeal".

Simultaneously challenging the mystique of modernity
that is often mobilised in defence of GM food and
repudiating the peasants' reputation for unthinking
traditionalism, Bove asked, "why refuse something
which is presented as progress? It is not because of
old-fashionedness, or regret for the 'good old days',
it is because of concern for the future and a will to
have a say in future development."

They were not opposed to research but to "sorcerers'
apprentices" in the service of megalomaniac
corporations. "Productionism has enslaved farmers.
From being the producer the farmer is someone who is
exploited, who can no longer decide her or his way of
managing the land, nor freely choose her or his

GM field trials were encouraged by the previous
conservative government in France - there are more
than twice as many as in Britain - but the paysanne
posse has brought a revolt from the farming community
in the name of a new relationship both to the land and
to the consumer, a "farmers' agriculture for the
benefit of everyone". This is not populist politics
that mobilises moralism and modernity to restore
traditional authority. It is popular politics that
celebrates politics as spectacle, and exposes the
problem of power embedded in everything - even in
seeds and uniquely smelly cheeses.

--- AgBioView wrote:
> AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org,
> http://agbioview.listbot.com
> GM foods put French agro into `nostalgia'
> Hindu Business Line
> Aug. 8
> THERE are many reasons for the French society to
> distrust
> genetically-modified foods, but hardly any of them
> is based on strong
> scientific argument, according to Dr. Guy Sorman,
> Advisor to the
> President of France.
> Sharing his understanding of the French experience
> at a workshop on GMOs
> at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF)
> recently, Dr. Sorman
> said partly the strong reaction against GM crops
> stemmed from the
> animosity against Americanism and the large US-based
> MNCs controlling this
> industry.
> ``We are in an era of nostalgia,'' he observed.
> There is a strong charm
> for traditional French agriculture and foods. GM
> crops are seen to be
> destroying this.
> Science, as well as scientists, do not have a good
> reputation in Western
> Europe. Science is associated with the nuclear
> bomb, which the French
> society does not like to remember. Due to this
> connection, scientific
> reassurance on the safety of GM food does not carry
> conviction with it.
> Then there is the lack of an ideological debate, he
> said. Gone are the
> days of debate between Soviet socialism and
> capitalism. ``Everybody now is
> middle of the road, and genomics has replaced our
> ideological debate,'' he
> said.
> The people and the corporations in favour of
> genomics have been accused
> of not having proved that this technology is the
> only alternative to
> increase the productivity of conventional
> agriculture, he added.
> However, the strongest reason why the GMO debate
> flared in France is due
> to the Mad Cow Disease. There is a general feeling
> that the disease came
> from animal food. This has created the anxiety
> whether there is a risk of
> transmitting diseases to the consumers.
> ``The scientists did not come with an answer to
> what caused the disease,
> and this has reduced people's trust on GM food,''
> Dr. Sorman said
> Whether in France, Western Europe or India, GM
> crops have raised many a
> debate. Some of the views found expression at the
> MSSRF workshop.
> Putting the matter into perspective Dr. M.S.
> Swaminathan, Chairman MSSRF,
> said that there are two challenges for Indian
> agriculture. There will be
> an increasing need to produce more from smaller
> land. Second is to
> increase the marketability surplus for small farmers
> so that they can get
> good income.
> This would mean increasing productivity to 14
> tonnes per hectare. Only
> biotechnology holds the promise for this.
> However, the technology also raises certain issues,
> he said. These are
> issues of bioethics, biosafety, food safety and
> consumer choice.
> Dr. C.S. Prakash, Director of the Centre for Plant
> Biotechnology
> Research, Tuskegee University, said that transgenic
> plants go through far
> more safety and environmental testing than the
> earlier crops.
> ``An insistence on extreme precautionary principle
> by societies can deny
> the benefit of these products,'' he said.
> Dr. Swapan Dutta from the International Rice
> Research Institute said that
> the efforts at mapping various crop genomes holds
> much promise. The genome
> map will lead to bioinformatics, genetic technology
> and improved crops.
> However, ultimately it has to be chosen by farmers
> and has to pass the
> regulatory
> process.
> Dr. Calestous Juma from the Centre for
> International Development of
> Harvard University, said that if the developing
> countries missed out on
> reaping the benefit from the genomic research then
> they will find
> themselves on the poorer side of the genetic divide.
> However, if these countries did not have policy
> level action to bridge
> social inequalities then the new technological tool
> may even aggravate it.
> Biotechnology is scale neutral, felt Dr. P.K. Ghosh
> of the Indian
> Department of Biotechnology. These seeds will
> perform as well in a small
> plot as in a large farm. So they in themselves will
> not add inequity
> between the large and small farmers.
> The developmental journalist, Mr. P. Sainath, said
> that GMOs are being
> pushed by large corporations. As the power of these
> corporations have
> grown so have the inequalities in the world. So much
> so that three of the
> largest global corporations have turnover more than
> the combined GDP of
> more than 40 least
> developed countries.
> ``This is an era of market fundamentalism,'' he
> said. There is a mistaken
> notion that the market will fix everything.
> The environmental writer, Mr. Darryl D'Monte, said
> that the entire GMO
> discussion raised strong ethical questions.
> Corporations involved with GM
> foods wanted to make profit from food, which is the
> basic requirement of
> humanity.
> Developing nations should formulate policies on gene
> revolution -- Experts
> Financial Express
> Chennai: The developing nations will face a `genetic
> divide' unless they
> formulated appropriate policies to become genuine
> partners in the ongoing
> gene revolution, which is embarking upon sequencing
> of human and other
> genomes, according to experts. Speaking at a
> National workshop on gene
> revolution here on Friday, they said the sequencing
> of human, animal,
> plant and microbial genomes was certain to cause a
> serious `genetic
> divide' that will separate those with the capacity
> to use information
> derived from sequencing of genomes and others. "The
> genetic divide is sure
> to be much wider than the digital divide that
> followed the Information
> revolution unless the developing countries placed
> technological innovation
> at the core of their development strategies,"
> Harward University director
> of science (technology and innovation programme)
> Calestous Juma said.
> Juma and a host of other experts also called for
> placing of DNA sequence
> data in the public domain so that all those who were
> interested in using
=== message truncated ===

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