France: “Reapers”-1, Rule of Law-0

Posted by John Rosenthal

A French court in Orléans last week acquitted 49 anti-GMO activists of charges of having destroyed fields of genetically-modified corn owned and cultivated by the American company Monsanto. The accused – part of the movement known as the "voluntary reapers" led by José Bové – did not contest the facts of the case, but making use of Article 122-7 of the French Penal Code – which, in effect, permits individuals to break the law in the face of an "actual or imminent danger" to themselves, another or property, if this danger could not be otherwise averted – argued that they acted in a "state of necessity".

 

The court agreed with them, ruling that "the accused provided proof that they collectively and voluntarily damaged another’s property in response to a state of necessity." The "state of necessity" in question "results from the uncontrolled dissemination of modified genes that constitute an actual and imminent danger [both! - JR] for another’s property in the sense that it could be the source of an undesired contamination or pollution."

 
The French judges who came to this conclusion presumably had no particular expertise in biology – no more than the French judges who some years ago ruled that Bernard Lewis should not be permitted to affirm his opinion on the alleged 1915 Armenian genocide had any particular expertise in history. But they ought perhaps, nonetheless, to have heeded the advice given by one "gilglamesh", who in July of this year, following one of the "reapers" heroic actions, left the following comment on their official website [link in French]: 

Enough joking around. Near where I live In Issoire, one just destroyed 5000 square meters of [genetically-modified] corn that could have produced 20 kilograms of gastric lipase destined for use in a new treatment of cystic fibrosis. Thanks goodness the judicious reapers saved us from such a catastrophe by tearing it all up! They reduced years of work to nothing! Yippie! Next time, let’s hope they go even further: why not destroy a hospital?! Enough joking around. Therapeutic GMO’s are at base sterile and hence incapable of fertilizing wild plants. And if you think that genes are capable of flying around in the air on their own, let me advise you to consult a good textbook in molecular biology so that you can brush up on your basics….

 

(By the way: In case anyone imagines that the current head of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, fundamentally disagrees with the anti-trade objectives of José Bové and his "reapers", have a look at this piece from the old Trans-Int.)

 

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