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GMOs Are Unconstitutional

By Francine Bavay, Yves Contassot, Renaud De Wreden, François Dufour,     Fabienne Glasson, Philippe Matet, Annette Rimbert, and Xavier Timoner

Le Monde
Wednesday 18 January 2006

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December 9, 2005, is a historic date: it's the political birthday for the Charter of the Environment which was entered into the Constitution in February of the same year. GMOs became literally unconstitutional. On December 9th, in an unprecedented decision, the Orléans criminal court - followed by the Versailles court on January 13 for other deliberate reapers - discharged us for having deliberately reaped Monsanto's transgenic corn crops in 2004. The court recognized the "necessity" of our action. This necessity, according to the court, results from the "present danger of the uncontrolled spread of GMO genes, the dissemination of which had been authorized, contrary to the constitutional right to a healthy environment."

In consequence, this is the beginning of the end for the impunity of France's transgenic industry; it's a subpoena addressed to the French State; it's an indictment of its cowardice. The illegitimacy of GMOs was established before; their illegality is finally recognized because their destruction is legally qualified as a necessity. By virtue of the Charter of the Environment inscribed in the Constitution, a right to neutralize GMOs planted in the field has just been affirmed by the French legal system. This decision finally forces all actors, beginning with the state, to take an irreversible position.

The French authorities have shown themselves over time to be extraordinarily weak, hypocritical, and inconstant. Successive governments have abandoned the GMO question to contradictory winds from Europe, scientists, public opinion, and, as punishment for this cowardice, the justice system! First of all, the European Union, which imposed a moratorium in 1999, then its lifting in 2004, but also a protective directive France did not respect; then, scientists whose opinions followed one another with no similarities, proving daily the extent of uncertainty; finally, the labor and union movements, since France - one of the leaders in experimental GMO agriculture as of the end of the 1980s - experienced no public debate on the subject until 1996 and that, only thanks to citizen vigilance.

The Orléans decision allows us to make up for lost time and to go still further. Let's look around us: numerous governments, scalded by great public health scandals and paying attention to their citizens' opinion, have taken the lead and demonstrated extreme caution. Germany is a case in point, with a very protective and deterrent November 2004 law that invests total responsibility in the case of contamination with the producers and cultivators of GMO. Also in November 2004, Italy published a decree on the coexistence of crops and imposed a moratorium until the end of 2005. Quite recently, Denmark provided for the constitution of an obligatory national indemnification fund GMO cultivators must subscribe to, at the rate of 13.4 Euros per hectare [2.47 acres] per year, in order to compensate for the absence of private insurance for contaminations. Finally, the Swiss - already endowed with the very strict 2004 Genlex - have just voted by referendum in favor of a five year moratorium on GMO cultivation, repudiating their present government's position. Austria, which took over the Union presidency and which will organize the first European conference on GMO, finally deigned to consult its citizens in 1997 and prohibits transgenic crops.

In all the great democratic countries, governments have taken the measure of the GMO stakes: nothing less than an attempt to privatize the global food base (soy, rice, corn, wheat) and genetic patrimony via brand names. Unique in its kind, France promoted GMO in retreat, through a series of faits accomplis. Now that's all finished. Nature is a whole that imposes choices. We invoke a state of necessity everywhere GMO plants are cultivated or tested in the field. From now on, every citizen has the right to destroy them, and the government has a duty to prohibit them. We demand the creation of an indemnification fund for proven contaminations, a citizen reorientation for research grants, prohibition of any new GMO planting and the neutralization of any existing crops, and finally, organization in the coming months of a national referendum on the question of GMO.

For Gandhi, the function of non-violent action was to make the hidden violence of institutions, of the "established disorder" visible; in the same way, we have wanted to make visible the violence done to peasants, citizens, science, democracy, and to the simple duty to govern. The French legal system has finally understood that so that we may all grasp the consequences.

Francine Bavay, Yves Contassot, Renaud De Wreden, François Dufour, Fabienne Glasson, Philippe Matet, Annette Rimbert, and Xavier Timoner are deliberate GMO crop reapers.

Translation:  t r u t h o u t  French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.

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