[FR] Controversial court rulings in France

This summer, two court rulings dealt with the cultivation of GMOs in France – or, more precisely, with its opponents. On 22 June 2006, the Orleans Court of Appeals upheld the original conviction of 49 people found guilty of destroying plots of GM crops belonging to the biotech company Monsanto. On 26 July 2006, a French court ordered Greenpeace France to remove a webpage featuring a Google Map showing the location of commercial GM maize fields in France.

Crop circle in a GM maize field carved by Greenpeace
Crop circle in a GM maize field carved by Greenpeace
This decision on 22 of June overturned a lower court ruling last December releasing the defendants from liability. The Appeals Court reinstated a two-month jail sentence for one defendant, the others received suspended jail sentences and a fine of 1,000 euros. The decision about Monsanto's claim for 390,000 euros in damages is still open.

The verdict against Greenpeace on 26 of July is highly remarkable. The court argues that a map of the locations of GM cultivations puts farmers at risk of losing their harvest by anti-GM activists destroying the fields. Yet, "EU law says that member states are obliged to maintain public registers in order to inform their citizens about the locations of GM fields,“ as Greenpeace claims. Public registers are considered an important tool for co-existence, since they inform farmers whether their neighbours intend to grow GM crops. France is one of few EU members states commercially growing GM crops that has not yet created the legal framework for such a register.

Greenpeace responded to the court ruling by carving a giant "X“ crop circle into one of the GM maize fields in question. "As we are now forbidden to publish these maps of GM maize on our webpage, we have gone into the fields and marked the field for real," explains Arnaud Apoteker of Greenpeace France.