Fifty-eight whistleblowers on trial in France
MON 89034, NK 603xMON 810: At their first two trials Monsanto's lawyers were unable to establish the exact identity of the hybrids. Neither could the Minister of Agriculture identify the genetic make-up of the plants, nor prove the legality of the 2000 sq metre secret test site located near a cluster of bee hives. Charged with criminal damage, half of them - who had declined to provide DNA swabs during their interrogation - were also indicted for refusing to submit samples to the national database.
Summoned to appear before a tribunal in Chartres, all 58 were acquitted at their first trial in June 2008 at this French equivalent of a county court. The prosecutor and Monsanto were granted leave to appeal. Tried again at Versailles, in January 2010, the Appeal court convicted them all, giving them three month suspended sentences and condemning them to pay damages of 14 000 â‚¬ to Monsanto, who had demanded more than a million! Four of them - with previous convictions for similar deeds - were fined individually an additional 3600 â‚¬ each. The acquittal relating to the DNA charge was confirmed.
In the knowledge that (a) most of the 500 million people, living in the European Union's 27 member states, don't want pesticide friendly, genetically engineered ingredients in their food, that (b) genetic pollution is irreversible, that (c) highly toxic pesticide residues are becoming a permanent fixture of the food chain, that (d) biopiracy is depriving farmers throughout the world of their ancestral right to save and use their own seeds and that, (e) as a result of their action, coupled with years of campaigning which had fallen on deaf ears, the French government had finally declared a moratorium on thousands of hectares of commercial GM crops then growing in France, 'Les 58 de Chartres' have chosen to challenge their conviction. Simultaneously l'avocat général  has appealed to overturn the verdict on DNA at La Cour de Cassation.
 Cour de Cassation = An appellate jurisdiction ie French supreme court alias the Gallic equivalent to The House of Lords.
 Faucheur Volontaire = member of a GM removal team, hundreds of whom have had to step outside the law to prevent the spread of GM crops in the EU.
 L'avocat general = chief prosecutor.
Contacts: franciska.soler[AT]wanadoo.fr; ep.matthews[AT]free.fr