Trial of French farmer on ripping up genetically modified crops draws to a close

The trial of France's highest-profile farmer, Jose Bove, a Green Party lawmaker and seven others facing prison terms for ripping up a field of genetically modified corn planted by an American company drew to a close Wednesday.

Green Party lawmaker Noel Mamere and the other defendants each face up to five years in prison and a US$91,000 fine if found guilty.

Bove, as a repeat offender, would face the stiffest penalty - 10 years in prison and a US$182,000 fine - for uprooting the corn on July 25, 2004, which belonged to a U.S. seed company that is a subsidiary of Dupont.

Bove called the act one of "civil disobedience" that they felt was justified in the name of public health - and to generate talk about GMO crops.

"If we hadn't carried out this action ... there would be no debate," Bove told the court Tuesday.

The sheep farmer served just over a month in prison in 2003 for destroying a field of GMO corn and rice crops. He gained celebrity status in France after ransacking a McDonald's restaurant in 1999 that was under construction near his home in the south of France.

The crop they attacked in the town of Menville, near the southern city of Toulouse, belonged to Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., based in Johnston, Iowa, the AP reports.

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