Forty-nine activists who destroyed genetically modified crops have
been acquitted of criminal charges in a French court.
The court in the central city of Orleans dismissed the charges of organised
vandalism against the 49, who had uprooted GM maize in the region planted by
Monsanto, the American biotechnology group, in two incidents, one last year
and the other this year.
"The defendants have shown proof that they committed an infraction of
voluntary vandalism in a group to respond to a situation of necessity,"
the court said.
That situation of necessity "resulted from the unbridled distribution
of modified genes that constitutes a clear and present danger for the well-being
of others, in the sense that it could be the source of contamination and unwanted
pollution", it said.
The court, however, upheld a civil complaint against the defendants, ordering
them to pay $7,000 to Monsanto in damages and interest. Monsanto had been seeking
more than $300,000.
Jean-Emile Sanchez, one of the activists, called the verdict "a huge victory
for the anti-GM side" and said the judgment would form an important legal
Alex Perrin, the state prosecutor in the case who had pressed for jail terms
for all of the defendants, and Monsanto said that they would appeal against
The defendants had included two Green Party politicians, one of whom, Yves
Contassot, is a deputy mayor of Paris in charge of environmental issues.