Environmental activist José Bové was sentenced to six months in jail last month for destroying GM rice plants – an action which only compounded his reputation as a national hero in France.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, he explained the theories behind his bid to develop political opposition to genetic modification and multinational companies such as McDonalds.

With regard to his action in response to the current development of GM plants, Bové maintained that he was obliged to disobey the law because debate was having little impact on the planting of GM crops. He described his actions as following the example of Henry David Thoreau in applying the principle of civil disobedience, and defended the destruction of crops as they represented a “technique of tyranny” – in that a “totalitarian” agrarian system is promoted by the planting of GM crops, which block the potential for “natural biodiversity”.

With regard to his well-publicised attacks on US burger behemoth McDonald’s, Bové disputed that he was prompted by anti-Americanism. “The same thing that is happening in the US is happening in France and everywhere else: big conglomerates are trying to standardize food production and consumption to their exclusive advantage,” he said: “It’s not at all a question of the company’s national origins.”

He did however note the sensitivity of people who judged his arguments as Anti-American: “That’s one of the problems with the US. Criticism directed at a particular issue is automatically taken as a global criticism of the US and its population. There’s this impulse to justify and defend everything without realizing that it’s through debate that people begin to understand each other.”

Bové also highlighted the current paradox that sees millions of consumers worldwide welcoming fastfood as a means to buy into the ‘American Dream#;, and “people don’t realize that in the US, fast food is nobody’s dream anymore”.

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