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Bove convicted for food assault

MONTPELLIER, France -- Prominent anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove was on Thursday given a 10-month suspended prison sentence for destroying genetically modified rice plants in 1999.

Bove, who made international headlines for trashing a McDonald's fast food restaurant, was found guilty with two others of leading a raid on a publicly funded agriculture research centre in the southern town of Montpellier.

He was also placed on probation for two years and ordered to pay substantial costs and damages in addition to a symbolic one franc to the laboratory.

"The courts in Montpellier have shown yet again that they are supporters of genetically modified food," Bove said. "The justice system has not understood a thing about the dangers that face us all."

Bove returned to France from Mexico for the verdict. He had joined Zapatista rebel leader Subcommander Marcos on his triumphal march on Mexico City.

Bove, a sheep farmer, has admitted to spearheading the assault on the Cirad laboratory by some 100 protesters opposed to genetically modified food.

Lawyers for the laboratory say the protest caused $550,000 of damage.

Bove announced immediate plans Thursday to appeal against the sentence, one of three hanging over him for protests that have propelled him to international prominence.

Opponents of genetically modified crops fear they may spread modified genes, with the risk of harming insects and humans, and spur the creation of pesticide-resistant superweeds. Supporters say they are needed to develop hardier crop types to help feed the poor.

The Cirad centre argued that his protest was misguided because the laboratory has developed ways to trace altered genes in genetically engineered products. It says it provides an unbiased scientific view on such foods and an alternative to company research.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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