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French Battle Against Frankenfoods and Industrial Junk Food

French Battle Against Frankenfoods
and Industrial Junk Food

Calgary Herald (canada)
September 23, 2001 Activists take action against genetically modified crops
BY: Greg Frost
SOURCE: Reuters
DATELINE: LABRIHE, France

A sickle in his hand and a broad grin on his face, Jacques Lachaud wiped the
sweat from his brow after helping to destroy a field of genetically modified
corn near this southwestern French town.

"This feels really good," the retired shopkeeper said as the late summer sun
beat down on him and approximately 150 other activists taking part in the
illegal protest of genetically enhanced crops.

Standing on the dusty earth where just minutes earlier hundreds of plants
were being grown by a French farmer on behalf of U.S. biotechnology giant
Monsanto, Lachaud explained the simple motive behind his radical act. "I'm
sick of eating lousy food," he said. "I will definitely be back for more
(protests) if they want us."

Poor food -- known in France as "la malbouffe" -- has become a national
preoccupation in recent years, with everyone from small consumers to the
country's farm minister weighing in on how to improve the quality of French
cuisine.

Why all the fuss? It's simple enough: a series of food scares and farm
panics have revealed that France, while certainly not serving the worst
meals in the world, may have lost its reputation for having the best.

The problems began in the mid-1990s when there were outbreaks of listeria,
a food-borne germ that kills infants, pregnant women and the elderly.
Then there were consumer panics over bioengineered crops and a subsequent
scare linked to cancer-causing dioxin in imports of Belgian meat.
Environmentalists have also charged that water supplies in certain regions
of the country have become contaminated by pesticides -- a casualty of the
intensive farming habits that have marked French agriculture since the
Second World War.

French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said more changes are needed in the
way France, and Europe, feeds itself.

He and his German counterpart, Renate Kuenast, recently agreed that the
European Union's Common Agricultural Policy should switch its focus from
quantity to quality.

Glavany is no stranger to the struggle against "la malbouffe," having
sparked a transatlantic war of words two years ago when he described the
United States as having "the worst food in the world."
The minister remains unrepentant about American-style food. He recently told
Reuters that he was battling to ensure that fast food did not devour the
planet.

"This 'fast food' made with ground beef, with a certain tomato sauce, fries
and sugary, gassy drinks, does not strike me as a universal dream," he said.
"Just look at the obesity level in a certain country and you'll understand
why I want to spare Europeans this."


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