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Last Friday French beekeepers occupied the site of agrochemical giant Monsanto in Monbequi demanding an end to genetically modified corn in France.

The Confédération paysanne (Rural Confederation) was behind the protest. Approximately 20 beekeepers hiding in a van were brought onto the site where Monsanto carries out corn growing experiments. The protestors pretended to be a delivery truck and once admitted opened the gates to dozens of other beekeepers.  Some protestors brought two hives and smokers into the building before calling the Minister of Ecology by telephone.

‘We demand an order banning the sale and growing of Monsanto 810 and a ban of all GMOs that produce nectar or pollen that could pollute honey’, declared Jean Sabench, a beekeeper from Hérault, spokesman for the Rural Confederation.

A court recently ruled that a German beekeeper’s honey was unfit for human consumption in Europe because it contained traces of GMO corn. The beekeepers at Friday’s protest are worried that their honey will be contaminated by GMO corn and will be declared unsuitable for human consumption.

The beekeepers left the protest on Friday after the government re-affirmed its commitment to ban growing Monsanto 810, a type of GMO corn known as YieldGuard. Late last year the state council cancelled the suspension of the growing of GMO corn, a suspension imposed by the government in February 2008. The President of the French National Beekeepers Union, Oliver Belval, reported that a government representative guaranteed the protesters that a safeguard clause assuring the ban of selling and growing this GMO will be made, as promised last year by the Minister of Ecology.

Jean Sabench came for the survival of beekeeping but also for the survival of the bees. Bees are essential pollinators. If the bees disappear the consequences will be massive for the environment and agriculture. On the back of Friday’s protests Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the Minster of Ecology, promised ‘a new clause that will not be legally attackable,’ and said it could be made before the sowing season at the end of February.

The Monsanto site at Monbéqui had been the site of a previous protest in 1999 by farmers of the Rural Confederation who tore up experimental GMO rice crops.