New York Newsday
February 9, 2006


By Verena Dobnik, Associated Press Writer

New York -- Activists criticized the U.S. government on Thursday for
stopping a French farmer _ a key figure in the anti-globalization
movement _ from entering the country to voice his opposition to
genetically engineered food.

Jose Bove, best known for ransacking a McDonald's restaurant in
France, was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport upon
arrival for an international conference on globalization and labor
organized by Cornell University. His supporters were furious.

"Evidently, the Bush administration is behind this decision," said
George Naylor, president of the Washington-based National Family Farm
Coalition. "No one would think of fearing Jose's presence in this
country except multinational corporations with a profit motive."

Bove arrived in the United States under a visa waiver program that
allows citizens of certain countries, including France, to travel here
for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa.

Janet Rapaport, a New York spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border
Protection, said Bove was refused admission on Wednesday for reasons
she said she could not discuss.

In a telephone interview from his farm in southern France, Bove told
The Associated Press that when he arrived at the Queens airport U.S.
officials "knew exactly who I was. And they told me, 'You have to get

He said he had visited the United States last year, speaking at Yale
University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"The fact that they don't want me to come in now is a new way for the
Bush administration to build coalitions against us," the 52-year-old
farmer said.

He noted that his trip on Wednesday coincided with a World Trade
Organization ruling against European Union curbs on imports of
genetically modified foods.

A key topic of the New York conference was "how people can fight (U.S.
agriculture giant) Monsanto. This is an international struggle," Bove
said. "The American government is fed up with this fight because such
companies are losing a lot of money."

Monsanto, a St. Louis-based agriculture giant, grows genetically
modified soy, a key ingredient in many packaged foods. The United
States accounts for more than half of all biotech crops grown
worldwide _ mostly soy and corn.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said recently that
agricultural biotechnology "provides tremendous benefits to farmers
and rural communities."

Monsanto spokesman Chris Horner said farmers buy the company's seeds
because "they provide real, tangible benefits _ reduced costs, reduced
pesticide use with insect-protected crops and more yield."

Bove had planned to attend the Manhattan gathering of farmers, labor
advocates and academics from around the world on Thursday and Friday,
participating in forums titled "Fighting the Commodification of Food"
and "The Struggle Against Monsanto in Europe." The conference was
sponsored by Cornell's School of Labor and Industrial Relations in
upstate Ithaca, N.Y., where Bove planned to address students and visit

He said he would speak to the Manhattan gathering from France via
speaker phone on Friday.

"I'm going to talk about what the struggle of farmers all over the
world for seeds," he told the AP. "Big companies like Monsanto have
patents on genetically modified seeds, and you have to buy those seeds
each year _ you can't keep the ones you have. That's how they control
food in the world, by controlling what farmers put in the soil."

Bove, who raises sheep and produces cheese, shot to fame in 1999 after
leading protesters who dismantled a McDonald's restaurant under
construction in Millau, near his farm in southern France.

He also participated in protests during the World Trade Organization
meetings held in December in Hong Kong, where he was briefly detained
but eventually allowed to enter.

A month earlier, he was sentenced to four months in prison for
destroying a field of genetically modified corn planted by an American
seed company in southern France.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.