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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bove Wears Dress to Crop Trial

FOIX, France -- Borrowing a centuries-old symbol of French peasant protest, radical farmer Jose Bove and eight others wore girls' frocks to their trial on Tuesday for destroying a field of genetically modified crops.

Bove, a star of the anti-globalization movement, faces up to five years prison and a maximum fine of nearly $15,000 for taking part in an April 2000 attack on a field of GM rape seed in the southwest town of Gaudies by some 400 anti-GM protesters.

The CETIOM public research body that planted the 2.5 hectare rape seed field a year before the attack is pressing charges for destruction and damage to property. While sharing a widespread European suspicion of GM crops, France has permitted GM experiments on around 100 sites.

Some 200 years ago, poachers in the region wore white frocks to fool gamekeepers trying to enforce a ban on men entering the forest. They were known as the "demoiselles," or maidens.

"Our battle against GM crops has much in common with that of the demoiselles -- we too are running up against a French justice system opposed to common protest action and deaf to the concerns of the population," Bove said as he entered the court in Foix, 30 kilometers north of the Spanish border.

Bove says the government is underestimating the risks of cross-pollination with natural crops. He defends the Gaudies attack by invoking the French legal concept of a "state of necessity," compelling citizen action even if it is unlawful.

The pipe-smoking Bove completed a three-month sentence last month for trashing a restaurant of U.S. chain McDonalds to protest fast-food culture and U.S. tariffs imposed on French specialty food products.