PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – Jose Bove is at it again. The anti-globalisation activist who has been given an ultimatium to leave Brazil, revels in controversy. Already under threat of a prison sentence for his part in ransacking a McDonald’s fast food outlet in his native France, Bove is a determined campaigner who refuses to compromise his firmly-held principles.
This time he is in hot water for leading an invasion by 1,300 Brazilian farmers of plantations run by the US biotechnology firm Monsanto. They uprooted genetically-modified corn and soya bean plants, burned seeds and destroyed documents in the company’s offices.
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – Jose Bove, the anti-globalisation activist who has been given an ultimatium to leave Brazil, revels in controversy.
His initiative at an anti-globalisation forum here — an alternative to the annual gathering of the world’s political and business elite taking place in Davos, Switzerland — was another publicity-seeking success.
Bove, 47, has become an instantly recognisable figure, with his extravagant moustache and pipe-smoking habit, popping up wherever there is an ecological axe to be ground.
He has travelled the world lecturing anyone who will listen on the evils of globalisation and genetically-modifed crops and has earned the nickname ‘Asterix’ — after a French comic strip character — for his determination to repel alien invaders in the form of foreign capitalist concerns.
A sheep-farmer and producer of the celebrated Roquefort cheese, he has become the standard-bearer of the fight against new economic and gastronomic imperialism.
His appearances at anti-globalisation gatherings in Seattle and Davos shot him to fame and his conviction for the trashing of a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in his home town of Millau served only to reinforce his reputation as a swashbuckling resistance hero.
A crowd of 30,000 turned out in Millau to support Bove when he and nine colleagues from his radical farmers’ union, the Peasant Confederation, went on trial over the McDonald’s escapade.
Popular French singer Francis Cabrel has described Bove as “one of the last courageous, natural, honest voices left in a world where the rest are tarnished by compromise.”
Ironically, for a man who epitomises the virtues of the traditional French son-of-the-soil, Bove speaks faultless English, learned when his bourgeois parents spent four years in the United States.
His story is typical of many of the 1968 generation of French students who rose up against middle class conservatism, turning his back on the city in search of a simpler life on the land.
In the 1970s he and his wife Alice were among the leaders of a successful campaign to defend the starkly beautiful Larzac plateau outside Millau against plans to extend a military camp there.
In 1987, he helped set up the Peasant Confederation, whose aim has been to champion the cause of small producers against the interests of big business and agricultural barons.
With his honed sense of publicity Bove once organised the ploughing of the park under the Eiffel Tower in the centre of Paris to protest EU farm policies.
In 1995 he was aboard the ship Rainbow Warrior in the south Pacific to protest France’s resumption of nuclear tests. Three years later he was convicted for destroying a consignment of genetically-modified maize.
But it took the shock-tactics of an act of criminal damage against McDonald’s to propel him into the public eye.
Bove enjoys broad public support. Criticism of America comes easy in France and most French people believe the cause of small farmers is just.
Both Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and President Jacques Chirac have felt it worth their while to hear Bove’s views at first hand.
Author: Internal Staff
News Service: Agence France-Presse