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Behind their common struggle against GMOs

Political cultures that divide

Julie Pagis

This article presents a comparative investigation of anti-GMO activism in two regions in France. It shows how activists’ participation in acts of ‘civil disobedience’ was not necessarily motivated by the same reasons or directed toward the same goals. During my ethnographic fieldwork at two trials against activists who destroyed GMO test plots in France I found that although protagonists were in agreement on rejecting GMOs, their deeper motives differed significantly. I draw five socio-biographical portraits of anti-GMO activists and highlight their divergent opinions on their role in the court case, which illustrate how in their utilization of the court activists relate differently to the legal system and society at large. The anti-globalization organization Attac and the farmers’ trade union Con- fédération Paysanne clearly had different relations to politics but I also analyze why in Ariège these differences could be harmonized whereas in Droˆme differences between activists lead to serious divisions. I do so by considering how different local activist cultures are shaped within a competitive organizational arena.