Yesterday, a French court ordered Greenpeace France to remove from its website Google Maps of genetically modified (GM) maize. Greenpeace has described the order as censorship, maintaining on its website that EU law obliges the government to make such information available to the public - an obligation which Greenpeace France believes is being neglected.
The order followed a complaint filed by two GM maize farmers. The farmers claimed that they feared their commercial fields may be attacked as a result of the publication, and that the publication was a violation of their privacy. The Paris court held that the farmers' privacy had indeed been violated and ordered the removal of the maps.
The maps (example at left) have been described by Greenpeace as complying with an obligation on member states to maintain public registers informing citizens of the locations of GM fields. However, this is the obligation of the Commission and competent authorities on request from individuals, and so the action by Greenpeace France was held to be a violation of the farmers' privacy. Under current French law, the obligation to the public is in relation to the location of open-field experiments only.
Today Greenpeace France opted to react with a "physical" map, carving a crop circle into one of the GM maize fields as an "X marks the spot." Arnaud Apoteker, of Greenpeace France, says "As we are now forbidden to publish these maps of GE maize on our webpage, we have gone into the fields and marked the field for real."