Montreal activist against genetically modified foods fights mischief charge
By NELSON WYATT
Wednesday February 14
MONTREAL (CP) - A fight against genetically modified foods was a key part of the mischief trial Wednesday of an activist accused of slapping warning stickers on processed supermarket products.
Martin Petit, 31, is seeking to use the court as a podium against federal government reluctance to impose mandatory labelling that identifies genetically modified food products in stores. "For sure," Petit said outside when asked if he was using the case to make a statement. He is acting as his own lawyer.
"The debate hasn't even started yet about the privatization of life and the patenting of living organisms.
"The government is ignoring all those studies that says there are problems with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and we have to fix those problems before giving all that food to the people."
Petit, a member of the Citizens Voluntary Labelling Collective, was arrested last May 22 after stickers warning shoppers about the modified foods were placed on several products such as crackers and croutons at a Provigo grocery store.
Prosecutor Jose Costas would not comment on any efforts by Petit to use the court as a forum for anything more than a defence.
"I'm here to do my job," Costas said as he hurried from court at the end of the day. "I can't really talk about his political things that he wants to prove."
A charge of assault by intrusion, laid when Petit allegedly wouldn't leave the store, was dropped. About 35 protesters were reportedly involved in the action.
Police video taken at the store on the day shows Petit waving at the camera. However, police allege that he put the stickers on products.
Surrounded by supporters from groups such as Greenpeace, Petit seemed anxious about whether one of his witnesses, an expert in biotechnology, would be able to be heard before he had to fly back to British Columbia.
The proceedings got off to an exceptionally slow start after rooms were switched and prosecutors were replaced. A further delay was granted to allow a prosecutor to watch the police video.
Two police witnesses were eventually heard and gave details of Petit's arrest. A third witness did not appear because he had been given erroneous information that the hearing had been postponed.
The trial continues Thursday.