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9-Misc: Bush links Europe's ban on bio-crops with hunger

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TITLE:  Bush Links Europe's Ban on Bio-Crops With Hunger
SOURCE: The New York Times, by David E. Sanger
DATE:   May 22, 2003

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Bush Links Europe's Ban on Bio-Crops With Hunger

NEW LONDON, Conn., May 21 - President Bush charged today that Europe's
ban on genetically modified food had discouraged third world countries
from using that technology and thus undermined efforts to end hunger in

Mr. Bush's accusation, long a complaint of American farmers, was made
during a graduation speech at the United States Coast Guard Academy that
dwelled on initiatives to combat AIDS and poverty.

It is almost certain to exacerbate the divisions between Washington and
Europe that emerged before the war in Iraq. While Mr. Bush has made the
case before that Europe should stop obstructing the sale of genetically
modified food, today was the first time he linked that policy with world

The speech signaled the tough stance Mr. Bush is likely to take when he
goes to France in 10 days for the annual economic summit meeting of seven
major industrialized nations and Russia. White House officials have
already said Mr. Bush plans no reconciliation with the leaders of France
and Germany, beyond what they call a perfunctory "courtesy visit" to
President Jacques Chirac during the summit meeting, to be held in the
French town of Évian.

In a speech that the White House said would put forward what aides called
a positive agenda that would show a far softer side to American foreign
policy, Mr. Bush insisted that widened use of "high-yield bio-crops"
would greatly increase agricultural productivity in some of the poorest

"Yet our partners in Europe are impeding this effort," he said, clearly
meaning France and Germany, though he named no countries. "They have
blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears."

The result, he charged, was that African nations that fear being shut out
of European markets are not investing in the technology. He appeared to
be referring to countries like Uganda and Namibia.

"European governments should join, not hinder, the great cause of ending
hunger in Africa," he said.

Mr. Bush made no mention of the United States' own strong economic
interest in the outcome of the dispute with Europe. American corporations
lead the world in biotechnology and are anxious to open the lucrative
European market.

Last week the administration filed the equivalent of a lawsuit with the
World Trade Organization to force Europe to lift its ban on genetically
modified food, a step that Mr. Bush had delayed during the debate on Iraq.

Inside the White House, the emotions about the countries that tried to
stop the invasion are still raw; recently a senior administration
official told reporters that diplomacy to disarm Saddam Hussein had been
going well until, in the official's view, France stabbed the United
States in the back. The French have complained that such comments are
part of a concerted effort by the administration to turn the American
public against France and its goods.

Today the United States trade representative, Robert B. Zoellick, wrote
an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal accusing the European Union
of disregarding scientific evidence and sending "a devastating signal to
developing countries that stand to benefit most from innovative
agricultural technologies."

He charged that some African countries were refusing American food aid
"because of fabricated fears stoked by irresponsible rhetoric about food

The European public has been highly reluctant to purchase any genetically
modified products, citing unknown long-term health and environmental
risks. European officials have said that the Bush administration can
argue over the openness of the European market but that they reject as
underhanded the implication that their stricter rules on genetically
modified food are somehow responsible for hunger in Africa.

Tony van der Haegen, the expert for food safety at the European Union,
said administration officials had been "a bit unfair to whip Europeans"
when they had never blocked food aid. Last week European officials
charged that the administration was manufacturing its claims.

"The U.S. claims that there is a so-called moratorium," Pascal Lamy, the
top European trade official, said last week, "but the fact is that the
E.U. has authorized G.M. varieties in the past and is currently
processing applications. So what is the real U.S. motive in bringing a case?"

Yet as a practical matter, the European Union had an unwritten moratorium
on new varieties of bio-crops until last year. Since then it has approved
only two applications for new imports.

Europeans have also demanded that any genetically modified foods be
labeled, a move that American farmers say would condemn the products to
the back shelves, where they would sit unsold. The United States suit has
been joined by a number of other nations, many of which are seeking free
trade agreements with the United States.

Mr. Bush's speech here, delivered in a drizzling rain as Coast Guard
vessels bobbed in the waters behind him, marked a return to the state
where he was born - a native status that the adopted Texan rarely talks
about, identifying himself more with Midland, the Texas town in which he
grew up.

But his birthplace was just too close today to be ignored, and Mr. Bush
opened his speech by saying, "You know, I was born in this state, just
down the road." He was greeted by laughter, then applause. "I've still
got relatives living here," he said.

In his speech, Mr. Bush commended Congress for passing legislation
authorizing greater spending around the world on AIDS treatment, a bill
he said he would sign next week.

He called anew for financing for the Millennium Challenge Account, a new
approach to development aid that would grant money to nations that
demonstrated a commitment to remaking their justice systems, spending
more on health and education, and adopting market-opening measures.

"When I'm in Europe," he said, pointing to another likely subject of
contention, "I will call on America's partners to join us in moving
beyond the broken development policies of the past, and encourage the
freedom and reform that lead to prosperity."