Bush Criticizes EU's Bio-Crop Fears; Says Resistance Is Exacerbating African Famine

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Byline: Bill Sammon, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush yesterday accused Europe of exacerbating famine and AIDS in Africa by blocking the use of genetically enhanced crops and falling short on funding to fight the disease.

The broadsides came as Mr. Bush prepares to travel to Europe amid trans-Atlantic relations that have been strained by the war in Iraq. Nevertheless, the president vowed to press his complaint when he visits France, Russia and Poland next week.

"By widening the use of new high-yield bio-crops and unleashing the power of markets, we can dramatically increase agricultural productivity and feed more people across the continent," Mr. Bush said in a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

"Yet our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears," he said.

"This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in biotechnologies, for fear their products will be shut out of European markets," he said. "European governments should join not hinder the great cause of ending hunger in Africa."

Mr. Bush has run out of patience with the European Union, which imposed a moratorium on genetically enhanced foods nearly five years ago. Last week, the United States and a dozen other nations formally asked the European Union to abide by World Trade Organization rules that call for foods to be approved without "undue delay" if there is "sufficient scientific evidence."

Wrote U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick in yesterday's Wall Street Journal: "This dangerous effect of the EU's moratorium became evident last fall, when some famine-stricken African countries refused U.S. food aid because of fabricated fears stoked by irresponsible rhetoric about food safety.

"As a major importer of food, Europe's decisions ripple far beyond its borders. Uganda refused to plant a disease-resistant type of banana because of fears it would jeopardize exports to Europe," Mr. Zoellick said.

"Namibia will not buy South Africa's biotech corn for cattle feed to avoid hurting its beef exports to Europe," he said. "India, China and other countries in South America and Africa have expressed the same trepidation."

Mr. Bush also accused Europe of failing to adequately address the threat of HIV/AIDS, which afflicts 30 million Africans, including 3 million under the age of 15. …