Brussels, 22 May 2003
US President George W Bush has accused Europe of blocking efforts to bring about an end to starvation in Africa through its opposition to genetically modified (GM) foods.
Mr Bush made the comments during a speech on 21 May. They follow a US decision to file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation concerning Europe's authorisation procedure for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a move European Commissioners described as 'legally unwarranted' and 'politically unhelpful'.
'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 [African] continent,' said Mr Bush. 'Yet, our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new bio crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears.'
He continued by saying: 'European governments should join - not hinder - the great cause of ending hunger in Africa.'
The main target of the US president's attack was the so-called EU moratorium on new GMO marketing authorisations, which began in 1998. The Commission, however, argues that since the introduction of new EU laws on GMO traceability and labelling, authorisation procedures have resumed and that the moratorium is no longer in place.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal, however, US trade representative Robert Zoellick rejected the argument, warning of the 'dangerous effect' of EU policy, whereby 'some famine stricken African countries refused US food aid because of fabricated fears - stoked by irresponsible rhetoric - about food safety.'
On 19 May, the UK environment minister Michael Meacher warned that organic food production was threatened by contamination from GM crops. 'The coexistence of organic and GM crops is a very real problem,' he said.