June 2, 2003
BACKGROUND: Citing Third World Humanitarian concerns,
the Bush Administration has asked the World Trade Organization
to break the European Union's five-year de facto moratorium on
the importation of new genetically-modified food products, or
In a speech at the coast Guard Academy
May 22, President Bush said, "Our partners in Europe have
blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific
fears. This has caused many African nations from investing in
biotechnology for fear that their products will be shut out of
European markets. European governments should join, not hinder,
the great cause of ending hunger in Africa."
Over a dozen nations, including South
Africa, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Australia, Colombia, El Salvador,
Honduras, New Zealand, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico and Egypt have expressed
support of the U.S. request to the WTO.
The matter is significant to Third World
nations that, on the one hand, are dependent upon Europe as a
market for their crops, but on the other, have pressing food
needs -- and at times famines -- that could be eased or alleviated
by the importation or use of GMOs.
Some poor nations fear that if they use
or import GMOs, even briefly, their agricultural exports could
become ineligible for export into the EU.
Despite a humanitarian crisis affecting
perhaps 3 million people, Zambia last year banned agricultural
aid from the U.S., saying it would rather its people go hungry
than have the nation lose its export markets in Europe.
Uganda has refused to grow a disease-resistant
genetically modified banana out of fears it would lose its European
market. Yet a disease spreading throughout the nation's banana
plantations -- vital to Uganda's economy -- already has been
a factor in cutting banana yields per acre to less than half
their productivity 30 years ago. Some predict major banana varieties
in Uganda will soon be all but extinct.
Despite extreme food shortages caused
by the Mugabe government's confiscation of farmland owned by
whites, Zimbabwe turned down 10,000 tons of American grain in
June 2002 out of fears its crops would subsequently show traces
And, as National Review's Rich
Lowry noted in a May 22 column, "Thailand has poured millions
of dollars into research on biotech rice, but doesn't dare approve
it, because that would end its small exports of rice to Europe.
Egypt has had to shy away from genetically modified corn and
sweet potatoes. China too has delayed approval of genetically
TEN SECOND RESPONSE: The European Union has had a de facto
moratorium on importing genetically-modified food since October
1998 although its top scientists say the ban is unjustified.
This has caused some poor nations to ban importation of GMOs,
even as part of needed humanitarian aid packages, for fear the
GMOs could comingle with other crops and render their exports
ineligible for exportation to Europe. Well-fed Europeans thus
essentially are forcing hungry Third Worlders to choose between
food and trade.
THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Genetically-modified crops deemed
safe by Europe's top scientists are nonetheless banned for importation
by the European Union. Thus effectively forces Third World nations
to choose between the benefits of GMOs and their access to European
markets. As Hassan Adamu, the Nigerian Minister for Agricultural
and Rural Development, wrote in a Washington Post commentary
published September 11, 2000: "Millions of Africans - far
too many of them children - are suffering from malnutrition and
hunger. Agricultural biotechnology offers a way to stop the suffering...
To deny desperate, hungry people the means to control their futures
by presuming to know what is best for them is not only paternalistic
but morally wrong."
The Hudson Institute's Alex Avery told Marc Morano of CNSNews.com
that the European ban on GMOs is "technological apartheid.
Europe is abundantly fed; it is a surplus producer and has the
luxury of forgoing technologies that are highly promising and
productive. Africa doesn't have that luxury. They have horrible
infrastructure, they desperately need productivity enhancing
technologies, including the basics like fertilizer and pesticides."
Avery also told CNSNews.com that money
is a major factor in Europe's opposition to GMOs: "More
than half of the EU's collective budget is gobbled up by farm
subsidy costs so Europe has done all that it can to avoid productivity-enhancing
technologies for cost savings."
U.S. farmers lose about $300 million
per year because of the EU ban.
Genetically-modified foods offer the
* Reducing starvation: Biotechnology
can increase agricultural productivity in the developing world.
The 1997 World Bank and Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research estimated that biotechnology could increase food production
in the developing world by 25 percent.
* Reducing the harm of drought: Modifications
can be made in plants to make them drought-resistant. Droughts
are a common cause of crop failures leading to famine.
* Health: Bioengineering can reduce the
amount of saturated fats in foods, and increase nutrients. According
to U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and other sources, 500,000
children in developing nations go blind because of Vitamin A
deficiency. 250 million children currently suffer from Vitamin
A deficiency worldwide. This can cause learning disabilities
and -- for girls -- childbearing problems in adulthood. Biotechnology
can fortify rice, wheat and corn with extra Vitamin A to end
this suffering. Biotechnology can also reduce allergens in foods.
Presently, food allergies are the cause of 2,500 emergency room
visits and 135 deaths annually in the U.S. One to three percent
of older children and adults suffer from food allergies, as do
five to eight percent of infants and toddlers.
* Environment: Biotechnology has already
led to an 80 percent reduction in insecticide use in U.S. cotton
crops and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show a 30-40
percent reduction in herbicide use. Biotechnology can reduce
the amount of water needed to grow foods and reduce soil erosion
caused by agriculture.
* National economy: Dr. C.S. Prakash,
professor in Plant Molecular Genetics and Director of the Center
for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University noted
on April 22, 2003: "National Center for Food and Agricultural
Policy found that biotechnology-derived plants-soybeans, corn,
cotton, papaya, squash and canola-increased U.S. food production
by four billion pounds, saved $1.2 billion in production costs,
and decreased pesticide use by about 46 million pounds in 2001."
* Family economy: Bioengineered baked
goods, fruits and vegetables can have a longer shelf life, reducing
waste and spoilage.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Marc Morano, "Bush Urged to Battle
'Technological Apartheid' in Dispute Over Biotech Food,"
CNSNews.com, May 28, 2003, http://www.cnsnews.com/Culture/Archive/200305/CUL20030528b.html
"Bush: Africa Hostage to GM Fears,"
BBC News, May 22, 2003 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3050855.stm
"Greenpeace Founder Supports Biotechnology,"
Press Release of AgBioWorld Foundation, March 6, 2001 at http://www.envirotruth.org/moore.cfm
"Scientists In Support Of Agricultural
Biotechnology," international petition signed by 3,200 scientists
in support of the use of agricultural biotechnology at http://www.agbioworld.org/declaration/declaration_index.html
"Africa Cries Out for Genetically-Modified
Foods: African-American Leadership Network Joined by African
Leaders in Call for Providing Africa With the Tools to Feed Its
People," Project 21 Press Release, October 20, 2000, at
John Meredith, "Bio-Foods Can Improve
Nutrition in America, Cut Starvation and Disease in Africa,"
National Policy Analysis #298, June 2000, at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA298.html
Michael Centrone, "Biotechnology:
Putting an End to World Hunger," National Policy Analysis
#289, June 2000, at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA289.html
"Scientists Urge European Union
to End Biotech Food Ban, Competitive Enterprise Institute Press
Release, May 12, 2003, at http://www.cei.org/gencon/003,03471.cfm
"Banana Risks Extinction,"
Kampala New Vision, January 22, 2003 at http://allafrica.com/stories/200301220386.html
Rich Lowry, "France to World: Eat
Cake," King Features Syndicate, May 22, 2003, hhttp://www.townhall.com/columnists/richlowry/rl20030522.shtml
"Africa's Dilemma in Genetically
Modified food War," Kampala Monitor, May 29, 2003
"U.S. Requests WTO Consultations
with EU on Biotech Moratorium," Bridges International Trade
Digest, May 14, 2003, at http://www.ictsd.org/weekly/03-05-14/story1.htm
by Amy Ridenour
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Contact the author at: 202-543-4110 x110 or [email protected]
The National Center for Public
501 Capitol Court, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002