May 22, 2003

Food fight  

Bush is absolutely right to declaim the EU's ban on genetically modified food:

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 nations.

"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.

Unfortunately the flip side of this issue is that here in the US we're just as snooty about irradiated food - an attitude that is equally unscientific and which has similar consequences for potential African agricultural production. It's a bit of a standoff, with public opinion firmly entrenched on both sides of the Atlantic.

It's also worth noting that the Bush administration's policy on steel tarrifs might have something to do with the European ban on gm food. It's a pretty obvious case of comparative advantage, where unfair US steel protections have forced Europe to protect its crops.


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