Bush Steps Up Criticism of Europe's Ban on Genetic Foods
By DAVID E. SANGER
NEW LONDON, Conn., May 21 ? President Bush asserted today that Europe's refusal to allow food from genetically modified crops into their markets had discouraged Third World countries from using this technology and thus undermined efforts to end hunger in Africa.
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 bitter divisions between Washington and Europe that have not abated since the end of 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 hunger in the Third World.
The speech signaled the tough stance that Mr. Bush is likely to take when he travels to France in 10 days for the annual economic summit meeting of the Group of 7 largest industrialized nations and Russia. White House officials have already said that Mr. Bush plans no rapprochement with the leaders of France and Germany, beyond what they call a perfunctory "courtesy visit" to France's president, Jacques Chirac, during the summit meeting in Evian les-Bains.
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 world's 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 ? in which the United States has a large financial stake. He appeared to be referring to such countries as 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 Bush administration filed the equivalent of a lawsuit at 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 about Iraq.