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Bush hammers Europe on banning Biotech

Bush Europe Biotech 2003

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#1 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 24 May 2003 - 01:11 PM

Bush Lashes Out at Europe: President Says Aversion to Biotech Perpetuates African Hunger

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"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," Bush said in a commencement address on the drizzly west bank of the Thames River. "Yet, our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears."

Bush said Europeans, by closing their markets to bioengineered foods, have caused African nations to avoid investments in such crops. "European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa," he said. Accusing those who subsidize agricultural exports of preventing poor countries from developing their own crops, he added: "I propose that all developed nations, including our partners in Europe, immediately eliminate subsidies on agricultural exports to developing countries so that they can produce more food to export and more food to feed their own people."

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The administration said it acted because Europeans had not met promises to repeal the ban. The European Union, which said it was moving toward new rules, called the suit "legally unwarranted, economically unfounded and politically unhelpful." In an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal today, U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick expanded on the accusation, writing of the "dangerous effect" of the EU policy, in which "some famine-stricken African countries refused U.S. food aid because of fabricated fears -- stoked by irresponsible rhetoric -- about food safety."

German official calls for end to EU biotech ban

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WASHINGTON - A top German official this week sided with the United States in a dispute over the European Union's ban on new biotech food products.

In a speech to the German American Executive Summit, German Economic Affairs Minister Wolfgang Clement said it was important for the world trading system that the United States and the EU resolve a number of outstanding disputes.

"I am therefore arguing vigorously for Europe to end its de facto moratorium on genetically modified products and to open itself to American imports," Clement said.

At the same time, Clement said it was important for the United States to come into compliance with a number of WTO rulings, including a case involving $4 billion in annual tax breaks for exporters, which the World Trade Organization has found to be illegal export subsidies.

About time that someone takes on Europe over their aversion and blocking of new biotech that has the potential to greatly raise agricultural yields.  As for the German side of the issue; they have good damage control apparently.
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#2 Rov Judicata

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Posted 24 May 2003 - 01:13 PM

I agree with Bush on this one. The vague concerns expressed with biotech don't come close to outweighing the need for more food.
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#3 Kosh

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Posted 24 May 2003 - 01:44 PM

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As for the German side of the issue; they have good damage control apparently.

They may do whatever we want for some time to come.
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#4 Kevin Street

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Posted 25 May 2003 - 05:58 AM

This is something I can actually agree with Bush on - the European attitude towards biotechnology and genetic engineering has to change. People are starving right now when science could help feed them.
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#5 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 25 May 2003 - 06:08 AM

Kevin Street, on May 24 2003, 07:05 PM, said:

This is something I can actually agree with Bush on
The world is coming to an end if Lil agrees to.  ;)
"History has proven too often and too recently that the nation which relaxes its defenses invites attack."
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"Their sailors say they should have flight pay and sub pay both -- they're in the air half the time, under the water the other half""
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#6 Shaun

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Posted 25 May 2003 - 10:57 PM

I tend to agree that European fears of bitek are somewhat exagerrated, although I think a measure of caution is prudent. There have been a lot of food scares in Europe which has made the population nervous when it comes to what they consume.

There's a good editorial and news piece in this week's New Scientist on the subject (which irritatingly isn't available on-line). Bush's comments are unhelpful and demonstrate a failure to understand that the EU's culture is different from that of the US.

Many European countries are supportive of restrictions on GM items, there is no moratorium as EU policy. Several EU countries have independently decided upon unilateral bans but not because they want to block US trade but because they are responding as democratic governments responding to voters who do not want to eat GM foods. However those countries have said that once the second set of EU regulations concerning traceability and labelling (primarily put in place to alieve public fears) are approved they will lift their bans.  If they US agrees to label GM foods as such then they will be allowed into the EU (as two varieties of cottonseed oil and US produced GM Soya already are), but as long as the US refuses to label GM foods as such then they will fall foul of EU law and be banned.

Consumer resistance is a major factor, Even if the case is successful, it will not necessarily help US producers regain their share of the EU market. "They are picking a fight they can win in court, but not in the market," says Phil Evans of Britain's Consumer Association. "It will almost certainly harden attitudes." Others agree. "The action has all the hallmarks of big American business running roughshod over consumer opinion," says Deidre Hutton, chair of the National Consumer Council.

As the editorial concludes The real barrier the US faces is not one of science, sound or unsound. It is that European and American consumers want to make different choices for legitimate cultural and political reasons. How the WTO will sort that out is anybody's guess.
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#7 Jid

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 06:27 AM

Wow.

All I can say is...... What a freaking load of bull**** rhetoric.  

European reluctance to GM crops is something that I honestly admire to tell the truth.  While the science behind GM foods isn't truly the issue here, Bush seems to not understand the extent to which most GM work has gone.

GM crops don't necessarily increase yields so much as make the crop resistant to herbicides or drought in almost all cases of GM crops put forward for approval.  Simply put, it allows farmers to be slightly less careful about how they apply their weed killers, and supposedly lessens the amount of herbicides one would have to use, or, makes it so that they can use such wheat in less arable regions, and still have decent yields for the work they put in.

What Bush fails to mention is that we already *have* the capability to feed the world.  We just choose not to because when it comes down to the nitty gritty, we would nigh unto *demand* financial compensation that such countries couldn't afford it.

Instead, farm aid literally pays some farmers to not plant crops for a year.  Can't burn too much of that grain that can't be exported.  

And it's not due to GM fears as much as you might think.  Simply put - the market can only bear so much.  GM wheat, for example, would be one of the more popular exports, likely.  But, it's not that widely planted.  Heck, in Canada, there isn't even a GM wheat that's been approved for use.  And most farmers (here at least) would prefer to keep it that way - GM seeds means generally that you have to sign a contract of use with the company that designed it.  Think of it akin to licensing fees that software companies can charge - not a good deal for something as unpredictable as farming.

Stop kidding yourself if you think Bush has any real concern for ending hunger in Africa as motivation behind his words.  It's a simple matter of economics.  Real, legitimate food safety concerns could hurt exports, and he knows it.
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#8 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 03:36 PM

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Shaun: not because they want to block US trade but because they are responding as democratic governments responding to voters who do not want to eat GM foods.

Just once Id love to see some hard scientific polls to back up this ascertain that Europeans are so terrified of GMOs.  Ive seen this claim made countless times but never really have seen the convincing numbers to see it backed up.  Secondly these countries can feed off what fears that do exist and use them as a legitimate excuse to thwart US agricultural trade that could easily out compete their own producers.  

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Jid: All I can say is...... What a freaking load of bull**** rhetoric.

As someone who spent a good portion of my life on a dairy farm and studied in a agriculture related field long enough to cover the basics including the topic of GMOs and supplements I think Bush addressed some very valid points.

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Jid: GM crops don't necessarily increase yields so much as make the crop resistant to herbicides or drought in almost all cases of GM crops put forward for approval. Simply put, it allows farmers to be slightly less careful about how they apply their weed killers, and supposedly lessens the amount of herbicides one would have to use, or, makes it so that they can use such wheat in less arable regions, and still have decent yields for the work they put in.

Jid apparently youve never lost a field full of wheat to army worms or had it smothered out by weeds?  Or how about having your yield reduced by a huge amount because of a dry summer that left your crop parched and stunted?  In all those cases your production has been drastically reduced along with the profit that goes toward continuing your farming endeavor.  GMOs are crops that can survive in harsher environments and conditions while still flourishing with higher yields than traditional crops that would be lucky to just survive.   On the issue of herbicides these chemicals are actually fairly expensive to purchase and not exactly the most environmentally friendly thing.  With cheap GM crops a farmer can buy less herbicides and shift that revenue to endeavors that will increase both the yield and profit from their crops.  

So the correct answer is that all of the things you list there increase the yield of crops.


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Jid: What Bush fails to mention is that we already *have* the capability to feed the world. We just choose not to because when it comes down to the nitty gritty, we would nigh unto *demand* financial compensation that such countries couldn't afford it.

Instead, farm aid literally pays some farmers to not plant crops for a year. Can't burn too much of that grain that can't be
exported.

What many may not realize is that while most farmers would love to very loftily provide food to feed the world that they first have to ensure they have food on their own table.  In the current environment agriculture is not the most profitable of endeavors and many farmers are barely scrapping by.  Europe by cutting off their markets is cutting off a potential market where US crops could be sold at a profit allowing the surpluses to be diverted to feed those whom are unfortunate enough to not be able to afford those crops.  

Now if we simply produced grain like crazy without the markets to export it to for a profit youd find farmers going under even quicker.  Those extra seeds and the resources to grow that extra crop require investment of capital and without returns they go under like any other business.  Except you know what farmers are even more vulnerable to this trend than any corporation.  Those European markets are needed so farmers can make more money selling their product and then have the money to afford producing the surplus to feed the world that they wont profit from.    

Oh and before we point fingers at US agricultural programs at least US farmers can sell their products on the free market without fear of being arrested by the government because they need a license.  In the US farmers arent restricted to being a class that is stomped down by the government.
"History has proven too often and too recently that the nation which relaxes its defenses invites attack."
        -Fleet Admiral Nimitz
"Their sailors say they should have flight pay and sub pay both -- they're in the air half the time, under the water the other half""
        - Ernie Pyle: Aboard a DE



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