NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Behind Europe's Rejection Of Biotech Foods

January 14, 2000

Analysts are often at a loss to explain why Europeans distrust genetically-modified foods, while Americans have not been nearly so quick to reject them -- although scare campaigns are afoot this side of the herring pond.

It has been suggested that Europeans take their cuisine very seriously and don't want to change a thing -- even though modified foods taste basically the same and have no proved health risks associated with them.

Hudson Institute analyst Michael Fumento suggests some other explanations.

  • He says the campaign of fear-mongering against the biotech industry is a sop to special interest groups -- particularly environmentalists and heavily-subsidized European Union farmers.
  • Roger Bate of London's Institute of Economic Affairs believes European farmers are embracing organic techniques precisely because they produce far lower yields -- while biotech methods allow more food to be grown on less land, which drives down prices.
  • European environmental groups, notably Greenpeace, have played the biotech card, some observers say, because of a desire to expand their influence and credibility with their wary countrymen.
  • Finally there is the anti-American factor -- as well as our own assumption that Europeans are as willing to dive into the future as rapidly as we do.

Carole Brookins, a Washington agriculture consultant advises: "We need to remember there's almost six billion people outside of Europe and begin concentrating more on them."

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute), "Why Europe Fears Biotech Food," Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2000.


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