NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Third World Suffers from European Moratorium on Biotech Foods

June 3, 2003

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 GMOs. Over a dozen nations support the U.S. request.

The matter is significant to Third World nations that depend on Europe as an export market for their crops, but have pressing food needs -- and at times famines. Some poor nations fear that if they use or import GMOs their agricultural products 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 United States.
  • Namibia recently decided not to import GM corn from South Africa, fearing it could accidentally become mixed with other corn and endanger Namibia's exports to Europe.
  • Uganda has refused to grow a disease-resistant GM banana out of fears it would lose its European market -- yet a disease spreading throughout the nation's banana plantations already has been a factor in cutting banana yields per acre to less than half their productivity 30 years ago.
  • Zimbabwe turned down 10,000 tons of American grain last year, fearing its crops would subsequently show traces of GMOs -- despite extreme food shortages caused by the Mugabe government's confiscation of farmland.

Yet biotechnology can increase agricultural productivity in the developing world, with humanitarian and economic benefits:

  • 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.
  • Among its environmental benefits, biotechnology has already led to an 80 percent reduction in insecticide use on U.S. cotton crops and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show a 30-40 percent reduction in herbicide use.

Source: Amy Ridenour, "Feed the World: Bush Challenges EU Ban on Genetically-Modified Foods," Ten Second Response, June 2, 2003, National Center for Public Policy Research.

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