Scientists Urge European Union to End Biotech Food Ban

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Richard Morrison, 202.331.2273


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Washington, D.C., May 12, 2003—A distinguished panel of international scientists will gather tomorrow in Washington to speak out against the European Union’s moratorium on trade in genetically engineered foods.  Agricultural experts from around the world will discuss the negative impact of the EU moratorium on the developing world and urge the United States government to mount a World Trade Organization challenge. 


“The European Union’s refusal to license new biotech crops is a clear and blatant violation of its obligations under trade treaties it has signed and ratified,” said Competitive Enterprise Institute Director of Food Safety Policy Gregory Conko. “More importantly, it poses a genuine threat to the health and well-being of people throughout the developing world.”


As a direct consequence of the EU moratorium, numerous developing countries have resisted adopting high-yielding biotech crops for fear of losing important European export markets. Last fall, the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe even refused to accept U.S. food aid, out of fear that European countries would cease future imports from those countries. The United States and other nations have considered filing an official WTO complaint against the moratorium. Tomorrow’s event is being held to urge the U.S. government to act now.


“Many biotech plant varieties have great potential to help alleviate hunger and poverty in the world’s poorest nations,” said Tuskegee University plant genetics professor C.S. Prakash, a native of India and a speaker at the event.  “But poor country governments will not introduce them as long as it means almost automatically forfeiting sales to Europe, one of the most important global markets.” 


Conko added: “Even European scientific bodies acknowledge that there is no health or environmental risk from biotech crops, making the moratorium a prima facie violation of the EU’s legal obligations.”


Panelists contributing to tomorrow’s discussion will include Dr. Norman Borlaug, agricultural scientist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; Professor Prakash of Tuskegee University; Professor Diran Makinde, Dean of the Vinda University School of Agriculture in South Africa; Dr. Ariel Alvarez-Morales of Mexico’s Center for Research and Advanced Studies; and T.J. Buthelezi, a biotech cotton farmer from the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. 



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