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The New York Times reports that negotiations between the European Union and the United States about the subject of opening up European markets to genetically modified foods collapsed last week, disintegrating into a series of charges and counter charges that seemed unlikely to go away anytime soon.

The EU officials say that they continue to believe that the long-term effects of GM foods have not yet been adequately explored, and that they are responding to significant consumer distrust of these items.

The Bush administration, however, said that such a ban is illegal, and that they will go to the World Trade Organization for a legal finding against the EU, which it says is denying agricultural businesses of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The NYT reports that tensions have been heightened because in a recent speech, "President Bush escalated the dispute by saying that Europe's policy was undermining efforts to fight hunger in Africa. African nations, fearing their products would be shunned by Europe, are avoiding developing genetically modified food that might help feed the continent, he said."

European diplomats did not take kindly to the criticism, saying that their health concerns are legitimate and that "European nations spend a greater part of their budget on foreign aid than the United States," according to the NYT.
KC's View:
What's really surprising about all the recriminations is that last week we had a report that the European Parliament would consider a new law that would allow GM food, though it also would require greater and more specific labeling.

On the face of it, there seems to be no reason for the US to press the point now…unless the biotech companies simply want to avoid greater labeling requirements.

Maybe it is just having spent a week in Europe, but we think this is a wrong-headed approach by the US. European consumers and governments shouldn't have to take our products and follow our example just because the US says they should…and quite frankly, speakers at CIES raised enough legitimate questions about GMOs to make us rethink our previous lack of concern about the technology. We're pretty sure it is a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle, but we also think that greater heed has to be paid to the implications. Just because hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake isn’t nearly a good enough reason.

One other thing. Based on what we heard at CIES, it seems to us that neither the US nor the EU ought to be congratulating themselves for their efforts to help feed Africa. Just remember what Sir Bob Geldof called "the four pillars of catastrophe" upon which Africa rests today…