Speaking on May 31 in Krakow, Poland, President Bush called on European Union members to drop their opposition to genetically modified crops in order to help alleviate hunger and poverty in Third World nations.
"I hope European governments will reconsider policies that discourage farmers in developing countries from using safe biotechnology to feed their own people," Bush stated in his Krakow speech. "America and Europe must work closely to develop and apply new technologies, that will improve our air and water quality and protect the health of the world's people."
Questioning their safety, many European nations have established de facto bans against the importation or sale of GM foods developed by U.S.- based biotechnology firms.
Genetically Modified crops are bio-engineered to repel destructive insects and survive chemical weed killers. Those opposed to GM crops fear they could endanger human health, damage the environment and reduces crop plants' natural immunity to disease and insects.
GM Foods Not a Hit With US Consumers
While widely grown and marketed in the United States, GM foods -- called "Frankenfoods" by their detractors -- have failed to become the staples of American kitchens. According to a recent USDA report, consumers' willingness to pay for food products decreases when the food label indicates that a food product is produced with the aid of modern biotechnology.
The evidence gathered by the USDA for vegetable oil, tortilla chips, and potatoes shows that labels matter. In particular, consumers discounted food items labeled "GM" by an average of 14 percent. While gender, income, and other demographic characteristics appeared to have only a slight impact on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods, information from interested parties and third-party (independent) sources was found to have a strong impact.
USDA's researchers found that consumers who received only negative information about agricultural biotechnology paid 35-38 percent less for food products labeled "GM," depending on the product. When the negative information was coupled with independent, third-party information, consumers were willing to pay 17-22 percent less for "GM"-labeled food.
According to the USDA bulletin, "Agribusiness companies like Monsanto support agricultural biotechnology and say that biotech foods will help protect the environment, increase nutrition, and end world hunger. Environmental groups like Greenpeace oppose agricultural biotechnology and say that biotech foods cause allergic reaction, hurt the environment, and increase the power of multinational companies."
The entire USDA report, "Effects of Information on Consumer Demand for Biotech Foods," can be viewed (in .PDF format) on the USDA Website at: http://ers.usda.gov/publications/tb1903/tb1903.pdf