- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

President Bush yesterday accused Europe of exacerbating famine and AIDS in Africa by blocking the use of genetically enhanced crops and falling short on funding to fight the disease.

The broadsides came as Mr. Bush prepares to travel to Europe amid trans-Atlantic relations that have been strained by the war in Iraq. Nevertheless, the president vowed to press his complaint when he visits France, Russia and Poland next week.

“By widening the use of new high-yield bio-crops and unleashing the power of markets, we can dramatically increase agricultural productivity and feed more people across the continent,” Mr. Bush said in a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

“Yet our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears,” he said.

“This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in biotechnologies, for fear their products will be shut out of European markets,” he said. “European governments should join — not hinder — the great cause of ending hunger in Africa.”

Mr. Bush has run out of patience with the European Union, which imposed a moratorium on genetically enhanced foods nearly five years ago. Last week, the United States and a dozen other nations formally asked the European Union to abide by World Trade Organization rules that call for foods to be approved without “undue delay” if there is “sufficient scientific evidence.”

Wrote U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: “This dangerous effect of the EU’s moratorium became evident last fall, when some famine-stricken African countries refused U.S. food aid because of fabricated fears — stoked by irresponsible rhetoric — about food safety.

“As a major importer of food, Europe’s decisions ripple far beyond its borders. Uganda refused to plant a disease-resistant type of banana because of fears it would jeopardize exports to Europe,” Mr. Zoellick said.

“Namibia will not buy South Africa’s biotech corn for cattle feed to avoid hurting its beef exports to Europe,” he said. “India, China and other countries in South America and Africa have expressed the same trepidation.”

Mr. Bush also accused Europe of failing to adequately address the threat of HIV/AIDS, which afflicts 30 million Africans, including 3 million under the age of 15. The president plans to sign a bill next week that will pour $15 billion into the fight against AIDS abroad over the next five years.

That is the largest single financial commitment in history to an international health initiative targeting a specific disease. It is expected to prevent 7 million new infections, provide life-extending drugs to 2 million people, and pay for the care of 10 million orphans and others.

“When I travel to Europe next week, I will challenge our allies to make a similar commitment, which will save even more lives,” Mr. Bush said. “I will remind them that the clock is ticking — that every single day 8,000 more people will die from AIDS in Africa.

“I will urge our European partners, and Japan, and Canada, to join a great mission of rescue, and to match their good intentions with real resources,” he said.

In addition to pushing Europe to do a better job of fighting AIDS and famine in Africa, the president plans to urge European leaders to demand greater accountability from Third World nations that receive Western aid.

“Far too often, these funds have only enriched corrupt rulers and made little or no difference in the lives of the poor,” Mr. Bush said.

“When I’m in Europe, I will call on America’s partners to join us in moving beyond the broken development policies of the past, and encourage the freedom and reform that lead to prosperity,” he said.

Specifically, the president wants Europe to emulate his Millennium Challenge Account, which awards foreign aid to developing countries that demonstrate commitment to three broad standards.

“They must rule justly; they must invest in the health and education of their people; and they must have policies that encourage economic freedom,” the president said.

“It’s time for governments of developed nations to stop asking the simplistic question, “How much money are we transferring from nations that are rich?’” he said. “The only question that matters is, “How much good are we doing to help people that are poor?’”

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