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BRUSSELS: The European Union (EU) yesterday rejected a complaint from US President George W. Bush that its restrictions on genetically modified crops are hurting poor African farmers.

"It is false we are anti-biotechnology or anti-developing countries," said EU spokesman Gerassimos Thomas.

On Monday, Bush criticized European restrictions on bio-engineered food, saying they were based on unfounded, unscientific health fears.

"Because of these artificial obstacles, many African nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried that their products will be shut out of important European markets," Bush told a meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Association in Washington.

"For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology," he added.

US farmers estimate EU biotech restrictions have cost them nearly US$300 million a year in lost corn exports alone. The issue has soured the world's biggest trading relationship and will loom large at an EU-US summit today in Washington.

But Thomas claims the EU spends seven times more on development aid to Africa than the United States. He said the EU focuses its spending on longer term improvements to help African farmers improve their yields.

US officials have previously blamed the EU restrictions for decisions by African nations to reject American food aid because it contains genetically modified grain.

European Union authorities imposed a moratorium on the import of genetically modified food products in 1998, responding to mounting fears of European consumers about possible health risks from the products.

Agencies via Xinhua

(China Daily 06/25/2003 page1)

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