US President George W. Bush has again urged European nations to end their moratorium on genetically modified foods, claiming the ban is contributing to famine in Africa.

“For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger,” Bush told a biotechnology conference, as quoted by Reuters.

In response to Bush’s comments, European Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen said: “The fact is that we in Europe have chosen to do some things differently from the United States. As regards GMOs, we simply believe that it is better to be safe than sorry.”

“This is a highly sensitive issue in all our member states. The European Commission respects that and so should the United States,” Kemppinen was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Recent negotiations between the EU and the US failed to resolve the issue and the US said it would request a World Trade Organisation panel to decide the case.

Last month, in response to the US decision to file a WTO case against the EU, the European Commission said it regretted the US decision, calling it “misguided, unnecessary, legally unwarranted, economically unfounded and politically unhelpful”.
Regarding famine in Africa and GM food aid, the European Commission said it believes that it is the legitimate right of developing countries’ governments to fix their own level of protection and to take the decision they deem appropriate to prevent unintentional dissemination of GM seeds.

“Food aid to starving populations should be about meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of those who are in need. It should not be about trying to advance the case for GM food abroad, or planting GM crops for export, or indeed finding outlets for domestic surplus, which is a regrettable of the US food aid policy,” the Commission continued.

US corn farmers say they are losing out on around US$300m in sales to the EU each year because of the moratorium on GM foods.