Scientists, researchers and farmers from various African nations will use sessions in Washington to urge an increase in genetic research related to food as a way of eliminating world hunger.
Organizers of the Biotechnology Industry Organization said Thursday they side with interests in the United States who support use of genetically modified foods and oppose European interests standing in the way of such research.
Officials with the Harvest Biotech Foundation International, the National Africa Farmers Union and the South Africa Bio-Incubator, along with selected cotton farmers, will participate in a panel June 23 at the Washington Convention Center.
The session kicks off the group's BIO 2003 program, which runs through June 25.
Officials note in African countries, families spend up to 80 percent of their earnings on food, compared to about 10 percent in the United States.
They also note up to 75 percent of the population is "food-insecure," meaning people experience problems finding enough to eat to remain properly nourished.
The organization announced its program one day after President Bush used a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy to accuse the European Union of making famine and AIDS in Africa worse by interfering with development of genetic crops.
The union currently has a moratorium against accepting imports of foods made from genetically enhanced crops, which means many farmers are discouraged from growing such crops because there is no European market to sell to.
The Washington Times reported Bush dismissed their concerns about health risks as "unfounded" and said African farmers would be more willing to grow more food if they sensed they could sell more crops to Europe.
"European governments should join, not hinder, the great cause of ending hunger in Africa," Bush said.
Activists who criticize use of genetically modified foods argue their use in exports to African nations amounts to using African people for experimental purposes.
Friends of the Earth officials said in a report to be released Friday the United States should not use world hunger to the benefit of agriculture-related business.
"The United States should stop playing with hunger," wrote Nnimmo Bassey, an official based in Nigeria. "African nations should have the right to decide what their people are fed."
U.S. can replace Canadian beef
Depending on how long a ban on Canadian beef and dairy products connected to mad cow disease lasts, a Purdue University agricultural economist said he believes the United States can find replacements for its Canada beef purchases with imports from other countries.
Professor Philip Paarlberg said Canadian beef only accounted for 7 percent of the U.S. supply last year, which he says could be offset with increased imports from Australia and New Zealand.
"This really boils down to how long the ban on Canadian beef stays in place and consumer response," Paarlberg said. "If beef exports from Canada resume soon, there will probably be little long-term effect. However, if the ban stays in place and consumers start to react negatively, then we have a whole new ballgame."
Officials note people in the United States consume about 26 billion pounds of beef products per year, with about 3 billion of that coming from other countries and Canada accounting for about a third of that.
Pig protein contaminates poultry
British television reports claim tens of thousands of chickens were tainted with proteins from pig and cow remnants, and farmers went to extremes to try to cover it up.
The program, Panorama, Thursday found chicken contamination in Holland despite complaints to the European Commission, which could result in criminal prosecution against repeat offenders.
The London Telegraph reported earlier this year, Trading Standards officers found seven Dutch manufacturers who dumped frozen chicken in Britain that had been pumped up by nearly a quarter of its weight with water and chemicals, with much of that chicken winding up in restaurants, schools and caterers.
Certified humane label created
Humane Farm Animal Care of Virginia began a new labeling and certification program meant to encourage people to purchase food made from animals who were raised and slaughtered by humane means.
The Certified Humane Raised and Handled label will be put on meat, poultry, egg and dairy products coming from animals raised at facilities meeting precise, objective and humane standards.
Officials say they want to encourage consumption of wholesome food products in restaurants and at supermarkets. The group has the support of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Grains down on CBOT
Grain futures were down at the close Thursday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybean, corn and wheat fell on weakening export sales and favorable weather conditions for planting.
Oats fell on pressure from other commodities.
Soybeans: Jul 6.26 3/4 off 13 1/4, Aug 6.25 1/4 off 13, Sep 5.96 off 11 1/2, Nov 5.66 1/4 off 8 3/4.
Corn: Jul 2.43 3/4 off 1 3/4, Sep 2.42 1/4 off 1 1/2, Dec 2.43 off 2, Mar 2.48 1/2 off 2 1/4.
Wheat: Jul 3.25 1/2 off 6 3/4, Sep 3.30 off 6 3/4, Dec 3.40 1/4 off 6 1/2, Mar 3.45 off 6 1/2.
Oats: Jul 1.48 1/2 off 7 1/2, Sep 1.45 off 4, Dec 1.41 off 6 1/4, Mar 1.48 off 4.