Bush, Food Aid and GM
1.Whitehouse Press Briefing on Food Aid
2.Bush Seeks More Food Aid for Poor Countries
NOTE: The Bush Administration's Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, Dan Price, claimed in a whitehouse press briefing yesterday that, "biotech crops lead to higher yields" and warned against depriving developing countries of these yield gains through GM bans. (item 1)
Price also says in response to a question about whether GM crops could be very significant in increasing world food supplies: "Biotechnology and crops developed through biotechnolgy really have done wonderful things in terms of crop yield, drought resistance and insect resistance." (item 1)
By contrast, the US Department of Agriculture's review of 10 years of GM crop cultivation in the States concluded, "currently available GM crops do not increase the yield potential... In fact, yield may even decrease if the
varieties used to carry the herbicide tolerant or insect-resistant genes are
not the highest yielding cultivars". (Fernandez-Cornejo, J. & Caswell, Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States, USDA/ERS Economic Information Bulletin No. 11, April 2006)
An earlier USDA report (2002) also noted that GM crops do not increase yield potential and may reduce yields (p21). That report also says, "Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative." (p24)
(Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo and William D. McBride, Adoption of Bioengineered Crops, Agricultural Economic Report No. AER810, May 2002)
As for Price's other claims, there are, of course, no drought resistant GM crops in commercial production anywhere in the world, and the insect resistance of GM crops has proven highly variable with the same USDA report noting that Bt insecticide GM corn had had a negative economic impact on farms (p30), while an important 7-year study on the impact of Bt cotton in China showed the same financial pattern emerging there over time, despite some initial gains.
(Tarnishing Silver Bullets: Bt Technology Adoption, Bounded
Rationality and the Outbreak of Secondary Pest Infestations in China)
1.Office of the Press Secretary
May 1 2008
Press Briefing on Food Aid by OMB Deputy Director Steve McMillin, CEA Chairman Ed Lazear, and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Dan Price
Q Hi there. A question for Dan, if I may. Could you go into more detail on the role of GM foods in this issue -- genetically modified foods? How big a role could GM foods play in increasing global food supply? And have the barriers to genetically modified foods in Europe and elsewhere contributed to the current crisis?
MR. PRICE: Well, we think they are a challenge, and in two ways. First, biotech crops lead to higher yields, and bans on GMOs or biotechs discourage the planting of biotech crops in the developing world. That has two effects. It deprives them of the higher yields domestically, and it deprives them of export markets.
Q So these could be very significant in increasing food supplies.
MR. PRICE: We think so. Biotechnology and crops developed through biotechnolgy really have done wonderful things in terms of crop yield, drought resistance and insect resistance.
Q And just to make clear what the President is doing on this, he's -- will he press Europe on this issue in the forthcoming EU summit and at the G8 summit?
MR. PRICE: We will be -- as the President said, we will be urging all countries who have these barriers or restrictions in place to remove them.
Q Thank you.
2.Bush Seeks More Food Aid for Poor Countries
By STEVEN LEE MYERS
New York Times, May 2 2008
WASHINGTON ”” President Bush on Thursday proposed spending an additional $770 million in emergency food assistance for poor countries, responding to rising food prices that have resulted in social unrest in several nations.
The president’s proposal came only days after Democrats in Congress called for increases, and it received a largely positive response, though some Democrats criticized the fact that the additional aid would not be available until the next fiscal year, which begins in October.
Mr. Bush’s proposal, announced in a previously unscheduled appearance in the East Room of the White House, underscored how quickly the global food crisis had risen to the top of Washington’s agenda.
The administration last month ordered the Department of Agriculture to release $200 million in commodities paid for by a special trust fund, while the United States Agency for International Development promised $40 million more in emergency aid to countries hardest hit by soaring prices and shortages.
“In some of the world’s poorest nations, rising prices can mean the difference between getting a daily meal and going without food,” Mr. Bush said.
The $770 million would be included in next year’s budget, increasing total American food assistance to $2.6 billion, the deputy budget director, Stephen S. McMillin, said in a telephone conference. In the current year, the administration has proposed supplemental spending to bring the total to $2.3 billion, he said.
Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, welcomed the president’s proposal “as a sign of the magnitude of this problem.” But a fellow Democrat, Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, said in a telephone interview that the administration needed to act with “a real sense of urgency” and endorse a swifter increase. Mr. Casey and Mr. Durbin this week asked the administration for an immediate $200 million increase in foreign food aid, on top of a $350 million emergency package the administration had already proposed in a supplemental spending measure.
“The dollar amount is significant,” Mr. Casey said of the president’s latest proposal. “The commitment is important. It is way too late.”
In his remarks, Mr. Bush also called on other countries to ease trade barriers restricting agricultural imports or exports and to lift bans on genetically modified foods. He urged Congress to give the government greater flexibility in dispersing assistance. He said the administration wanted to use a quarter of all the American aid to buy food from local farmers in foreign countries rather than here in the United States.
“In order to break the cycle of famine that we’re having to deal with too often in a modern era, it’s important to help build up local agriculture,” he said. He did not insist on that approach as a condition for increasing aid, though.
The proposal received strong support on Thursday from the charity Oxfam America. “While America provides half of the world’s food aid, this generosity is undermined by legal restrictions and bureaucracy, as food aid must be purchased in the U.S. and transported on U.S.-flagged ships,” Oxfam said in a statement.
Addressing growing anxiety about rising food prices at home, the subject of a Senate hearing on Thursday, the White House emphasized that even with the proposed increases, foreign food aid was equal to only a small fraction of the $62 billion the government was expected to spend this year on domestic food programs, mostly for food stamps and children’s nutrition programs.
“The American people are generous people, and they’re compassionate people,” Mr. Bush said. “We believe in a timeless truth: to whom much is given, much is expected.”
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