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Last Updated: Monday, 23 June, 2003, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
US in new global GM push
Officer in Sacramento stands guard as a protester is arrested
A parallel conference in California has drawn protesters
President George W Bush has called on Europe to end its moratorium on genetically modified crops.

The spread of safe, effective biotechnology should be encouraged, so that the fight against global hunger could be won, Mr Bush told delegates at a biotechnology conference in Washington.

A parallel conference on technology in agriculture organised by the US Government is taking place in Sacramento, California.

It brings scientists and the biotechnology industry together with ministers from around 75 countries, mainly from the developing world.

Protests have already begun involving groups who believe the gathering aims to persuade developing nations to accept GM food and boost the profits of biotech companies - some of which have links to the Bush administration.

The administration insists that technologies like genetic engineering are key to providing food for the billion or so people who currently live below acceptable levels of nutrition.

'Artificial obstacles

"Acting on unfounded, unscientific fears, many European governments have blocked the import of all new biotech crops," Mr Bush said.

"Because of these artificial obstacles, many African nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried that their products will be shut out of important European markets."

"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."

He added that the US biotechnology industry was the strongest in the world, and the US needed to keep it that way.

Enough to go round

US Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture, JB Penn, says the Sacramento conference aims to show developing countries the benefits of many technologies, including GM.

"It's not about trying to convince the developing countries that they should adopt biotech. This is a conference about all agricultural technologies - ways in which developing countries can improve the lives of their people."

The biotech industry is turning out at the conference in force, with major companies like Monsanto among the exhibitors and sponsors.

But protesters on the streets of Sacramento say GM technology is not the solution the developing world needs.

They believe there is enough food but it needs to be distributed fairly.

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