Bush on Monday accused the European Union of contributing to famine in Africa by rejecting GM food.

European Commission spokesman, Gerassimos Thomas, on Tuesday denied Bush’s allegations, adding the 15-nation bloc handed out seven times more development aid than the United States.

“It is false that we are anti-technology or anti-developing countries,” said Thomas.

The US President told a biotechnology conference that the EU should lift its restrictions on GM foods “for the sake of a continent threatened by famine”.

“He can only have been informed by the multinationals…to make a statement which displays as much ignorance as that,” said Patrick Holden, of the environment group, the Soil Association.

Holden dismissed as nonsense the possibility that GM foods could contribute to feeding the world.

The environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth accused the US leader of exploiting famine to sell GM products.

“Making poor farmers dependent on biotech companies for their seed may only make matters worse,” said spokeswoman Clare Oxborrow.

Transatlantic row

Observers say GM foods cannot
end world hunger

Last year some African countries rejected US food aid since it contained GM grain which they feared could be used as seed.

This would threaten future exports to the EU, which is setting strict restrictions on imports of GM food.

The United States, Argentina and Canada, which grow 95 percent of the world’s gene-altered crops have launched a trade suit against the EU’s unofficial ban on most GM crops, which has hampered GM exports to the bloc for the last five years.

The European Commission’s Thomas said he hoped the latest “misunderstanding” with Washington could be cleared up at an EU-US summit in Washington on Wednesday, aimed at mending diplomatic fences after the row over the war on Iraq.

The US has accepted the technology in which plants are genetically altered to repel insects and withstand drought.

“If Bush thinks that getting his way with Europe over Iraq was a precedent for this GM decision, he should think again because the degree of informed public opposition to commercialisation is growing by the day,” said Holden.

Proponents of GM technology say it will increase farm yields, lower costs and reduce the level of chemicals used on plants.

Critics say that too little is known about health risks such as allergic reactions and resistance to antibiotics and that not enough testing has been done.

Holden said Americans are more accepting of biotechnology because they have not been given information about it.