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December 1, 2002
Place Your Bets
Something I mentioned in a post last week got me thinking. . .does anyone want to put some money down on whether the European Union will accept the new strain of rice I was speaking about? After all, it's genetically engineered, no doubt about it - what's more, it has genes that didn't even come from plants at all, but were spliced in from bacteria. Sounds just like the sort of thing that they've been putting their feet down about.
That wouldn't be much of a problem, normally - not a heck of a lot of rice gets grown in Europe (well, Arborio strains in Italy, yeah, but most of the rest of the continent isn't really warm enough.) And its not like the enhanced cold tolerance of the new plants will convince European farmers to start growing it, either, because - genetic fears aside - the EU already produces more food than it knows what to do with.
No, the problem is that other, poorer, countries have been leery of growing genetically modified crops because they trade with the EU. And the Europeans are worried that some of these modified strains might make it, by mistake, into their own countries. You may have read about Zambia (not a country that can really afford to turn down free food) rejecting offers of grain from the US because of fears of European retaliation. A recent effort by Denmark has dragged several other European countries, kicking and screaming, into accepting small amounts of inadvertantly mixed genetically-modified grain, but at a very strict level. Perhaps more African nations will feel safe to feed their starving populations with free food, once everyone in Brussels thinks about the situation a while longer in some really good restaurants. (A cheap shot, I know, but this sort of thing really gets on my nerves.)
So, how about it? Will Europe nervously sidle away from evil Franken-rice - part grain, part bacteria, all terrifying? Or will they have come slightly back to their senses by the time this livesaving innovation is released to the public domain?
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