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Bush trip will offer thought for food

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KAI RYSSDAL: The President’s going to be up bright and early Monday morning. He’s off for what’ll probably be his last major trip to Europe. Expectations are that he’ll get a reasonably warm reception at big U.S.-European summit meeting, and that one of the most bitter trade disputes between the two sides might actually be settled. From the European Desk in London, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD: The Europeans are terribly finicky about food. They have banned a string of American farm products, like hormone-treated beef and genetically modified corn. They’ve banned American chickens, expressing horror at the way they’re processed.

Andrew Bounds is with The Financial Times:

ANDREW BOUNDS: You know, I’ve heard hair-raising descriptions from officials in the Commission of just how these birds are sort of allowed to wallow in their entrails until they are basically dunked in a bath of chlorine.

But there has been recent talk of the ban on chlorine-washed chicken being lifted next week. That looks a little premature. Nevetheless, Sean Rickard, an agricultluiral economist, says European governments are beginning to change their minds about other American farm exports.

SEAN RICKARD: They’re going to, I think, take a much more relaxed attitude towards genetically modified crops in the future. And they’re going to be much happier to import genetically-modified animal feed.

He says the soaring feed prices are hurting European livestock farmers, and they are clamoring for the cheaper genetically modified varieties:

RICKARD: And I think this time next year we’ll see a very different attitude from European governments towards modern farming techniques and, in particular, genetically modifed technology.

When President Bush dines with European leaders in Slovenia next week, chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef probably won’t be on the menu. But if the price of food continues to rise, the Europeans may soon find cheap American farm produce irresistible.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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