Two stories that have been discussed recently about new variations of protectionism. One concerns the European Union’s ban on genetically modified food. This issue will be taken to the World Trade Organization by the U.S., along with other countries, including Argentina.

Some 23 percent of Argentina’s farm land is sown with genetically modified seeds and about 95 percent of the soy crop in the world’s No. 3 soy producer is genetically modified.

Several other countries have expressed their support for the WTO complaint, including Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay.

The ban on genetically-modified foods also affects Africa, which is reluctant to import such products for fear of losing trading privileges with the EU. Among other things, the controversy pits the Congress of Racial Equality, an American organization founded in the era of Civil Rights activism, against the radical environmentalists.

CORE is using [a forthcoming demonstration] as an opportunity to confront Greenpeace activists about their opposition to infrastructure development projects in the developing world, opposition to genetically modified foods and the group’s opposition to the use of the chemical DDT to kill malaria-ridden mosquitoes, particularly in Africa.

Another trade issue is outsourcing white collar work overseas, using the Internet. As this story indicates, the state of New Jersey is considering outlawing the practice for government work.

After a state contractor hired agents in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) to handle telephone inquiries from welfare clients, the New Jersey state senate last fall unanimously passed a bill prohibiting such outsourcing for state contracts. The bill remains in a state assembly committee.

For Discussion. How is the use of an offshore call center any different from the state government’s purchase of pencils manufactured overseas? Why should one be outlawed and not the other? Is it better public policy for government agencies to “buy American” or to search for the best combination of price and quality, regardless of the country of origin?