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U.S. State Department Promotion of Agricultural Biotechnology

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U.S. State Department Promotion of Agricultural Biotechnology describes the ways in which the U.S. State Department promotes agricultural biotechnology, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

U.S. Goals in Promoting Ag Biotech

In a leaked U.S. State Department cable, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined U.S. policy around biotech. Clinton's outlined objectives are not materially different from those described the year before by outgoing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.[1] Clinton wrote:[2]

"Our biotech outreach objectives for 2010 are to increase access to, and markets for, biotech as a means to help address the underlying causes of the food crisis, and to promote agricultural technology's role in mitigating climate change and increasing biofuel production. We will pursue these objectives by:
  • Encouraging science and technology to play crucial roles in unleashing additional agricultural productivity, particularly in the developing world. Many international organizations have called for a second Green Revolution in Africa, and biotechnology will be a central part of that effort. Biotechnology is being used to increase crop yields and enhance the ability of food crops to sustain climate shocks.
  • Publicizing the fact that agricultural biotechnology can help address the food crisis and serve as a development tool by increasing food productivity, reducing crop input costs, and helping to alleviate poverty.
  • Recognizing the role biotechnology can play in mitigating climate change by increasing the efficiency of land already in production and by increasing adoption of agricultural practices such as low till agriculture that trap carbon in the soil.
  • Reinforcing the environmental gains from decreased insecticide use, reduced soil erosion, and increased plant efficiency, stressing the potential for improved nutrition and disease prevention, and encouraging the development and commercialization of ag-biotech products that meet the unique needs of developing nations.
  • Encouraging countries to abide by global trading rules and accept science-based evaluation of food production methods. The U.S. will continue its effort to open markets and advocate responsible regulation. We will continue to seek full EU compliance with the 2006 WTO ruling against the EU de facto moratorium on approving agricultural biotechnology products.
  • Taking full advantage of the WTO biotech ruling by explaining the significance of the case, particularly to developing countries, and by stressing the global scientific consensus on the safety of ag-biotech products noted by the final WTO panel decision. Some countries, especially in the developing world, lack the opportunity to utilize advanced crop technology due to concerns that the EU will not accept their agricultural exports if produced with the aid of biotechnology. The U.S. should support developing countries that seek access to biotechnology, and reaffirm the WTO's 2006 panel ruling on this issue.
  • Ensuring that activities taken pursuant to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Codex Alimentarius are in line with those countries' obligations under international trade agreements.
  • Promoting the understanding that ag-biotech contributes to production of biofuels through increased yields and improved feedstocks, and helps ensure food security."

Strategy and Resources

In her December 2009 cable, Clinton describes the U.S. strategy in promoting agricultural biotechnology. This section of the cable is possibly cut and pasted from Rice's cable from the year before, as Clinton refers to an organization of the State Department that existed under Rice but was re-organized when Clinton took over as Secretary of State. Clinton writes:[3]

"We urge posts to pay particular attention to advancing this strategy with countries that have key biotech legislation pending or are at a cross-roads on the technology, those that provide opportunities for active engagement on ag biotech to address food production and mitigate climate change, and those that are active players in international fora where biotechnology issues are discussed (e.g., CODEX Alimentarius and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety)."

Clinton offers the use of the State Department's biotech outreach funds "to further ag- biotech policy and promote acceptance of the technology." Additionally, she encourages working with other agencies such as USDA and USAID, as they also "have resources to help posts support USG biotech policy." She also advises contacting Marcella Szymanski and Jack Bobo and utilizing the services of the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP). She adds, "Funds are available through EEB's Biotech Outreach Program to fund IIP Speaker Programs for Biotechnology."

Clinton adds:

"Posts are encouraged to use ECA's International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) by including ag- biotech participants---under their regular allotments--- for the program. For example, visits to U.S. farms where biotech crops are being cultivated, as well as discussions with U.S. farmers, have proven to be effective ways of dispelling concerns about biotech on the part of foreign visitors. Posts should consider adding a biotech component to International Visitor programs for a wide range of opinion leaders, not just biotech specialists.
"Specially designed biotech Voluntary Visitors projects involving host government officials, industry leaders, and academics might also be considered. The Foreign Press Center could arrange biotech reporting tours for U.S.- based foreign media and/or arrange visits by foreign media to the U.S. PAO's should coordinate these efforts directly with the relevant PA and ECA offices, although EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT would appreciate receiving info copies of proposals and nominations, and stands ready to assist ECA and posts with programming efforts."
"EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT staff are available as appropriate to advocate in host capitals, troubleshoot problematic legislation, and participate as public speakers on ag-biotech. In particular, this is the key role of the State Department's Senior Advisor for Biotechnology, Jack Bobo."

Target Countries

In a leaked 2008 memo, Rice wrote: "Although our biotech strategy is global, we plan to pay particular attention to advancing this strategy through active engagement with key countries, with the medium-term goal of establishing models of ag-biotech trade and development success that can be a powerful demonstration to others."

Countries targeted in 2009 included:[4] Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Vatican, and Vietnam.

Work With the African Agricultural Technology Foundation

In June 2004, the U.S. government and the government of Burkina Faso co-hosted a Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology in Burkina Faso. It was also co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Burkina Faso Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Fisheries Resources. The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, the West African Economic and Monetary Union, WAEMU, and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel provided advisory support as well.[5]

"The theme of this conference is how science and technology in a supportive policy environment can increase agricultural productivity, spur economic growth, and help alleviate world hunger and poverty. The conference will examine the use of appropriate technologies to raise the productivity of staple food and high-value crops in West Africa with a focus in four particular areas.
"The first is enhancing water conservation, water use efficiency and water management technologies in West Africa. The second is crop biotechnology and biosafety to improve productivity, combat plant disease and enhance drought tolerance. A third is policies, regulatory frameworks and institutional capacity building to increase agricultural productivity, technology transfer and economic growth. And the fourth is partnerships to enhance the production, processing and marketing of staple foods and high-value crops in Africa."[6]

At the conference, an agreement was signed in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, by J.B. Penn, U.S. under secretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services, and Mpoko Bokanga, executive director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). The agreement was "to share and disseminate agricultural technologies that can help improve food production, increase food security, reduce poverty and expand agricultural trade."[7] According to the State Department, "through this memorandum of understanding, we will develop cooperative research programs and encourage the transfer of USDA technology to reduce hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa."[8]

U.S. Ag Biotech Promotion Efforts by Country

Efforts by the U.S. to promote biotechnology have been documented in the following countries:

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

References

  1. Fy 2009 Biotechnology Outreach Strategy And Department Resources, U.S. State Department cable released by Wikileaks, December 10, 2008, accessed September 3, 2011.
  2. Fy 2010 Biotechnology Outreach Strategy And Department Resources, U.S. State Department cable released by Wikileaks, December 1, 2009, accessed September 3, 2011.
  3. Fy 2010 Biotechnology Outreach Strategy And Department Resources, U.S. State Department cable released by Wikileaks, December 1, 2009, accessed September 3, 2011.
  4. Fy 2009 Biotechnology Outreach Strategy And Department Resources, U.S. State Department cable released by Wikileaks, December 10, 2008, accessed September 3, 2011.
  5. New Agricultural Technologies Gaining Acceptance, USDA's Penn Says; Technologies to be focus of June 21-23 ministerial in Burkina Faso, State Department Briefing, June 16, 2004.
  6. New Agricultural Technologies Gaining Acceptance, USDA's Penn Says; Technologies to be focus of June 21-23 ministerial in Burkina Faso, State Department Briefing, June 16, 2004.
  7. U.S., Foundation Agree Promote Food Technologies in Africa, Africa News, June 25, 2004.
  8. New Agricultural Technologies Gaining Acceptance, USDA's Penn Says; Technologies to be focus of June 21-23 ministerial in Burkina Faso, State Department Briefing, June 16, 2004.

External Resources

Leaked U.S. State Department Cables

Congressional Testimony

  • Testimony of Alan P. Larson, Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hearing on AGOA III: The United States Africa Partnership Act of 2003, Washington, DC, March 25, 2004.
  • Testimony of Alan P. Larson, Under Secretary for Business, Economic, and Agricultural Affairs, Testimony Before the House International Relations Committee, Hearing on Food Insecurity, Famine, and U.S. National Interests, Washington, DC, April 1, 2003.
  • Testimony of E. Anthony Wayne, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Statement for the Record before the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export, and Trade Promotion, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, Hearing on The Role of Biotechnology in Combating Hunger, Washington, DC, July 12, 2000.
  • Full Hearing Transcript for "The Role of Biotechnology in Combating Hunger", Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export, and Trade Promotion, Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, July 12, 2000.
  • Testimony of Stuart E. Eizenstat, Under Secretary for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, Statement before the Subcommittee on International Trade, U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Hearing on Agricultural Trade Issues: China and Europe, Washington, DC, March 15, 1999.

External Articles