U.S. Promotion of Ag Biotech in Mozambique

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U.S. Promotion of Ag Biotech in Mozambique began in 2008. The U.S. Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique coordinates with the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa on biotech issues in Mozambique because the U.S. has no Foreign Agricultural Service staff within Mozambique itself.[1] In 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Maputo requested funding from the State Department for further promotion of biotech within Mozambique.

U.S. Coordination With United Nations

In July 2005, Michael D. Hall, Regional Biotechnology Advisor for USAID's Regional Economic Development Services Office (REDSO) based in Nairobi, Kenya, met with representatives from the FAO and UN World Food Programme (WFP) and with an official from the Vatican.[2] A leaked U.S. State Department cable summarized the meetings as follows:[2]

"Dr. Hall briefed these agencies on [U.S. Government]-supported efforts to develop Africa-focused a) agricultural biotechnology research; b) national policies and regulatory infrastructure for biosafety and intellectual property; and c) greater public awareness on agricultural biotechnology. FAO currently supports the dissemination of agricultural biotechnology (ag biotech) in Africa in a variety of ways and is seeking resources to continue this work, and WFP has well-defined policies in place to accommodate genetically modified (GM) commodities for food aid procurement and delivery in African countries. [U.S. Embassy to the UN in Rome] recommends that USAID consider options for closer collaboration with FAO's efforts on ag biotech in Africa."

Hall briefed FAO and WFP representatives on U.S. work with African organizations like Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and on U.S.-funded work to develop GMOs in Africa. The cable then says: "REDSO supports the design and implementation of locally appropriate regulatory systems for ag biotech. REDSO is trying to address myths and misconceptions about ag biotech by providing accurate and complete information to key stakeholders in policy, media and government."[2]

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization

The FAO was cooperative with the US effort to promote biotechnology, listing ag biotech as one of its Priority Areas for Interdisciplinary Action (PAIA) and hosting "a 2000-member electronic "Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture Forum." The cable then says:

"Using some U.S. arrears funds, FAO's Crop and Grasslands Services (AGPC) launched an Africa Biotechnology Information Network (ABIN) in 2004 to assist information exchange for the use of biotechnology applications to support food security and poverty alleviation among smallholder farmers, but funds will run out by the end of this year...
"FAO has technical and support functions dealing with the practical aspects of handling genetically modified (GM) seeds, crops and feeds in Kenya and Swaziland (projects are also in development for Benin, Tanzania and Uganda). As part of a global assessment of plant breeding and biotechnology, FAO has surveyed 20 African nations and organized two African-based workshops in 2004 to address expressed needs and demands. FAO has provided technical training for GM seed testing and variety verification in collaboration with the International Seed Testing Association in Egypt and South Africa. FAO's searchable database inventory of state-of-the-art biotechnology products, GMOs and techniques has contributors from 20 African countries. Based on these activities, several of which seem to complement the ongoing work of USAID in the region, FAO staff suggested there might be opportunities for closer cooperation with REDSO in the future."[2]

U.N. World Food Programme

Dr. Hall met with representatives from WFP's Office of Communications. He told them of "a REDSO supported regional biosafety development activity for COMESA that includes reviewing food aid procurement and distribution in East and Southern Africa with respect to GM grains." This discussion occurred in light of a 2002 incident in which Zambia and Zimbabwe rejected food aid shipments of genetically modified foods.[2]

U.S. Promotion of Biotech in 2008

A leaked cable from the U.S. State Department describes U.S. pro-biotech activities in Mozambique in 2008:

"FY2008 was the beginning of FAS/Pretoria [Foreign Agricultural Service in Pretoria, South Africa] and the Embassy's outreach in biotechnology in Mozambique. After initial contact and meetings with key biotechnology stakeholders, FAS/Pretoria secured funding from USDA's Emerging Markets Programs to host a workshop on basic biotechnology and regulations. The workshop provided an opening to further advance biotechnology and biosafety policies in Mozambique. The meeting featured lectures by two invited experts from overseas, Dr. C. S. Prakash, Tuskegee University, and Dr. Martin Lema, biosafety regulator from Argentina, along with some very high-level policy experts from various local ministries - Science and Technology, Agriculture, Environment, Health, and Trade; along with university scientists and also representatives from CGIAR centers.
"As a result of this workshop and the relationships developed during those two days, FAS/Pretoria was invited to participate in a biotechnology regulations conference sponsored by the GRM [Government of Mozambique] and the Spanish Embassy in Maputo. FAS/Pretoria provided for the participation of a biotechnology researcher from South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who is also an active member of AfricaBio, Dr. Eugenia Barros. Dr. Barros was a speaker and moderator at the conference. She provided an excellent overview of biotechnology in South Africa and lessons learned through the development of its biosafety policy. Dr. Barros is a native Portuguese speaker, which lent credibility and audience acceptance to her presentation. Since the conference, Dr. Barros' has remained in contact with the legislators and regulators in Mozambique and has consulted with them on various issues relating to biotechnology regulation implementation.
"An important observation made throughout the biotechnology outreach efforts over the past year was the important need for capacity building to implement the biosafety regulation in their countries, especially in the development of specialists in food safety, environmental risk assessment, and intellectual property rights issues. The GRM has requested assistance in planning and implementing producer outreach strategies, including the development of educational materials in Portuguese. AfricaBio is working with contacts in Mozambique in developing these materials but are looking for assistance in funding the publication of educational materials in Portuguese.
"Also in the past year, the Embassy hosted an Embassy Science Fellow to work with the GRM to prepare a report of the status of biotechnology in Mozambique and an implementation plan for advancement of biotechnology in Mozambique"

2009 Request for Biotech Outreach Funds

In 2009, the U.S. embassy in Maputo, Mozambique requested biotech outreach funds from the U.S. State Department.[3] The proposal requested $22,500 to bring 2 U.S. experts in biotechnology to Mozambique for two weeks. The leaked cable describes the proposal as follows:

"As a continuation to activities conducted last year in Mozambique, we would like to bring two U.S. experts to Mozambique to address more specific concerns related to biotechnology regulations and implementation. The experts would travel to Mozambique for up to two weeks to engage with GRM representatives and other stakeholders on topics to include labeling, field trial management, risk analysis, producer and consumer outreach strategies, and regional harmonization. The Embassy proposes to hold special meetings for media contacts specifically associated with the agricultural and biotechnology sectors to discuss biotechnology regulations and developments in the United States. Additionally, PAS will arrange press opportunities for the visiting expert to engage journalists that cover agriculture, agribusiness and biotechnology issues. These could include roundtables with print media, one-on-one interviews, radio call-in programs, etc. The majority of the experts' time will be spent in Maputo, with the possibility of travel to other areas of the country to visit contacts, as needed. Also, we are requesting funding for translation and reproduction of outreach materials from English to Portuguese, as these materials are very scarce."

2010 Biotech Assessment in Mozambique

A second leaked U.S. State Department cable from 2010 provides further information on the U.S. government's observations and interests in biotechnology in Mozambique.[4] The cable begins by noting that "Mozambique has signed and ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Related to this, Mozambique has drafted a National Biosafety Framework. The cable continues, saying:

"Mozambique is eager to improve its agricultural productivity and recognizes that biotechnology can be a valuable tool to enhance the efficiency of its farming sector and help in reducing dependence on inputs while improving the quality of food. However, there has been little or no investment so far in biotechnology research although some strides have been made with biosafety regulation.
"Due to the potential of the agriculture sector in Mozambique, and the lack of investment/advancement in that sector, the Government of Mozambique made a call for a second green revolution for Mozambique. One of the tools that will be a leading factor in bringing change and advancement in the agriculture sector in Mozambique will be the promotion and use of biotechnology."

Mozambique's Biosecurity Regulation

The 2010 cable states:[5]

"A National Biosecurity Regulation on Genetically Modified Organisms was published in the GOM official bulletin on April 25, 2007.
"This regulation was formulated by the Inter-Institutional Group on Biosecurity (GIIBS). The GIIBS is tasked to co-ordinate biosafety activities in Mozambique. It is an inter-institutional and multi-disciplinary group with the task of coordinating the process to establish the National Biosafety Framework including the development of biosafety policy, regulatory regime, and administration based on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which Mozambique ratified in December 2001.
"The Ministry of Science and Technology is the national competent authority and presides over the GIIBS. The GIIBS consists of representatives from each of the following Ministries: Science and Technology, Agriculture, Environment, Health, Industry and Commerce, Fisheries, Planning and Development, and academic and research institutions. Additionally, representatives and specialists from public and private entities may be invited to participate in GIIBS meetings. (Note: Mozambique's biosafety policy appears to be largely risk-averse, and rooted in the 'precautionary principle' and thus more similar to the policies of European countries and that of EU. End Note)"

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References

  1. Maputo's Proposal For Biotechnology Funds, U.S. State Department cable via Wikileaks, January 21, 2009, accessed September 3, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 U.S. Embassy in Rome, "Agricultural Biotechnology Activity In Africa: Usaid/redso Meetings With Fao, Wfp And Holy See," U.S. State Department Cable via Wikileaks, July 29, 2005, Accessed October 15, 2011.
  3. Maputo's Proposal For Biotechnology Funds, U.S. State Department cable via Wikileaks, January 21, 2009, accessed September 3, 2011.
  4. Biotechnology In Mozambique, U.S. State Department cable via Wikileaks, January 14, 2010, Accessed September 4, 2011.
  5. Biotechnology In Mozambique, U.S. State Department cable via Wikileaks, January 14, 2010, Accessed September 4, 2011.

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