U.S. Promotion of Ag Biotech in Ethiopia

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U.S. Promotion of Ag Biotech in Ethiopia

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.[1] A leaked U.S. State Department cable summarized the meetings as follows:[1]

"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."[1]

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."[1]

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.[1]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 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.

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