INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Biotech Outreach Proposal: Highlighting Spain's Bt

Published: Fri 13 Feb 2004 12:50 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS MADRID 000513
SIPDIS
FOR EB/TPP/ABT/BTT - DEBORAH MALAC AND JACK BOBO
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON TBIO TSPL ETRD SENV EAGR KPAL SP
SUBJECT: BIOTECH OUTREACH PROPOSAL: HIGHLIGHTING SPAIN'S BT
CORN SUCCESS STORY
REF: STATE 15050
1. In response to reftel, Embassy's Biotechnology Working
Group would like to propose creating a video to record and
widely disseminate Spain's positive experience with planting
and commercializing Bt corn. While local estimates for
executing our project proposal are likely too high to be
completely funded with EB's anticipated FY2004 public
diplomacy money, we offer a couple of ideas on how to proceed
if there is sufficient interest.
SPAIN AND Bt CORN: A SUCCESS STORY
2. Spain is the only country in the EU planting Bt corn
commercially (for feed). The GOS first approved a Bt variety
for planting in 1998, largely to combat losses inflicted by
the European Corn Borer (ECB), and followed with approval of
five additional varieties in 2003. Nine further approvals
are reportedly forthcoming. The GOS originally limited
planting surface to 25,000 hectares, but raised the level in
2003 to 50,000 hectares. A total of 32,000 hectares were
planted in 2003, and the number is expected to rise this
year.
3. Spain's experience is not only novel in that Bt corn has
been planted and commercialized here for over 5 years with
minimal opposition, but also in that there are no known cases
of Spanish farmers who have suffered losses or damages
because of "contamination" of their grain. Spanish corn
traders have devised ways to ensure that the corn grain they
buy in Spain has less than 0.1% GM content, including
agreements with individual co-ops, a system of tracking the
product starting from the seed invoice to the farmer, and an
agreement with the Swiss company Societe Generale de
Surveillance (SGS) to carry out testing and certification at
various steps in the commercialization chain. In other
words, Spain has dealt successfully with coexistence issues
even in the absence of formal coexistence regulations sought
by some EU member states. And they have done it while
maintaining what many farmers have found to be a commercial
advantage of Bt over non-Bt corn.
PROPOSAL: SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS
4. Our idea is to disseminate the message of Spain's success
by creating a short video recounting the history of Spain's
planting and commercialization of Bt corn and highlighting
the perspective of the farmers and traders involved. We
believe that we would have cooperative Spanish partners in
ASAJA, the main farmers union, CESFAC, the Feed Compounders
Association, AGPME, the Corn Growers Association, FIAB, the
Food and Beverage Industry Association, and, perhaps, the
Spanish central and/or local governments. The video would be
filmed in Spanish, making it a useful tool for Embassies in
Latin America in educating farmers, traders, NGOs and
government officials on Spain's experience. With subtitling,
Embassies in Africa and Asia could do likewise.
5. Local estimates for filming and editing a fifteen minute
video ranged between 17,000-24,000 Euros for a high quality
studio product and approximately 5,000 Euros for an amateur
version. While it may not be possible to fund the project
exclusively out of EB public diplomacy monies, regional
bureaus or other agencies (USTR, Agriculture) may be
interested in pitching in. We could also approach the
Spanish government to co-fund, particularly given the
product's potential utility in Latin America.
6. Embassy would be happy to work with Washington on this
project.
MANZANARES
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