Cablegate: Bogota Proposal for Biotechnology Outreach Funds


DE RUEHBO #0036/01 0031754
R 031754Z JAN 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 16639

1. SUMMARY: Embassy Bogota proposes an agbiotech outreach
program in Colombia for 2008 focused on engaging executive
branch officials, legislators, and agricultural industry
representatives regarding policy and regulatory issues
associated with agbiotech and its benefits as a tool in
poverty reduction. While the GOC has generally been
favorable to agbiotech and has an adequate regulatory
framework, strengthening and reinforcing this approach should
be a USG policy priority. Specifically, Colombian
Congressional labeling efforts, resistance among some
technocrats, and the slow regulatory approval process remain
serious concerns. We need to bolster domestic constituencies
that share our approach, and help them make the case that a
modern agbiotech regime brings social as well as economic
benefits to Colombia. END SUMMARY.


2. Colombia's approach to agbiotech has generally been
favorable. The country has an established legal framework
and approval process for agbiotech crops. The GOC has
approved transgenic cotton, blue carnations and select
varieties of corn for commercial production, with other crops
in the approval process or research stage. Some agricultural
institutes continue transgenic research for key crops such as
sugarcane, flowers, coffee, and oil palm. Colombia is a
major importer of U.S. transgenic corn, and has experienced
limited anti-biotech agitation to date. Development of a
homegrown agbiotech industry would serve as an important
development tool and create a domestic constituency for
Colombia to support agbiotech policies in international fora
consistent with USG interests. Finally, the Uribe
administration has made anti-poverty efforts and rural
development significant goals. Demonstrating the links
between agbiotech and these goals could help overcome
barriers to agbiotech in Colombia.

3. Despite Colombia's overall positive environment for
agbiotech, some concerns exist. A bill being considered by
the Congress could damage agbiotech as it would require that
all genetically modified products as well as food and feed
products made from genetically modified ingredients to be
labeled "transgenic" without additional explanation. Such
labeling will give consumers the false impression that there
is something wrong with the product and therefore have
significant costs to the U.S. and Colombian agbiotech
industry. In addition, the Ministry of Environment has
argued that agbiotech can create a significant environmental
hazard. There also appears to be misunderstanding of the
requirements of the Cartagena Protocol, with some regarding
it as a reason to oppose agbiotech. Finally, approval of new
products by the interagency technical committee continues to
be slow and cumbersome with technical personnel from the
environment and health ministries often impeding the process.


4. Embassy Bogota believes the most effective program would
be an informational exchange, which support the following USG
objectives: (1) to stress the global scientific consensus on
the safety of agbiotech products, (2) to publicize the
benefits of agbiotech as a development tool, and (3) to
facilitate opening markets and advocating responsible
regulation, including minimizing the trade impact of the
Protocol on Biosafety (Cartagena Protocol), and by
encouraging trade facilitative guidance in the Codex

5. PROGRAM : Promoting Agbiotech Dialogue

DESCRIPTION: A three-day visit by a team of three U.S.
agbiotech experts. The team would include individuals who
can address the scientific health and environmental aspects
of agbiotech, legislative and policy aspects of agbiotech,
links between agbiotech research and industry, business and
development benefits of agbiotech, and the public perception
issues associated with agbiotech. The team would be in
Colombia for three working days (with two additional days for
travel between the U.S. and Bogota). Experts should be
prepared to discuss health and environmental aspects of
agbiotech, compare and contrast differences between the U.S.
and Colombian legal and regulatory framework for agbiotech,
explain the implications of the Cartagena Protocol, discuss
how to link the agbiotech scientific research community with
the business community and how to build agbiotech research
capacity, illustrate business and developmental benefits of
agbiotech, and discuss public relations issues associated
with agbiotech. Experts will need to be highly credible and,
ideally, have at least a working level proficiency in

enactment of a law that could harm the U.S. and Colombian
agbiotech industry, promote efficient and responsible
agbiotech regulation, educate local leaders about the WTO
decision against the EU moratorium on biotech product
approvals and the implications of the Cartagena Protocol,
encourage links between the agbiotech scientific research
community and the agbiotech business community and publicize
the benefits of agbiotech as a development tool by stressing
the poverty alleviation and food security benefits of the
reduced inputs and increased yields offered by agbiotech.

TARGET AUDIENCE: Congressional and political party
leadership, legislators and legislative staff involved in
agbiotech issues; Ministries of Agriculture and Rural
Development, Environment, Health, Commerce and Trade;
regulatory bodies involved in agbiotech; National Technical
Committee for Biosafety Issues (NTC-Bio); producer
organizations (Asocolflores, Sociedad de Agricultores de
Colombia, Asociacion Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia,
Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, Asociacion de
Cultivadores de Cana de Azucar de Colombia, Federacion
Nacional de Cultivadores de Palma de Aceite), and
agricultural research institutes (Colombian Agricultural
Institute-ICA, Agricultural Research Agency-Corpoica,
Cenicafe, Cenicana, Cenipalma, Ceniflores, Intl. Center for
Tropical Agriculture); and academic institutions (Univ.
Nacional; Javeriana Univ., Univ. de los Andes).

LENGTH: Approximately four 2-3 hour roundtable meetings with
GOC legislative and executive branch policy officials,
agbiotech regulators and producer associations in Bogota over
two days; followed by a one day trip to research institutes
outside of Bogota, possibly in conjunction with a local
agbiotech event; plus one day travel to Colombia and one day
return to the U.S. Total five day commitment by speakers.

COST: Estimate cost of USD 25,000 to include transportation,
accommodation, expenses, and interpretation as follows:
Transport. USD 3,750 (USD 1,250 r/t air to Bogota x
3 persons)
Local Travel. USD 1,500 (USD 500 r/t within Colombia x
3 persons)
Per Diem USD 3,750 (USD 250/day x 3 persons x 5
Honorarium USD 3,750 (USD 250/day x 3 persons x 5
Interpret. USD 1,500 (USD 500/day x 3 days)
Meeting Rooms USD 750 (USD 250/day x 3 days)
Misc. USD 1,000 (materials, invitations, etc.)
TOTAL USD 16,000

6. PRESS COVERAGE. Post proposes to create radio newsfile
op-eds with visiting experts, for distribution throughout
Colombia via PAS' radio newsfile distribution and USAID's
community radio program to ensure a wide audience. In
addition, the op-ed text will be distributed for publication
to trade magazines and journals related to the industry. We
will also provide individual press opportunities for visitors
to engage with reporters familiar with agbiotech issues.

7. CONTACT: Point of contact and control officer for
proposed programs is Ari Nathan, Economic Section; tel:
( 57-1) 383-2451; fax: ( 57-1) 383-2053; email:


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