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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Fy 2008 Biotechnology Outreach Proposal

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0123/01 0311709
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311709Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2024
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000123

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

EEB/TPP/ABT/BTT - JFINN AND GCLEMENTS
USDA/FAS FOR YVETTE WEDDERBURN, OCRA, RACHEL BICKFORD, OSTA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO ENRG EAGR ETRD SENS ECON KPAO NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: FY 2008 BIOTECHNOLOGY OUTREACH PROPOSAL

REF: 07 STATE 160639

1. (U) In response to reftel, Embassy Managua submits the following
proposal for FY2008 Biotechnology Outreach Funding.

Purpose
-------

2. (U) The purpose of our proposal is to promote the benefits of
biotechnology and biofuels technologies to Nicaraguan decision
makers, academics, and agricultural producers.

3. (U) Justification: Biotechnology and biofuel technologies are
important to economic development in the new century. A number of
Latin American countries have come to appreciate the inherent
capacity of biotechnology and biofuel technologies to solve chronic
problems related to agricultural and industrial development and
energy supply. Such technologies offer a wide range of
opportunities related to the practical application of science and
improvement in national competitiveness.

4. (U) Nicaragua is a latecomer to promoting the use of science as a
tool for economic development, yet scientific research is emerging
as an integral component of the modern Nicaraguan university. New
research laboratories have been established, such as the Molecular
Biology Center at the University of Central America, and the
Biotechnology Analysis laboratory at the Universidad Nacional
Autonoma de Nicaragua. In 2007, the latter launched the country's
first academic course on biotechnology. Nevertheless, Nicaraguan
awareness of the benefits of biotechnology and biofuel technologies
largely lags behind the rest of the region.

5. (U) We believe that there exists an excellent opportunity to
promote the benefits of these technologies in Nicaragua and want to
take advantage of the fact that the Department of State has
identified Nicaragua as a "high priority country" for biotechnology
and biofuels. We propose three activities that address policy
concerns and present commercial applications for biotechnology and
biofuels. They include a National Conference on Biotechnology,
Outreach to Agricultural Universities and Institutions, and a
Biofuel Energy Solutions Seminar.

Proposed Activities
-------------------

6. (U) NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON BIOTECHNOLOGY: Post proposes to
sponsor a 2008 National Conference on Biotechnology that we propose
to entitle, "The Future of Biotechnology: A Promising Story." The
conference would bring together governmental, private sector,
academic, and non-profit stakeholders who have an interest in the
field of biotechnology. Our goal is to bring government decision
makers, university academics and scientists, and agricultural
producers together so that they may discuss the advantages of and
opportunities generated by agricultural biotechnology. We want to
help them take a science-based approach when formulating law,
regulations, and biotechnology policy and avoid political pitfalls
created by anti-biotechnology myths and propaganda.

7. (U) We would invite speakers from the U.S. academic community and
government, knowledgeable regional experts and academic researchers,
including members of Nicaragua's Commission for Risk Analysis of
Genetically Modified Organisms, and biotechnology experts from the
Molecular Biology Center for the University of Central America and
the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. The event would be
open to the press so as to contribute to general public awareness on
the subject and encourage journalists to objectively report on
biotechnology in the future.

8. (U) The event should be hosted by a willing institution with a
vested interest in biotechnology, such as the Interamerican
Institute for Cooperation for Agriculture (IICA), based in Managua.
IICA has been looking to sponsor events such as the one we propose,
and has a vested interest in encouraging the objective and
science-based presentation of the facts on biotechnology, as well as
the stature to attract the high-level of interest and participation
that we seek.

9. (U) OUTREACH TO AGRICULTURAL UNIVERSITIES AND INSTITUTIONS: Post
sees the great need to conduct outreach on biotechnology to
agricultural universities, cooperatives, and associations where
individuals may benefit the most from biotechnology, but are
vulnerable to misinformation. In collaboration with USDA and USAID,
we propose that we organize visits to five regional agricultural
universities to address the potential benefits of biotechnology, as
well as environmental and food safety issues. Invited participants
would include university students and academics, members from local
agricultural cooperatives and associations, as well as regional
representatives engaged in agro-industry. Speakers and/or panel
members may include members from these groups, but would be led by
Spanish-speaking U.S. or regional experts on the subject that we
recruit. Experts should be able to discuss the science behind
biotechnology and address safety and ethical issues that people
have. They should also be able to provide concrete examples of how
biotechnology improves crop production and benefits the
environment.

10. (U) BIOFUEL ENERGY SOLUTIONS SEMINAR: We believe there exists
an excellent opportunity to promote the development of a biofuels
industry in Nicaragua at this time. The country is heavily
dependent on imported oil and finding cheaper sources of energy is a
top priority for the government. While President Ortega has
criticized the production of ethanol from corn, he has quietly
supported private sector efforts to produce ethanol from sugar cane.
The fact is that Nicaragua's soil and climate are ideally suited to
the cultivation of potential sources of biofuels, such as sugar
cane, African palm, and grasses. We want to advance the national
dialogue on the development of a biofuels industry in Nicaragua.

11. (U) To accomplish this, we propose a day-long seminar to educate
government officials on biofuel technologies, opportunities for the
production of biofuels in Nicaragua, and the legal and regulatory
framework necessary to support the development of a biofuels
industry. Specific topics for discussion would include advances in
cellulosic technology in light of Brazilian and other breakthroughs,
overcoming challenges related to the consumption of biofuels,
producing biofuels for export versus local consumption, the
environmental impact of biofuel production (and consumption), food
versus biofuel production, and biomass as a cost-effective source of
energy.

12. (U) Potential speakers for these seminars include U.S.
government officials, U.S. industry representatives, local managers
of ethanol plants, U.S. academics such as George Philippidis from
Florida International University's Applied Research Center, and an
expert on the environmental consequences of biofuel production (and
consumption), as well as private and public sector officials who are
involved in biofuel production in Nicaragua and/or the region.

13. (U) Participants would include members of the National
Assembly's Energy Committee, officials from the Ministries of
Energy, Trade, and Environment, biofuel producers, business leaders,
university researchers and academics from agricultural and
engineering universities, and scientists from the Interamerican
Institute of Cooperation for Agriculture (the institution in charge
of developing a regulatory framework for the production of biofuels
in Nicaragua).

Target Audiences
----------------

14. (U) Each activity targets a different audience. The National
Biotechnology Conference targets government officials, including
members of the National Assembly's Committee on Health and other
policy makers, and seeks their interaction with academics and
industrial representatives. Outreach to agricultural universities
and institutions targets agricultural producers and university
academics and students who live in agricultural regions. The
Biofuels Solutions Seminar will put government officials,
scientists, and industry representatives together in the same room
to discuss what is needed to develop a biofuels industry in
Nicaragua.

Impact
------

15. (U) The proposed activities will advance U.S. objectives by:

-- Publicizing the developmental benefits of
agricultural biotechnology and biofuels;

-- Promoting the free exchange of ideas, based upon
science-based presentations, to objectively change
hearts and minds;

-- Inviting government officials, the private sector,
and scientists to discuss a legal framework and
policy that is conducive to the development of
agricultural biotechnology and a biofuels industry;
and

-- Helping National Assembly deputies to understand
the potential of biotechnology as they deliberate
pending biosafety legislation.

Budget
------

16. (U) Estimated costs are as follows:

-- $12,350 - National Biotechnology Conference

E

3 Speakers from U.S. - Transportation $4500
Lodging and M&IE $1850
1-Day Conference, hall rental, refreshments, and
invitations - $6000;

-- $29,500 - Outreach to Agricultural Universities

2 Speakers from U.S. - transportation $3000
2 weeks lodging, MIE $5800
Five 1-Day Regional Conferences - $20,000
Local Transportation - $700; and

-- $16,675 - Biofuel Energy Solutions Seminar

2 Speakers from U.S., transportation $3000
lodging and MIE $825
3 Speakers from Region, transportation - $5000
lodging and MIE - $1850
1-Day Conference hall rental, etc. - $6000;

-- $58,525: Total requested for all three activities.

17. (U) POC: Ronald Perkel
Email: perkelrd@state.gov
Tel: 505-252-7619
IVG: 746-7619

LES POC: Amanda Fonseca
Email: fonsecaac@state.gov
Tel: 505-252-7559
IVG: 746-7559

18. (U) These activities complement efforts by the U.S. Agency for
International Development and the Departments of Agriculture,
Commerce, Energy, and State to promote sustainable agricultural
production, biotechnology, and biofuels. Members of the country
team, including the Economics Section, Public Affairs, Foreign
Agricultural Service, and USAID will work together to identify
qualified speakers from the United States and the region, and
implement proposed activities.
TRIVELLI

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