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Cablegate: Pretoria's Proposal for Biotechnology Funds

VZCZCXRO4603
RR RUEHDU RUEHJO
DE RUEHSA #0192/01 0300634
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300634Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3313
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 1980
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 5259
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 7848
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9526

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 000192

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EB/TPP/ABT, OES/PCI, AND AF/S
DEPT PASS EB/TPP/ABT - JFINN, GCLEMENTS, AND MKOCH
USDA FAS FOR OSTA/NTPMB/MICHAEL HENNEY AND ANTHONY GILBERT
USDA FAS FOR OCRA AFERRUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD KPAO PREL SENV SF TBIO
SUBJECT: PRETORIA'S PROPOSAL FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY FUNDS

REF: A) STATE 160639 B) PRET 000004

1. Summary: Embassy Pretoria's proposal for the FY 2008
Biotechnology Outreach Strategy Fund includes two activities to be
held in South Africa. This proposal was developed among EST/Econ,
PAS, and USDA/FAS. Additionally, we considered GSA and NGO
representatives input to establish this proposal. Our proposal
includes a set of activities in the Pretoria area for government
officials and a separate set of activities in Cape Town for
Parliament members. Additionally, since FAS/Pretoria is a regional
post, covering much of Southern Africa, we would like to use the
visit of this U.S. expert to the region to include travel to
Madagascar after the activities in South Africa. The purpose of
this trip would be to provide a basic biotechnology, biosafety, and
food safety introduction to Malagasy officials and other stake
holders. Embassy Antananarivo will submit a separate proposal on
which we collaborated and fully support. End Summary.

Pretoria
----------

2. Building on progress made during last year's biotech outreach
activities funded by EEB (see PRETORIA 000004); we would like to
focus on capacity building and outreach within the Genetically
Modified Organism Executive Council (GMO EC) and the Advisory
Committee to the GMO EC.

Background
---------------

3. South Africa is a leading country in biotechnology research and
development; however, the GMO EC, which makes the final decision on
approval of events, lacks human capacity and the confidence to make
well informed decisions.

4. Unlike in the United States, the South African GMO EC makes a
single consensus decision based on recommendations from the Advisory
Committee, an independent scientific committee, and recommendations
from each ministry/agency represented on the GMO EC. The consensus
nature of the GMO EC decision-making means that individual members
can request additional data from applicants outside their particular
areas of expertise or regulatory jurisdiction (as a hypothetical
example, an economist from the Department of Trade and Industry may
wish to have additional food safety data). This ad hoc rethinking
at the GMO EC level is not always couched within any formal risk
assessment framework. Only the final decision document is made
public and all of the deliberations occur behind closed doors. As a
result, the decision-making process is not transparent and it is
difficult to reconstruct on what basis individual decisions are
made.

Activity
---------
5. We would like to propose an activity focused on the GMO EC and
the Advisory Committee to build the risk-assessment competence of
each of the individual member agencies. In many instances, the
persons who are responsible for their agency's separate risk
assessments are also the same individuals who sit on the GMO EC.
Improving competence could make separate agency risk assessments
pass through the GMO EC intact, and help ensure that these risk
assessments are reflected in the final decision documents.
Continuing to foster working relationships and technical exchanges
between U.S. and South African regulators at the risk assessment
level will benefit both countries.

6. Our visiting U.S. expert would spend 5 days conducting hands-on
risk assessments with representatives of the GMO Executive Council
Qrisk assessments with representatives of the GMO Executive Council
and the Advisory Committee who evaluate risk assessments prepared by
companies and research institutes submitting applications to the GMO
Executive Council. The expert would also share information with
working level government scientists about what USDA/FDA/EPA believes
is most important and how they analyze the information.

Cape Town
--------------

7. The U.S. expert would travel to Cape Town, the seat of
Parliament, for 5 days to meet with different Parliamentary
Portfolio committees. These committees are the key players in
passing laws and regulations relating to biotechnology. However,
many committee members are not educated about biotechnology and
often make decisions based on erroneous information.

8. The U.S. expert would provide an overview and introduction to
biotechnology to committee members with appropriate portfolios.

PRETORIA 00000192 002 OF 002


The expert will meet separately with each committee to discuss
issues relevant to their sectors. The targeted Portfolio Committees
are:

Environment Portfolio Committee - Discuss aspects of biotechnology
and biosafety as it relates to biodiversity. Additionally,
reinforce the environmental gains from reduced soil erosion and
decreased insecticide and herbicide use.

Agriculture Portfolio Committee - Discuss the latest in
biotechnology such as stacked genes, etc. Provide information on
global use of biotechnology. Encourage the development and
commercialization of agbiotech products to meet the unique needs of
South Africa.

Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee - Discuss trade issues
relating to biotechnology, especially potential trade impacts of the
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Science and Technology Portfolio Committee - Discuss how the United
States supports biotech businesses and how to develop biotech
businesses. Stress the global scientific consensus on the safety of
agbiotech products demonstrated by the WTO final panel decision in
the EU case.

9. These activities will meet two USG policy objectives: 1)
assisting South Africa with capacity building for government
officials, and 2) assisting South African researchers to prepare
their risk assessments better. These activities will also
indirectly assist US companies through USG advocacy for the future
use of U.S. products and intellectual property in Africa.

10. Post 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 agbiotechnology issues. These could
include roundtables with print media, one-on-one interviews, radio
call-in programs, etc.

11. Length of Program: Two weeks (5 days in Pretoria and 5 days
in Cape Town, plus one weekend in between the two segments)

Cost:
TOTAL: $15,500

Airfare (US - Johannesburg - Cape Town - US): $4,500.00
Hotel and Per Diem (14 days): $5,000.00
Meeting Rooms: $4,000.00
Miscellaneous (materials, invitations, etc) $2,000.00

12. Point of Contact: Kari Rojas, Agricultural Attach,
FAS/Pretoria, kari.rojas@fas.usda.gov 011-27-12-431-4057
BOST

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