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Cablegate: French Senator On Biotech: France Will Seek to Broaden

VZCZCXRO9728
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #0354 0591310
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281310Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2107
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2823

UNCLAS PARIS 000354

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

BRUSSELS PASS USEU FOR AGMINCOUNSELOR
STATE FOR OES; EUR/ERA; EEB/TPP/ABT/BTT (BOBO);
STATE PASS USTR FOR MURPHY/CLARKSON;
OCRA/CURTIS;
STA/SIMMONS/JONES/HENNEY/SISSON;
GENEVA FOR USTR, ALSO AGRICULTURE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR SENV ECON ETRD EU FR
SUBJECT: FRENCH SENATOR ON BIOTECH: FRANCE WILL SEEK TO BROADEN
REVIEW PROCESS DURING EU PRESIDENCY

REF: (A) PARIS 78 (B) PARIS 98

1. (SBU) Summary: On February 20, EMIN and AGR officers met with
French Senator Jean-Francois Le Grand to discuss French perspectives
on biotech. Le Grand, who played a key role in the QGrenelle
consultative process that ultimately resulted in French invocation
of the safeguard clause on MON810, questioned the long-term impact
of agricultural bio-technology on the environment and bio-diversity.
He called anti-biotech environmental activists Qcircus performers,
underestimating in our view the impact such activists have on
agricultural biotechnology in France and Europe. Le Grand said
France hoped to advocate its Qnew modelQ on ag biotech Q giving
voice to non-scientific stakeholders in decision-making on GMO
approvals Q during its EU presidency. End Summary.

2. (U) A veteran Senator, Jean-Francois Le Grand is a member of the
Committee for Economic Affairs and a member of the Parliamentary
Committee for Scientific and Technological Affairs. He was chosen
by the French Government to lead the biotechnology and biodiversity
working groups in the QGrenelleQ environmental consultations of late
fall 2007. Following these consultations, he chaired the interim
biotech committee whose concluding report called for additional
research on MON810, and subsequently led France to invoke the
safeguard clause (reftels).

3. (U) Senator Le Grand expressed his concern with the unknown
long-term environmental impacts of biotechnology on biodiversity.
But he said he supported continuing both bio- and non-biotech
research, such as developing new technologies for desired trait
intensification (e.g. drought resistance, through natural crop
selection). The latter method would be more readily accepted by
French consumers and would help maintain biodiversity.

4. (U) Politically there was a need to broaden agricultural biotech
assessments beyond the domain of scientists, to include
socio-economic stakeholders who could help to create socio-economic
assessments. Stakeholder communication -- broad horizontal
communication between experts as well as vertical communication with
consumers -- must also be expanded to provide total transparency and
insure consumer confidence in the assessments, he thought. This was
FranceQs Qnew modelQ and, he said, the French political goal is to
transfer it to the EU to better harmonize biotech policy among the
Member States. Le Grand said he expects President Sarkozy to
announce an EU biotech summit during the French EU Presidency,
perhaps in the early summer.

5. (SBU) Comment: As head of FranceQs interim bio-tech committee
Senator Le Grand was roundly criticized by a number of Senators, and
scientists, for mismanaging the MON810 dossier. Senate amendments
to FranceQs draft bio-tech law giving scientists primacy in making
GMO recommendations were a clear rebuff to his vision of
decision-making based on broad stakeholder consultations. The draft
law comes up for discussion in the National Assembly in early April
and we can assume proponents of Le GrandQs approach will hit back.
Le GrandQs description of anti-biotech activists as Qcircus
performers,Q rather than extremists, is all-too-common here and, in
our view, considerably underestimates the impact such groups have on
the debate. Their monopoly of the media, and portrayal of
destructive objectives as noble defense of traditional agriculture,
contributes to creating an extremely complex environment for
rational dialogue.

STAPLETON

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