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Cablegate: French Tv Film Attacks Us Biotech Regime

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R 021509Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2444
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INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 000614

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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;
EU POSTS PASS TO AGRICULTURE AND ECON
GENEVA FOR USTR, ALSO AGRICULTURE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR SENV ECON ETRD EU FR

SUBJECT: FRENCH TV FILM ATTACKS US BIOTECH REGIME


1. Summary: On March 11, French public TV channel ARTE broadcasted
a film entitled "The World According to Monsanto," by freelance
journalist Marie-Monique Robin. A book by the same name was
released soon thereafter. Given the wide publicity generated by
this film (for sale on line on ARTE's website at
http://www.arte.tv/monsanto, which, to date, has received over
100,000 "hits"), it has generated much attention particularly by
biotech stakeholders. The film and book not only demonize Monsanto,
but also characterize U.S. Government actions as lacking ethical and
scientific integrity. Allegations include questioning of the
concept of substantial equivalence; the assertion that political
rather than scientific decisions have been made to authorize biotech
products in the United States; and, that a "revolving door" between
Monsanto and the U.S. Government has influenced the U.S. biotech
regulatory system. The book and film are to be translated into
English and other languages. Country team requests that Washington
agencies provide talking points for use with a range of
interlocutors on an "if asked" basis. End Summary.

Questioning the Concept of Substantial equivalence:

2. The film presents substantial equivalence as the basis of "one
of the largest conspiracies in the history of the food industry."
It says that FDA decided that transgenes belonged to the GRAS
category (Generally Recognized As Safe) i.e., are not food
additives, exempting them from toxicological tests before market
release. Jeremy Rifkin, Director, Foundation for Economic Trends,
who is interviewed, asserts that this was a way for biotech
companies to rapidly commercialize their products with the least
governmental interference. Michael Hansen, Consumer Union, comments
that the substantial equivalence principle had no scientific
background and was created to avoid treating GMOs as food additives,
allowing biotech companies to proceed without toxicological tests
regulated by the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, and without labeling.


Alleging that U.S. Biotech Authorizations are Political, not
Scientific:

3. According to the film, U.S. biotech regulation was initiated in
1992 when the FDA published in the Federal Register a statement of
policy regarding foods derived from new plant varieties, stipulating
that the same regulations apply to food products derived from GM and
conventional plants. Based on an interview of James Maryanski,
formerly of the FDA, the author concludes that this was based on
political expedience rather than scientific justification, in the
context of a tendency towards deregulation by the USG.

Accusing the USG to be Under Pressure from the Industry:

4. The film argues that Monsanto exerted undue influence on the
USG. Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman is interviewed
saying he had felt that he was under pressure and that more tests
should have been conducted on biotech products before they were
approved. Jeffrey Smith, Director, Institute for Responsible
Technology, who is interviewed says that a number of Bush
Administration officers were close to Monsanto, either having
obtained campaign contributions from the company or having worked
directly for it: John Ashcroft, Secretary of Justice, received
contributions from Monsanto when he was reelected, as did Tommy
Thompson, Secretary of Health; Ann Veneman, Secretary of
Agriculture, was director of Calgene which belonged to Monsanto; and
Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, was CEO of Searle, a Monsanto
subsidiary; and Justice Clarence Thomas was a former lawyer for
Monsanto. Several other examples are provided, by the same source,
including Michael Kantor, President Clinton's Secretary for Commerce
and later on the board of Directors of Monsanto.

5. Comment: The allegations made in this film directly attack the
integrity of the U.S. Government, particularly with regard to
biotech regulation, and a number of key players, including biotech
allies who have seen the film, have questioned Emboffs about how
much of this is true.

6. Action requested: While Country Team is not inclined to
directly rebut the film thereby giving it credence, we believe there
is a role for public diplomacy, mainly focusing on the rigor of the
U.S. regulatory system and the positive role ag biotech can play in
meeting world food needs, particularly in the developing world. At
the same time, it would be useful for Emboffs to have talking points

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available to enable effective responses to questions raised by our
contacts particularly on the U.S. regulatory system and the concept
of substantial equivalence. Country team requests that Washington
agencies provide clear succinct talking points on these topics for
use with a range of interlocutors, strictly on an "if asked" basis.
End Comment.

STAPLETON

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