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Cablegate: Poland Ag Biotechnology Progress

VZCZCXRO0218
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHWR #1114/01 2680746
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240746Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7054
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
INFO RUEHKW/AMCONSUL KRAKOW 2164
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WARSAW 001114

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS ELECTRONICALLY TO USTR JMURPHY, MCLARKSON
STATE FOR EUR/CE
STATE FOR EEB/TPP/ABT/BTT FINN
USDA FOR FAS/OSTA MHENNEY, LJONES; FAS/OFSO DYOUNG
USDA FOR FAS/OCRA/RCURTIS, DSEIDBAND
BRUSSELS PASS AG MINISTER COUNSELOR;
EUROPEAN POSTS FOR AGR/ECON

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD TBIO PGOV PL
SUBJECT: POLAND AG BIOTECHNOLOGY PROGRESS

REF: Krakow 095

WARSAW 00001114 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Polish debate on biotechnology is heating up,
with nudging from the Embassy. From April to September, an industry
coalition supporting biotech has coalesced, and we are starting to
see local leaders following their constituents in countering
negative propaganda and demanding access to the biotechnologies
Polish farmers need to be competitive. Nevertheless, biotech
opponents still have the upper hand, and the support of the Ministry
of Environment. The next big test will be a virulently anti-biotech
bill proposed by the Ministry that the Sejm will consider this fall.
Nevertheless, the characteristic Polish resolve to push ahead
despite obstacles means today the pro-GM movement finally has legs
to walk on. End summary.

2. (U) Embassy officers have conducted demarches, worked with the
press, connected idea salesmen, and offered analysis. Primarily
supported by USDA's Emerging Markets Program, but with some input
from State's Biotech Outreach Funds the mission in Warsaw has hosted
a farmer from Spain, Jose Luis Romeo (May 2008); farmers from Iowa,
Varel Bailey and Jill Euken (June 2008), Czech Farmer Vitezslav
Navratil (Sept 2008), representatives of the American Soybean
Association, (Oct. 2007, Feb 2008, and Sept 2008); and held seminars
with regional leaders in Poznan, Opole, and nearby Warsaw for crowds
of up to 200. Ag Counselor drove 5000 miles meeting regional
political officials, academics, media, local associations, and
producers.

3. (U) Embassy Public Affairs, USDA Warsaw, and Consulate Krakow
currently are arranging to host author and Professor Alan McHughen
of the University of California, Riverside, in Wroclaw and Warsaw in
October. Dr. McHughen's book, Pandora's Food Basket, has been
translated in Polish with an altered title, Genetically Modified
Foods: What Consumers Need to Know. Emboffs are excited about the
visit, as Dr. McHughen is credible with his willingness to accept
and discuss some technology downsides. McHughen's description of
the positive attributes of biotechnology outweigh his depiction of
the negatives.

4. (U) In traveling Poland it is clear that the Embassy is stepping
in where the Government of Poland is offering negative, biased, and
sometimes anti-American statements on the technology, primarily from
the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry's Center for
Environmental Information financed a publication from Professor
Stanislaw Wiackowski, labeling USDA, FDA, and EPA "indolent" and the
President of the United States corrupt. It was a 50 page screed
claiming biotechnology causes hunger in India and cancer in rats.
Embassy complaints about lack of balance to the Ministry have not
elicited a response. More damaging, the Ministry has conducted six
seminars across Poland, over the same time frame of embassy
activities, that specified biotechnology negatives. Greenpeace,
Friends of the Earth, and Dr. Wiackowski were all speakers. These
seminars were financed with public Polish and EU funds.

5. (U) The Ministry of Environment has drafted a GM cultivation law
that represents a farce. The draft law, at 145 pages, contacts
report is the longest draft law written in Polish history. The law
envisions that individual regions may declare themselves GM free.
If a farmer then plants GM they face jail time. Even if a regional
legislature votes to plant GM, they can be overruled by the local
provincial governor (wojewod), representing the national government.
Before planting, the law requires producers to seek permission from
neighbors, post bonds for damages, and conduct exhaustive
recordkeeping. Though the law was 145 pages, it did not include
provisions for insect refuges or barriers from organic crops. The
draft states that regulatory issues like these will be issued by the
Environment Ministry later. The administrative risk is so high,
that producers say they will not plant under this law.

6. (U) Each law in Poland must be accompanied by a justification
for its passage. The justification of the cultivation law plainly
states the law is designed to prevent GM crops from being planted.
The Ministry received negative comments from producers, many
accompanied by detailed analysis about how the law conflicts with EU
mandates. Scientists were outraged at the provisions of the law
regulating their activities. Presently, the Ministry of Environment
does not approve animal feed tests and open field crop trials,
despite the scientific panels at the Ministry that support these
requests. The draft imagines an even stricter regime. Worrisome

WARSAW 00001114 002.2 OF 002


for the future, the draft includes provisions that are interpreted
by some contacts to mean animal clones will be considered
genetically modified, and thus under the regulation of the Ministry
of Environment. With its comment period over, the Ministry
announced it will be working on sending the draft to Parliament on
September 28. It will need the support of the Ministries of
Agriculture and Economy. Those ministries are more positive on the
technology, but their views are unlikely to overcome the strong
negative views put forward by the environmental movement.

7. (U) There is reason for optimism. A pro biotech coalition is
active. In partnership with the seed industry, a Coalition for
Modern Farming is pushing local governments to do more to educate
and defend them. Biotechnology is at the core of the survivability
of Polish agriculture. The nation has a disastrous outbreak of the
European Corn Borer, which destroys $400 million worth of the corn
crop annually, losses that could easily be prevented by Mon 810 Bt
corn, available for sale. Polish producers have planted 3,000
hectares, and some trade rumors indicate the figure may be as high
at 5,000 hectares with Bt corn, bought in neighboring Czech
Republic. Producers realize they must cut costs and worry about
predictions of rising input prices and falling commodity prices.
They worry as well about the new paradigm in the Polish farm
economy: it has become a net pork importer and its domestic hog
population is at a 23 year low. Poland is an inefficient producer
of pork, and has open borders with more efficient
vertically-integrated Western European suppliers.

8. (SBU) The Embassy and USDA are stepping in to provide better
biotechnology information and contacts to regional leaders who are
willing to work for cultivation and acceptance of U.S. varieties in
animal feeds. Last week, Ag Counselor traveled to Opole with
Polish scientists and producers from the Mazowiecki region near
Warsaw. Opole dedicated its annual Corn Day exhibition to a
conference promoting biotechnology. Then, after the formal
conference concluded, the region's agricultural leaders and elected
regional leaders retired with experts to the office of the
agricultural extension service leader to hear the presentations
again and debate them. The Mazowiecki region agricultural chamber
passed a resolution promoting biotechnology in July, after the visit
of Ag Counselor and Iowa speakers in June. Mazowiecki-Opole regions
are in an alliance for biotech and Opole leaders may follow with
their own pro-biotech position shortly.

----------------
OPOLE IS THE KEY
----------------

9. (SBU) The Polish characteristic of personal opposition in tough
circumstances helps. Poles are fiercely independent and stand up
for their beliefs. This has so far benefitted the anti-GM movement,
but facing farm losses, competition from crops abroad, and the
hypocrisy of how Polish consumers eat GM crops produced elsewhere,
producers and scientists are working together for biotechnology.
Accompanying Ag Counselor to Opole was Dr. Lucjan Szponar, former
head of the Polish Nutrition Institute, now retired; Dr. Roman
Warzecha, of the Ag Ministry's Plant Breeding Station near Warsaw,
and Tadeusz Szymanczak, former parliamentarian and corn farmer. Met
in Opole by a Czech farmer, Vitezslav Navratil, the speakers had an
open forum to present their views. Mr. Navratil's participation was
organized by USDA Embassy Prague Ag Specialist. Local TV and print
press, including with Ag Counselor, was overwhelmingly positive.
Important for the future, Opole is the home region of Sejm
Agricultural Committee chief, Leszek Korzionowski. A corn
bioethanol plant will move into production in April 2009 in Opole,
stoking demand for corn. The plant will eat 350,000 tons of corn,
while Poland produces just 1.7 million tons now and will import.
Recovering crop losses from the corn borer would provide needed
feedstock for the plant.

10. (SBU) Embassy's Polish biotechnology experts have been invited
to speak again at a farm group convention near Krakow in October,
with help from Consulate Krakow. Malopolski has fresh interest in
the technology, see reftel.
ASHE

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