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Cablegate: Unlicensed Gmo Corn Returns Biotech to Headlines

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001339

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR OES/MSOWARDS AND EB/MTA/ATT
DEPARTMENT FOR EB/EPPD/PD, AND EUR/PPD
DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS USTR/PADILLA
VIENNA FOR FAS/SHANSON
BUDAPEST FOR KPOSNERMULLEN
USDA FOR FAS/OAA/SPENSER, RUDE AND JONES
USEU BRUSSELS FOR AGRICULTURE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD SENV TBIO TSPL PGOV HR
SUBJECT: UNLICENSED GMO CORN RETURNS BIOTECH TO HEADLINES

REF: ZAGREB 1037

1. (U) On July 9, Minister of Agriculture Petar Cobankovic
announced that a hybrid corn seed imported by US-based
Pioneer Seeds tested positive for GMO content. Cobankovic
estimates that 2,000 hectares of farmland have been planted
with the GMO-contaminated seed. Destruction of contaminated
cropland began on July 16 in Eastern Slavonia.

2. (U) Pioneer currently holds about 35 percent of the
Croatian market for corn seed. For unauthorized release of a
GMO seed into Croatian soil, Pioneer will likely be liable up
to 2 million kuna ($337,000). Beyond the immediate financial
penalties, the damage to Pioneer's reputation on the local
market is likely to be considerable.

3. (U) In line with Croatia's Law on Nature Protection,
unlicensed release into nature of genetically-modified seeds
carries harsh financial penalties for the offending company
and compels the GoC to compensate farmers for any damages.
The Law further mandates that the GoC pull all contaminated
seeds off the local market and clean up contaminated
cropland. Though the Law establishes a procedure for
licensing GMO release into Croatian soil, the GoC has
established no regulations governing the issuance of licenses
nor has the government shown any interest in implementing a
GMO licensing procedure.

4. (U) Until the licensing provisions of the Law are
implemented, there is an effective zero tolerance policy on
GMOs in seeds. Though the Institute for Public Health
specified for us that the Pioneer sample seed contained 6
parts per thousand GMO components, the local Pioneer
representative released a statement noting that according to
a certificate provided by Pioneer Labs in Iowa, this
particular corn seed contained only conventional (non-GMO)
components.

COMMENT
-------

5. (SBU) Cobankovic's announcement promises to bring GMO
anxieties back to the media's attention just as lingering
fears of public health dangers associated with unlabeled GMO
foods had started to fade. As science has increasingly been
marginalized in the local GMO debate (reftel), this latest
announcement only confirms Croatians' worst fears -- that
GMOs have been planted in their country without their
knowledge.

6. (SBU) Post is in the middle of a concerted public
diplomacy effort to try to counter the widespread
misunderstanding of biotechnology in Croatia. Three
biotechnology experts influential in local food and
environmental policy formulation will shortly arrive in the
US on a biotech-themed International Visitors' Program. We
will soon roll out a revamped embassy website including
numerous biotech links and an article in Croatian on this
issue funded under Post's Democracy Commission small grants
program. We should also take advantage of the proposed visit
by OES A/S Turner this fall to reinforce our outreach efforts
to scientists, policy-makers, and the Croatian public. END
COMMENT.
FRANK


NNNN

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