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Cablegate: Biosafety Developments in Spain

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 004709

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EAID ETRD SENV SP
SUBJECT: BIOSAFETY DEVELOPMENTS IN SPAIN

REF: (A) STATE 259661 (B) GAIN REPORT NUMBER:SP4028

1. This message is sensitive but unclassified.

2. (U) Summary: The Zapatero government is changing Spain's
previously pro-biotech position to one more opposed to the
technology. This is clear from Environment Minister
Narbona's statements, Spanish votes on EU Commission biotech
proposals, a draft co-existence decree, and a generally go
slow attitude on pending applications. Similarly to many
other countries though, the Agriculture Ministry largely
remains a supporter of the technology. Embassy will make the
President's office (Moncloa - Zapatero is called the
"President" not Prime Minister) aware of the negative effects
of these changes in policy. End Summary

ENVIRONMENT HOSTILE TO BIOTECH


3. (U) Although the Zapatero government has not released a
formal policy statement on agricultural biotechnology, it is
clear from Environment Minister Cristina Narbona's remarks
that she, at any rate, is hostile to the technology. For
example, she was quoted on June 23 by Agence France Presse as
saying: "In recent years Spain has become Europe's big
granary of GM corn. This is the result of a decision by the
previous government to allow the growing in our country of a
crop on which the scientific community has yet to form a
conclusive opinion. There are those who believe this should
not be a cause for concern and others, more independent of
the lines of research financed by the biotech industry, who
hold a different opinion." This is important because even
though biotech-related decisions (for instance on EU votes)
are subject to decisions by representatives from seven
ministries and agencies in the so-called Inter-Ministerial
Council, Environment is clearly very important on these
issues.

4. (U) The Inter-Ministerial Council is chaired by the
Environment Ministry's Jaime Alejandre Martinez (Director
General for Quality and Environmental Evaluation).
Environment has two other Director General level
representatives; Agriculture two; Health three; Industry
(responsible for trade) one; Education and Science two; and
Interior one. Each Director General has one vote. If there
is a tie, Alejandre casts the determining vote.

5. (SBU) EconOff and ESTOff met with Environment Subdirector
for Air Quality and Risk Prevention Ana Fresno and Technical
Analyst Lucia Roda on 12/9/04. They were very upfront about
the GOS's changes in position with respect to agricultural
biotechnology and said they were politically, rather than
scientifically, motivated. Fresno said there was some
scientific justification for proceeding with care on biotech
rapeseed products but none with respect to corn.


SPAIN EU VOTES


6. (U) A local Monsanto representative provided the following
list of votes this year on which Spain abstained and on which
the Aznar government would probably have voted in favor.
Fresno and Roda shared this opinion.

a) NK603 Novel Foods (NL) - Regulatory Committee Vote, April
30

b) GT73 - Dir 2001/18/EC Import (NL) - Regulatory Committee
Vote, June 16

c) NK603 - 2001/18/EC - Environment Council Vote, June 28 (an
especially noteworthy
decision given that Spain's regulatory authorities
previously approved this event)

d) NK603 Novel Foods - Agriculture Council Vote, July 19

e) MON 863 - Dir 2001/18 Import (DE) - Regulatory Committee
Vote, November 29

PROPOSED COEXISTENCE DECREE


7. (U) The Government of Spain is currently preparing a
coexistence decree (ref B). The government has not released
an official proposal, but the latest available draft may make
it more difficult in some cases to use already approved
biotech corn varieties. Essentially, the GOS intends to
mandate a 25 meter distance between biotech and conventional
fields. The draft has both positive and negative elements as
USDA notes (ref B). The USDA report states: "If ultimately
sustained, as we believe it is currently drafted, it could
centralize, maybe even increase the use of genetically
modified corn (GM) varieties in some regions. However, the
decree will likely impose requirements not imposed on
producers and consumers of other, non-GM corn varieties. As
a result, it will also likely add to the production costs of
GM corn, and could deter GM production on small parcels."
Consistent with the pattern from other countries, the
rhetoric from the Spanish Agriculture Ministry is also
different from the Environment Ministry. Agriculture
Ministry Director General Angel Luis Alvarez Fernandez was
quoted in the December 13 edition of El Pais as saying that
the "mixture of varieties is a frequent phenomenon in
agriculture". Moreover, he criticized the use of the word
"contamination" because the biotech varieties used in Spain
"do not involve a risk to human health". Nonetheless, the
local Monsanto representative says that the draft decree is
"clearly discriminatory against GM crops and will inevitably
have a dissuading effect on farmers".

PENDING APPLICATIONS

8. (SBU) The local Monsanto representative says that the
National Biosafety Commission is "uncharacteristically and
unjustifiably dragging its feet with dossiers it is
evaluating, specifically a Monsanto dossier, Roundup Ready
corn for planting in Europe". A Pioneer representative told
EconOff that biotech cotton variety applications were also
taking a long time to be processed. There is interest among
farmers in the water-deprived Autonomous Region of Andalusia
for obtaining access to certain kinds of biotech cotton
varieties.


GOS CPB REPRESENTATION


9. (SBU) Ana Fresno and Lucia Roda attend the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) meetings and will go to Montreal
as well. Fresno is the GOS representative to the EU CPB
coordination meetings. EconOff asked whether representatives
from the Agriculture and Trade Ministries attend these
meetings as well. Fresno regretted that they do not. Fresno
added that she meets occasionally with industry but not
frequently. Brussels coordinates more with industry
interests she said but not extensively. Fresno and Roda were
quite familiar with USG concerns on Article 18.2(a) and
liability and redress.


COMMENT


10. (SBU) We will make clear to Zapatero's Economics Advisor
that the GOS could demonstrate a constructive approach in our
overall relationship by working with us on trade policy
issues, including agricultural biotechnology. This will be a
hard sell, but the President's office awareness of USG
interest in GOS trade, as well as political, policy positions
should be reinforced.

MANZANARES

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