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Cablegate: French Biotech Farmers Face Multiple Problems And

VZCZCXRO8930
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #3399/01 2251520
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131520Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9470
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1864
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0465
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2722
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 003399

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

BRUSSELS PASS USEU FOR AGMINCOUNSELOR
STATE FOR OES; EUR/ERA AND EB(SPIRNAK);
STATE PASS USTR FOR MURPHY;
USDA/OS/JOHANNS/TERPSTRA;
USDA/FAS FOR OA/YOST;
OCRA/CURTIS
STA/SIMMONS/JONES/HENNEY
FAA/YOUNG;
EU POSTS PASS TO AGRICULTURE AND ECON
GENEVA FOR USTR, ALSO AGRICULTURE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD EU FR
SUBJECT: FRENCH BIOTECH FARMERS FACE MULTIPLE PROBLEMS AND
CHALLENGES

REF: Paris 1448

PARIS 00003399 001.2 OF 003


1. Summary. French biotech farmers are facing multiple challenges
as they expand biotech corn acreage four fold in 2007. Despite this
increase, talk of a biotech moratorium during the presidential
campaign and new reporting requirements chilled what was expected to
be an even larger amount following a successful 2006 biotech
harvest. Even though farmers have surged ahead with production,
while only having one biotech variety (Mon810) available for
cultivation and only one market (Spain) in which to sell,
anti-biotech activists continue their highly visible and detrimental
campaign to destroy acceptance of biotechnology in France; acts
aimed to discourage production by the farmers; to raise tensions
between conventional and biotech farmers; to denigrate the image of
biotech products in the minds of consumers and to sway the opinion
of policy makers. The French government has failed to provide a
regulatory structure or public support for the farmers, adding to
the stress and uncertainty they face in producing a biotech crop.
End Summary.

Background
----------
2. France is the largest corn producer in the European Union, with
1.4 million hectares planted, producing 12 million tons in 2006 and
exporting 5 million tons, primarily to Spain, the Netherlands, the
United Kingdom and Germany. The French Ministry of Agriculture
reports that French farmers planted more than 21,000 hectares of
MON810 GM in 2007, representing roughly 0.75 percent of total French
corn acreage. Officials with the French Corn Growers Association
(AGPM) also believe that several thousand hectares (less than 3,000)
have been planted, but not reported, by farmers in the northern half
of France for on-farm usage. The 2007 biotech corn acreage
represents a four-fold increase from 2006. While analysts had
initially forecast 2007 biotech acreage of up to 50,000 hectares,
experts now believe that farmers' spring planting decisions were
negatively influenced by the anti-biotech positions of several
leading presidential candidates and the new requirement that biotech
field locations, which must be made to the Ministry of Agriculture,
be made public.

3. Even though French farmers only have access to one type of
biotech seed, Mon810, patented by Monsanto, this variety is very
helpful in capturing the maximum returns from their crop. Financial
analysis by AGPM showed that extra profit from Mon810 crop,
resulting from higher yields, higher crop quality and lower input
costs offset fourfold the increased seed cost. Mon810 plants
produce their own insect resistance making them less vulnerable to
attacks by the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis), an insect
that thrives in southern France. Its larvae (caterpillar) eats the
leaves and bores into the plant stalk, causing it to produce fewer
and lower quality kernels and weakening it against negative weather
impacts such as strong winds. Mon810 corn plants need fewer
pesticide applications and produce a higher quality product with
fewer input costs than traditional corn.

4. While Monsanto has the only patent available for biotech
cultivation in France, other seed companies, having purchased a
license from Monsanto, are now providing French farmers with more
biotech seed selection.

Markets
-------

5. The primary biotech product found in France is soybean meal,
imported mainly from South America, which is used (98%) in the
manufacture of animal feed. French consumers seem to be unaware
that the animal products available on the French market may well
have originated from an animal nourished on biotech feed. On the
other hand, French consumers are very aware of, and continue to
resist, the utilization of biotech in other products destined for
human consumption. Since there is no market for biotech corn in the
French food industry, biotech corn produced in France is primarily
exported to Spain for use in animal feed.


PARIS 00003399 002.2 OF 003


6. Spain is currently the only commercial market for French biotech
corn. The product is shipped to Spain mainly in trucks. Keeping
biotech corn separated from conventional corn in storage and/or
transportation has not proven to be a problem in the past, with the
caveat that as the GM crop gets bigger, more adventitious
contamination may happen. AGPM officials are confident that having
the Spanish market as the only outlet for biotech corn will not
prove to be a limiting factor as demand remains strong.

7. In addition, demand for biotech corn is expected to increase as
farmers expand their on-farm usage for animal feed. Interestingly,
even though French feed manufacturers buy domestically-grown corn,
primarily for use in pork and poultry feed, they refuse to purchase
biotech corn. AGPM officials intend to pursue domestic feed
manufacturers as another potential lucrative market.

8. AGPM officials hope to convince French feed manufacturers that,
with mycotoxin levels significantly lower than in conventional corn,
biotech corn should be an attractive commodity for their product.
Mycotoxins are toxic by-products of various fungi, mainly of the
Aspergillum or Fusarium families. Corn plants experiencing stress
from conditions such as insect damage, drought or heat, may be more
prone to fungi infestation, and therefore, will have increased
levels of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can have serious health impacts on
animals and humans when ingested, some are even suspected of being
carcinogenic. Thus, the Mon810 biotech corn grown in France, which
contains an insect resistant component, produces corn with less
stress, lower levels of mycotoxins and produces a safer animal feed
product. AGPM conducted studies showing that, in 2006, Mon810 corn
produced in France had mycotoxins contents more than 2000 time lower
than non-GM corn. This will be important for farmers whose corn
must meet lower EU maximum mycotoxin levels beginning in October
2007.

Problems: Anti-Biotech Activities
----------------------------------

9. While French biotech farmers can feel secure, for now, in their
ability to market their product, they face several other
discomforting factors. In France, lack of consumer acceptance of
agricultural biotechnology in products for human consumption
continues to be very strong. Food products labeled as containing or
derived from biotech are generally not available on the French
market.

10. Anti-biotech activists (mainly Greenpeace, Faucheurs
Volontaires, ATTAC, Friends of the Earth, CRI-GEN and Confederation
Paysanne farmers union) are well organized, highly visible and work
consistently to discourage progress for biotech acceptance. During
the summer of 2006, activists destroyed two thirds of the open-field
test plots. Farm groups fumed at the immunity that anti-biotech
groups have been afforded in these acts of destruction.

11. This summer, activists, dedicated to continuing their
destructions in as public a manner as possible, have been busy with
a variety of sabotage tactics, including, spreading traditional corn
pollen on a GMO corn field; possibly spreading chemicals which
prevented pollination; capturing bees in an GMO field to prevent
them from pollinating the corn plants; pulling up corn plants; and
assembling on farmers fields to convince them to destroy their GMO
corn (even if for on-farm feed).

12. The last tactic received wide media coverage after a biotech
farmer hanged himself before a planned anti-OGM rally near his field
on August 5th. Although other factors may have contributed,
following this incident, the French Minister of Ecology and the
Minister of Agriculture issued a joint statement reiterating that
the farmer was within his legal rights, that the State would not
tolerate any forms of violence and asked that everyone respect the
rule of law. FNSEA, the largest farmers union in France, usually
quiet on the biotech issue, publicly decried the fact that biotech
farmers are growing their crops under almost clandestine
circumstances to avoid being targeted.


PARIS 00003399 003.2 OF 003


13. Biotech farmers are also facing attacks from traditional
farmers. A beekeeper is alleging that pollen from a biotech corn
field has ruined his honey harvest and is suing the biotech farmer
for damages.

14. Less visible to the public, but still very effective, is the
pressure imposed by anti-biotech groups on the feed and food
industries. For example, the Greenpeace website has a "blacklist"
containing the name of any biotech food product marketed in France.
Experience has shown that the negative publicity generated by
offering a biotech product in a French supermarket is usually so
detrimental that the retailer or distributor removes the product
from the shelf.

French Government Reactions
---------------------------

15. (SBU) French biotech farmers have found little governmental
support for their efforts. Nathalie Kosciusco-Morizet, the new
Minister of State for Ecology, advocates a strong precautionary
approach and only supports biotech research. French Minister of
Agriculture Michel Barnier, according to high-level contacts at the
Ministry, holds a more conservative view of agricultural
biotechnology than his predecessor. (Mr. Barnier formerly served as
a French Minister of the Environment.) However, he has promised to
keep a fair and unbiased position toward biotechnology in his
official functions.

16. Nevertheless, support by the Ministry of Agriculture has been
less than robust. The Ministry has, so far, limited its objections
to the crop destructions to press releases. The Ministry did
publish "guidelines" in spring 2007 for planting measures between
conventional and biotech corn. But farmers have no official
regulations with which to comply leaving them vulnerable to
liability from neighboring conventional farmers. (Reftel 1448)
Additionally, the Ministry imposed a new requirement for 2007 that
farmers must report their biotech acreage and location, by district,
to a national register maintained by the Ministry (and available
online). The Ministry suggested that farmers voluntarily notify
their neighbors growing conventional corn. Even though the Ministry
registry does not provide the precise location of biotech crops,
anti-biotech activists have honed in on two primary production areas
and published a list of the biotech field locations.

17. Farmers are also frustrated that the police, in general,
observe and tolerate the crop destructions, and the judicial system
metes out moderate punishment to the activists who are prosecuted.
In one case, the activists were found not guilty by reason of
necessity, basically allowing them a self-defense argument that
biotech development could be harmful to public health. The French
legislature has also failed to pass any substantive measures on
behalf of the biotech farmers.

18. French authorities remain reticent to permit new biotech
varieties for cultivation, abstaining on two recent EU votes for new
biotech products. French authorities confirmed that France will not
support any new biotech measures before a government sponsored
environmental conference to be held in October in Paris.

19. AGPM, French farm groups and Post will be closely following this
environmental conference known as the "Le Grenelle de
l'Environnement." Farmers' representatives as well as anti-biotech
organizations are participating in preliminary meetings leading up
to the conference.

Pekala

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