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Cablegate: Eu Ag Ministers Discuss Food Security, Health

VZCZCXRO2398
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV
DE RUEHLI #2477/01 2671155
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241155Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY LISBON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6288
INFO RUCNMUC/EU CANDIDATE STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LISBON 002477

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

PLEASE PASS TO AGRICULTURE ATTACHES

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON TBIO EUN
SUBJECT: EU AG MINISTERS DISCUSS FOOD SECURITY, HEALTH
CHECK, WINE REFORM

REF: LISBON 2171

LISBON 00002477 001.2 OF 002


Summary
-------------
1. (U) Food security, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
Reform Health Check, and wine reform dominated the September
16-18 Informal EU Agricultural Ministerial agenda in Porto,
Portugal. Portugal's Agriculture Minister Jaime Silva also
welcomed debate on the EU's transgenic crop policy to clarify
prevailing misconceptions.

Food Security a Top Priority
------------------
2. (U) Portugal's Minister of Agriculture, Rural
Development and Fisheries Jaime Silva, who hosted the EU's 27
agricultural ministers, noted that food security (vice food
safety) dominated the September 16-18 informal gathering in
Porto. Europe's efforts to provide food security to its
citizens were complicated by the ever-growing exodus of
farmers from rural areas. Post-2013 rural development would
be even more important, he noted, as Pillar I funds shifted
to Pillar II. Climate change and desertification presented
additional challenges. He underscored the need to focus
efforts on the food industry as a whole, not on individual
segments, and to locate food processing centers near food
production. He further underscored the importance of rural
development within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and
the need to maintain and deepen reforms begun in 2003. He
acknowledged that farmers were asking for new CAP reforms
that would provide stability and predictability.

Health Check Appropriate and Well-Timed
-----------------
3. (U) Further to the dialogue on food security, Silva noted
that 2003 CAP reforms needed to continue in an ambitious way,
particularly since CAP Health Check discussions were due to
begin in November. Silva commented that EU Agriculture and
Rural Development Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel had
launched the Health Check at the appropriate time. He
praised her courage to check if EU farm reform policy was
accomplishing what it set out to do and to ascertain how
Europe could meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Fischer-Boel added that she was pleasantly surprised by
French President Sarkozy's recent comments, noting that the
Health Check fit nicely with his message against standing
still and providing farmers with stability. Having received
the green light to proceed with the Health Check the week
before the informal gathering, Fischer-Boel planned to
present the paper in November and the legal proposal in May
2008. She expected to finalize the Health Check next year.
She was surprised by the many detailed questions from the
media regarding content, noting that the proposal had not
even been written yet. She further underscored that the
Health Check needed to be WTO compliant.

Wine Reform Necessary to Remain Competitive
----------------
4. (U) Portugal's Douro Valley, famous for its Port wine,
provided the backdrop for discussions on wine reform and
geographic indicators. Fischer-Boel noted that in 2006 all
member-states had agreed wine reform was necessary to bolster
EU competitiveness. Although still the world leader in wine
exports, the EU was losing its competitive edge, both
internationally and internally, Silva said. Wine reform must
not only focus on quality, he commented, but also on
environmental sustainability and employment. Fischer-Boel
added that, despite claims to the contrary, she had not cut
the European Commission's 1.3 billion euro wine sector
budget. However, she did note that funds could be better
utilized and that she had reallocated a half-billion euros
for distillation and 120 million euros for wine promotion.

Misinformation Dominates Transgenic Debate
---------
5. (U) Acknowledging the two dozen anti-transgenic crop
protestors outside the conference, Silva commented that there
was a lot of misinformation about the issue. Most people did
not understand that the EU had very stringent biotech laws
based on food safety and scientific testing, he said. He
welcomed the opportunity for further discussion. Post notes
that in late August, Silva publicly defended the right of
farmers to plant EFSA approved transgenic crops after
activists destroyed transgenic acreage in the south of
Portugal (reftel). (Comment: Most protestors reportedly came
from outside Portugal. End Comment.)

Comment

LISBON 00002477 002.2 OF 002


----------
6. (SBU) Minister Silva told visiting Ag Attache and Charge
in late August that he hoped to steer discussion of CAP
reform toward the creation of a system based on subsidy that
was related to output and commodity price as opposed to the
current system of unpegged subsidies. As subsidies were
mentioned in passing during the press conferences, it is
unclear how much progress was made towards this end.
Hoffman

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