Cablegate: Readout of Madagascar and Mozambique Biotechnology

DE RUEHSA #2707/01 3471204
R 121204Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) STATE 160639 B) PRET 000004

1. SUMMARY: From August 20 - 27, 2008, Dr. C.S. Prakash, Professor
of Plant Molecular Genetics, Tuskegee University, and Dr. Martin
Lema, Advisor to the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture and Professor
of Biotechnology, Quilmes University, travelled to Madagascar and
Mozambique to lead two agricultural biotechnology and biosafety
workshops sponsored by the USDA and the Governments of Mozambique
and Madagascar. Funding for these workshops came from State/EB
($10,000) and USDA/FAS ($38,000). END SUMMARY.

Agriculture in Mozambique and Madagascar

2. In Mozambique, agriculture contributes over 25 percent to GDP and
over 75 percent of its population relies on agriculture for
survival. Due to agriculture's vulnerability to natural disasters
(droughts and floods), the agricultural sector growth fell below GDP
growth during the late 1990's through present.

3. Twice the size of California, Mozambique has approximately 36
million hectares of arable land. Only 12 percent, however, is under
cultivation. The agricultural sector is divided between
small-holder subsistence farmers, who are responsible for about 94
percent of total agricultural production, and commercial farms,
owned mostly by businesses, which are responsible for the remaining
6 percent of agricultural production.

4. The commercial farm segment grew approximately 45 percent from
2001 to 2003, with a focus on cultivation of tobacco, cotton, and
sugar. From 2002 to 2004 agricultural exports increased
approximately 40 percent to $266 million. Non-agricultural exports
during the same period increased approximately 98 percent.

5. Mozambique continues to be a net food importer despite its
natural resources base. In 2004 agricultural commodity imports
totaled approximately $294 million. Wheat, rice, and vegetable oils
(palm and soybean) were the top commodities imported, followed by
oranges, corn, and poultry. Agricultural exports, not including
forestry and seafood, totaled $122 million in 2004. Tobacco,
cashews, cotton and sugar were the major commodities exported.
6. Madagascar's agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is a
mainstay of the economy, accounting for more than one-fourth of GDP
and employing 80 percent of the population. The estimated GDP
growth rate in 2007 is 6.3 percent. Madagascar's major exports
include coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar, cotton cloth, chromite,
and petroleum products. Madagascar imports capital goods,
petroleum, consumer goods, and food. Deforestation and erosion,
aggravated by the use of firewood as the primary source of fuel, are
serious concerns.
Biotechnology in Madagascar and Mozambique

7. Both countries are eager to improve their agricultural
productivity and recognize that biotechnology can be a valuable tool
to enhance the efficiency of their farming and can help in reducing
their dependence on inputs while improving the quality of their
food. However, both countries have little or no investment so far in
Qfood. However, both countries have little or no investment so far in
biotechnology research although some strides have been made with
biosafety regulation.

8. Due to the potential of the agriculture sector in Mozambique, and
the lack of investment/advancement in that sector, the Government of
Mozambique made a call for a second green revolution for Mozambique.
One of the tools that will be a leading factor in bringing change
and advancement in the agriculture sector in Mozambique will be the
promotion and use of biotechnology.

9. Madagascar and Mozambique have signed and ratified the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
They drafted national biosafety frameworks to help guide further
development of their biotechnology activities. These regulatory
framework efforts were largely due to the presence of a UNEP/GEF
program for 18 months that helped prepare the National Biosafety
Frameworks "in agreement with the provisions of Cartagena Protocol"
and help both countries to ratify the Protocol. Thus, both countries
now have regulators with some training and understanding of

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biosafety issues such as assessment of food safety, environmental
risk evaluation, LMO detection, etc.

10. Identified as a cross-cutting technology in Mozambique's
Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, due to the enormous
potential this technology has to impact various sectors of the
economy, biotechnology policy development is moving more rapidly in
Mozambique than in Madagascar. A National Biosecurity Regulation on
Genetically Modified Organisms was published in the GOM official
bulletin on April 25, 2007.

11. This regulation was formulated by the Inter-Institutional Group
on Biosecurity (GIIBS). The GIIBS is tasked to co-ordinate
biosafety activities in Mozambique. It is an inter-institutional
and multi-disciplinary group with the task of coordinating the
process to establish the National Biosafety Framework including the
development of biosafety policy, regulatory regime, and
administration based on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which
Mozambique ratified in December 2001.

12. The Ministry of Science and Technology is the national competent
authority and presides over the GIIBS. The GIIBS consists of
representatives from each of the following Ministries: Science and
Technology, Agriculture, Environment, Health, Industry and Commerce,
Fisheries, Planning and Development, and academic and research
institutions. Additionally, representatives and specialists from
public and private entities may be invited to participate in GIIBS

13. COMMENT: The biosafety policies in both countries appear to be
largely risk-averse, and rooted in the 'precautionary principle' and
thus more similar to the policies of European countries and that of

The Workshops

14. The USDA/FAS sponsored workshop on agricultural biotechnology
which focused on biosafety regulatory development issues in
Antananarivo, Madagascar (August 20-21) and Maputo, Mozambique
(August 26-27) was timely and opportunistic. The workshop provided
an opening to help further advance biotechnology and biosafety
policies in both countries. The meeting featured lectures by two
invited experts from overseas, Dr. C. S. Prakash,
Tuskegee University, and Dr. Martin Lema, biosafety regulator from
Argentina, along with some very high-level policy experts from
various local ministries - Science and Technology, Agriculture,
Environment, Health, and Trade; along with university scientists and
also representatives from CGIAR centers (in Maputo).

15. The workshops in both locations were fairly similar in format.
The first day of the workshops focused on the basics of
biotechnology and GMOS, including an introduction to the global
status of food production; historical contribution of science in
advancing agricultural production; how biotechnology must be viewed
as a continuum of techniques to improve crop varieties; and
descriptions of the economic and environmental benefits of crop
biotechnology worldwide. The next topic was a description of the
U.S.' Coordinated Framework between FDA, EPA, and USDA by Farah
Naim, International Trade Specialist, USDA/FAS.
QNaim, International Trade Specialist, USDA/FAS.

16. Dr. Lema described how Argentina has successfully employed
biotechnology to stimulate its agricultural production over the past
12 years. He provided descriptive examples of various crop
applications and documented the economic and environmental benefits
of this technology with clear empirical data. Dr. Prakash then
provided a series of examples on how biotechnology can conceivably
impact developing countries agriculture through pest and disease
resistance, improved nutrient efficiency, longer shelf life,
enhanced stress tolerance, improved nutrients in the food, and
through the development of biofuel crops.

17. In Antananarivo Mrs. Chantal Andriananarivo (Ministry of
Environment) provided an overview of biotech research and policy in
Madagascar. She is in charge of Research and Enhancement of
Biodiversity at the National Parks Authority of Madagascar (PNM)
which is charged with implementing the Cartagena Protocol. She was

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instrumental in shaping the policy and laws on biosafety, and thus
spoke confidently about her country's challenges in implementing the
biosafety policy, and in advancing biotechnology research.

18. Similarly in Maputo, Dr. Andre da Silva, Legal Advisor, National
Council of Sustainable Development, provided a very detailed report
on the national biosafety regulation in Mozambique which consists of
27 articles organized into nine chapters and 6 annexes. He described
the proposed administrative system for biosafety consisting of
single-entry point scheme with four core bodies to coordinate the

19. An important observation made in both workshops by the local
regulators was the important need for capacity building to implement
the biosafety regulation in their countries. Both local speakers
emphasized the need for further training of specialists in food
safety, environmental risk assessment, and intellectual property
rights issues.

20. While Mozambique has some laboratory facilities for "GMO
detection" funded by Italian and German governments, such facilities
are lacking in Madagascar. Mozambique also has experience with
biotech-related controversies and issues as it is a
receiving/shipping point for donated corn from the United States for
famine stricken-regions in Southern Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe etc.).

21. The second day of the workshop in both locations began with a
lecture by Dr. Prakash on the "Scientific facts and myths regarding
the safety of GM crops" where he described how regulatory oversight
around the world has ensured the safety of biotech products. He
described how biotech products are regulated from conception of the
idea through field testing and until commercialization, and how
stewardship practices help monitor them after deregulation.
Additionally, he also described constraints affecting biotechnology
application in developing countries such as burdensome regulation,
perceived negative impact of trading partners, influence of the EU,
public perception, biased media reports, organized activism, lack of
coherent policies, and insufficient support for agricultural

22. Prof. Lema followed up with an analysis of "International
guidance and capacity building for the safety assessment of GM
crops" where he talked about various international instruments that
govern regulation of GM crops and the transboundary movement of
'Living Modified Organisms' such as Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

23. The next topic was on the importance of public understanding of
issues in biotechnology. Dr. Prakash emphasized how such public
acceptance is critical to the integration of biotechnology in
agriculture. His talk further identified various communication
strategies that scientists and other experts can employ in their
outreach efforts to enhance public understanding and acceptance of
biotechnology. The final lecture, by Dr. Lema, focused on large
global issues such as trade, IPR, genetic resource ownership, and
technology transfer issues.

24. The final session was an open debate among the participants
Q24. The final session was an open debate among the participants
moderated by Dr. Lema. This session was rather lively as it involved
considerable brain storming, question and answers, plus a SWOT-like
(Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threat) listing based on
feedback from the audience. This helped to identify several points
of opportunity for further action to help formulate a concrete
policy. The workshops in both locations ended with a note of
conclusion and words of thanks by the Ag Attache (Rush in
Antananarivo, and Rojas in Maputo).

25. COMMENT: The workshops in Madagascar and Mozambique were
successful as they provided an excellent opportunity to target high
level decision-makers in both of these countries who are charged
with shaping biotechnology and biosafety policies. The workshop
provided insights into the real benefits of this technology to the
economies of both countries while helping to identify some of the
realistic challenges ahead in implementing them. Hopefully, the
lectures also helped bring awareness on the need to evolve a
science-based approach to regulating genetically-modified crops and

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food including commercialization of crops and food imports.

26. Dr. Lema provided a very credible success story from Argentina
on how his country has boldly embraced biotechnology to advance
agriculture while reaping substantial benefits without any
repercussions in the external trade. Sharing such an experience
from another developing country was very illustrative as the
audience in both Madagascar and Mozambique could more readily
empathize to the situation in Argentina than to the United States.

27. Both workshops helped foster a genuine dialog among the
stakeholders by creating an awareness of the benefits of
biotechnology for the Malagasy and Mozambican farmers and
highlighted the importance of a viable and practical biosafety
regulatory framework. In Maputo, the speakers and USDA
representatives also had an opportunity to visit Instituto de
Investigacao Agraria de Mocambique (on August 28, 2008) where Dr.
Marcos Freire and a visiting professor from Italy (Dr. Mauro M.
Colombo, Universita La Sapienza in Rome) gave us a tour of the
facilities especially the lab on GMO detection.

A Stop in Pretoria

28. During the final leg of the trip, the speakers attended a forum
on biotechnology in Pretoria, South Africa sponsored by AfricaBio.
Dr. Lema delivered a very descriptive lecture on agbiotech research
and commercialization and biosafety regulation issues in Argentina.
Dr. Prakash delivered an impromptu lecture on societal resistance to
change where he described several instances of historical reluctance
to acceptance innovation in various countries. The audience which
consisted of local scientists, graduate student, business and farmer
groups participated in a very productive discussion after the

The Next Steps

29. COMMENT: We must continue to foster biotechnology research and
education in these countries. Continued outreach and communication
programs aimed at providing fact-based information to the regulators
and other stakeholders would also help in dispelling many myths and
misinformation surrounding the regulation and use of this
technology. Existing programs such as the Cochran Fellowship, Norman
Borlaug International Fellowship, and Fulbright awards must be used
to help scientists, regulators, policy makers, and media persons in
these countries to get first-hand experience of biotechnology as it
is practiced in the United States, and to help build capacity
through training. Translation of key biosafety documents to French
and Portuguese would also be very helpful. END COMMENT.

© Scoop Media

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