Cablegate: Brazil: Potential for Working Closer with Brazil On

DE RUEHBR #1120/01 2511407
R 081407Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 29340

BRASILIA 00001120 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Biotechnology and genetic resources are issues
that have divided the Brazilian ministries, with the Agriculture
Ministry vigorously supporting increased use of biotechnology and
freer flow of genetic resources, and until recently, the Environment
Ministry expressing skepticism and caution on the matter. The
growing use of agricultural biotechnology, including genetic
engineering (GE), by Brazilian farmers and the arrival of a more
pragmatic Environment Minister present an opportunity for the U.S.
Government (USG) - per REFTEL - to encourage the Government of
Brazil (GOB) to work more closely with the USG on these key issues.
Brazil has come a long way in making use of biotechnology; post
estimates that for the upcoming 2009/2010 season GE seeds will
account for 65 percent of soybean plantings, 42 percent of corn
plantings, and 20 percent of cotton plantings. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Brazil over time has taken a more positive view of
biotechnology, especially with regard to agriculture production.
This more favorable attitude to domestic production, however, has
not yet significantly transformed Brazil's position in international
bodies regarding biotechnology, in particular the Cartagena Protocol
on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Post has delivered the demarche in REFTEL to the key ministries
dealing with biotechnology: the Ministry of External Relations,
which leads Brazilian delegations at international meetings; the
Agriculture Ministry; the Ministry of Science and Technology; the
Environment Ministry; and the Health Ministry.


3. (SBU) The GOB has two major influences shaping its policy toward
biotechnology, genetic resources and biodiversity. Both are
relatively new and at times can appear to be conflicting. The first
influence is the GOB's interest in conserving and controlling the
use of its vast biodiversity and genetic resources. This interest
goes back to before the 1992 Rio Summit, which gave birth to the CBD
and to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the Brazilian political
elite frequently highlight Brazil's enormous biodiversity resources,
which they believe when tapped could bring a flood of riches to the
country. Correspondingly, Lula and other GOB officials often speak
of needing to defend Brazil's genetic resources and traditional
knowledge from foreigners seeking to exploit them. Consequently,
the GOB plays a leading role in the Mega-diverse Countries group
within the CBD, which group aims to put the use of genetic resources
under the firm control of the countries of origin.

4. (SBU) GOB officials are quick to suspect that biotechnology
developed and patented elsewhere might have come from genetic
resources or traditional knowledge in Brazil. They often point to
the historic tragedy for Brazil when England smuggled rubber plants
from the Amazon to Asia, which broke Brazil's lucrative rubber
monopoly. This intense focus on having benefits flow back to the
country of origin is reflected in the GOB's demand for a binding
international agreement requiring disclosure of country of origin in
patents. More recently, GOB officials expressed concern over
sharing H1N1 virus samples, which could produce a profitable
vaccine, from Brazil with others. Further, the GOB health officials
spoke of "breaking" any patents on an H1N1 vaccine.

5. (SBU) In addition, historically the Environment Ministry has
looked skeptically towards genetically engineered (GE) organisms, a
position shared by many in the world environmental community.
Whether out of concern for Brazil's native biodiversity or for other
reasons, the Environment Ministry has been cautious about
introducing GE organisms to Brazil. Marina Silva, the influential
head of the Environment Ministry for the first six years of Lula's
time in office, took a dogmatic approach against GE organisms. At
the 2006 Meeting of the Parties of the Cartagena Protocol on
Biosafety in Curitiba, Brazil she left the conference and met with
President Lula to persuade him to reverse the GOB's position that
was more accommodating toward commercial exporting of GE crops,
i.e., switching from supporting a requirement to use the label "may
contain" Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) - which was the USG
preferred position - to a more onerous requirement to label "does
contain" GMOs.

6. (SBU) The Environment Ministry's approach may be changing. In
May 2008, Marina Silva left and Carlos Minc replaced her as
Environment Minister. Lula selected Minc in large part for his
pragmatism in dealing with economic issues. Since then the Embassy
has heard reports that the Environment Ministry will be more
pragmatic toward possible introductions of new GE organisms to

BRASILIA 00001120 002.2 OF 003

Brazil. This would be consistent with the approach Minc has taken
with other environmental issues.

7. (SBU) In May and later in June, Science Counselor met with
Marcio Edgar Schuler, Director of the Genetic Patrinomy Office, and
Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Director of the Biodiversity
Conservation Office, from the Environment Ministry, who handle
genetic resources issues for the Environment Ministry. Both urged
that the United States join the CBD and they both expressed interest
in working with the USG on biodiversity and genetic resources.
Schuler complained about the European Union's impeding progress on
negotiation of a new international agreement on genetic resources.
Dias stressed that biotechnology is an important focus for the
Environment Ministry. At the same time, he added, the GOB does not
want to undermine patents, which create incentives for scientific
advances. Dias declared that the Environment Ministry sought "a
balance between biotechnology and conservation." He lamented the
division within the GOB ministries, especially with the Agriculture
Ministry, over policies concerning genetic resources. Schuler added
that the Environment Ministry agreed with the CBD not encompassing
crops covered by the Food and Agriculture Organization's
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and
Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

8. (SBU) COMMENT. The Environment Ministry seems willing and
interested in working with the USG bilaterally and multilaterally on
biotechnology and genetic resources. The USG can expect them to
urge support for Brazil's redline positions in international
negotiations on genetic resources, mainly 1)mandatory disclosures of
country of origin in patents and 2)binding status of any new
international agreement. Still, there appears to be recognition of
the need to avoid interfering with commercial agriculture
transactions, such as for crops included in the ITPGRFA, and being
open about biotechnology. The almost instinctive opposition to the
GE aspect of biotechnology seen during the days when Marina Silva
ran the Environment Ministry appear to be coming to an end. END


9. (SBU) The second major influence affecting Brazil's
biotechnology policy is that the powerful agriculture sector has
embraced the use of biotechnology, including genetic engineering.
More than a decade ago, Brazilian farmers began to use GE soybeans
even though they had not been approved for use by the GOB. Early in
Lula's first term he had to decide what to do with the widespread
use of unapproved GE soybeans. Despite pressure from the
Environment Ministry, he sided with the Agriculture Ministry and had
the GE soybeans approved for use in Brazil. Today, in addition to
one variety of GE soybeans, six varieties of GE corn, and three
varieties of GE cotton have been approved by the GOB. The Foreign
Agriculture Service (FAS) in its July 15, 2009, Biotechnology Annual
Report for Brazil, estimates that for the upcoming 2009/2010 season
GE seeds will account for 65 percent of soybean plantings, 42
percent of corn plantings, and 20 percent of cotton plantings.

10. (SBU) Many Brazilian farmers support biotechnology as
demonstrated by their widespread use of GE seeds. However,
Brazilian society as a whole basically remains neutral on the use of
GE seeds, neither supportive nor opposed to products with GE
organisms. Only now are products containing GE corn entering the
domestic market. Previously, Brazilian farmers just used GE seeds
with soybeans, which were intended primarily for the export market.
So far, there has not been a strong, negative reaction among
Brazilian consumers to products containing GMOs. There are vocal
objections from some environmentalists and environmental
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but they represent a minority
in Brazilian society. The most active opposition comes from the
Movement for the Landless (MST), which last year invaded and
destroyed Syngenta's research facility because it was cultivating GE

11. (SBU) Leontino Rezende Taveira and Paulo Nogueira from the
Agriculture Ministry's Department of Intellectual Property and
Technology emphasized to Science Counselor their ministry's support
for promoting biotechnology. They complained about being
constrained by the Environment Ministry, and they lamented the weak
support they received from the Ministry of Science and Technology in
inter-ministerial debates over biotechnology and genetic resources.
The Agriculture Ministry tends to share the USG point of view in
international bodies on biotechnology and genetic resources issues.
They were pleased with the crops that have been included in the
ITPGRFA. Still, they worried about the other commercial crops -
particularly soybeans - covered by the CBD but not by the ITPGRFA.
In addition, they expressed concern about domestic rules on
collecting genetic resources in situ because the requirements were
burdensome and time-consuming. For now, they said agriculture

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researchers had sufficient work-arounds using existing ex situ
collections of seeds that they could still conduct the research they
wanted to do.


12. (SBU) The Ministry of Science and Technology's Secretary for
Research and Development Luiz Antonio Barreto de Castro told Science
Counselor that his ministry is interested in working closer with the
USG on biotechnology and genetic resources, whether domestically or
internationally. He thought this effort should build on the rich
network of over 3,000 Brazilians researchers who are in the United
States as students or scientists, as well as those previously
trained in the United States. Barreto saw an evolution in the
Environment Ministry's views on biotechnology in that they are less
hostile. However, he pointed to a lack of a domestic biotechnology
industry in the health sector, which undermined possible support for
biotechnology from the powerful Health Ministry. COMMENT. The
Ministry of Science and Technology recognizes that it should be
supportive of biotechnology, however, in recent years it has been
wary of taking sides in inter-ministerial disputes, much to
disappointment of the Agriculture Ministry. END COMMENT.

13. (SBU) Pedro Binsfeld an advisor in the Health Ministry's
Secretariat for Science, Technology and Strategic Inputs expressed
caution about biotechnology in the health sector. He told Science
Counselor that biotechnology products raised serious concerns about
their safety, their efficiency, and their comparability with
non-biotechnology equivalents. Binsfeld stressed that the GOB would
defend its interests and was not for or against any country in
international meetings. Nonetheless, he claimed there was a lack of
coordination within the USG on biomedicines. He called
"bioterrorism" any violation of Brazil's regime on biotechnology.
Binsfeld thought that with respect to medical biotechnology, the
Europeans employed the best regime.


14. (SBU) The Ministry of External Relations' (MRE) Director of the
Environment Office Fernando Coimbra told Science Counselor that the
MRE had the challenge of trying to bring the differing views of the
various ministries into a GOB position at international conferences.
Coimbra was fully cognizant of the importance of Brazil's
agriculture sector and the vital role biotechnology played. He
complained of the European hostility to agriculture biotechnology
and also that of various environmental groups. Still, Coimbra
stressed that the MRE was principally the mediator in establishing
the GOB's positions in international organization, rather than the
leading voice.

15. (SBU) Nonetheless, the MRE's default position for many
multilateral negotiations is the G-77 position. Regarding
biotechnology the MRE is not instinctively inclined to follow the
Europeans, but it is cautious also about being too closely
associated with the USG. The Agriculture Ministry has made
significant headway in persuading the MRE about Brazil's national
interests in supporting agriculture biotechnology.

16. (SBU) COMMENT. Brazilian farmers have enthusiastically embraced
biotechnology, as described in detail in the FAS's recent annual
biotechnology report. This development, combined with the
installation of a more pragmatic leadership in the Environment
Ministry, provides a strong basis for encouraging the GOB to be more
supportive of biotechnology in international settings. There is
still deep set skepticism about biotechnology, especially in the
medical field. Nonetheless, a visit by the Secretary's Science and
Technology Advisor would present an excellent opportunity to
capitalize on these positive developments. END COMMENT.


© Scoop Media

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