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Cablegate: Biotech Attitudes in Crimea and Southern Ukraine

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P 181414Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8835
INFO CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
USDA FAS WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS KYIV 002018


STATE FOR EEB/TPP/ABT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD SENV UP

SUBJECT: BIOTECH ATTITUDES IN CRIMEA AND SOUTHERN UKRAINE

REF: STATE 77493


1. (SBU) Summary. A biotechnology roadshow sparked both controversy
and enthusiasm in Kyiv and three of Ukraine's leading agricultural
centers. U.S.-based biotechnology expert Michael Phillips held
media workshops, speeches at leading agricultural universities, and
a lengthy presentation at the Crimean Ministry of Agricultural
Policy. On balance, students and scientists were most receptive to
Phillips' presentations, while the official Crimean audience reacted
with skepticism to Phillips' pro-biotech approach. As requested in
reftel, a breakdown of expenditures for the program is provided in
paragraph 9. End summary.


BIOTECH OUTREACH PROGRAM
------------------------

2. (SBU) With funding provided by a STATE/EEB grant (reftel),
Michael Phillips toured four Ukrainian cities on October 12-16 to
promote the use of biotechnology in agricultural production. His
outreach travel, organized jointly by the Economic Section and the
Foreign Agriculture Service staff of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, was
initiated in Kyiv, continued in Odesa and Kherson (southwestern
Ukraine) and concluded in Simferopol, the capital of the Autonomous
Republic of Crimea (Crimea). Mr. Phillips spoke at events organized
by the Ukrainian Society of Cell Biologists and Biotechnologists,
local universities, and the Ministry of Agricultural Policy in
Crimea. The events featured discussions on food security and the
economic viability of biotechnology, targeting journalists,
scientists, and policy makers.


JOURNALISTS SHOW MIXED ATTITUDES
--------------------------------

3. (SBU) Media workshops for local journalists in Odesa, Kherson and
Simferopol highlighted U.S. approaches to biotechnology,
particularly U.S. regulations on labeling agricultural products.
Phillips spoke on panels with Kyiv-based representatives of Monsanto
and Pioneer, as well as Ukrainian scientists and experts on
biotechnology. About 20 journalists from local newspapers and TV
stations attended each workshop. In Simferopol, Mr. Phillips
granted three exclusive interviews to local TV stations.

4. (SBU) Journalists had mixed attitudes toward biotechnology. Many
questions reflected negative biases, though some participants
appeared to desire information on the technology and its application
in the United States. A telling comment came from the Krymskoe Ekho
(Echo of Crimea) newspaper, which lamented the lack of available
information: "What do we know about GMOs? Only that they are bad --
nothing more." Articles published after the media roundtables were
both sympathetic to and critical of biotechnology.

5. (SBU) A Monsanto representative concluded that the media events,
nonetheless, revealed a silver lining. While published articles
were often neutral or skeptical of biotechnology, not every piece
was negative, which in itself the Monsanto representative viewed as
progress. This was due, he said, to the fact that Ukrainians were
"fed up" with the "propaganda" campaign against biotechnology and
wanted to hear alternative opinions.


SCIENTISTS AND STUDENTS SUPPORTIVE
----------------------------------

6. (SBU) Mr. Phillips visited and gave guest lectures at the
Ukrainian Laboratory of Quality and Safety of Agricultural Products
in Kyiv (a research institute affiliated with the National
Agricultural University of Ukraine), the Odesa State University, the
Kherson Agrarian University, and the Crimean Agronomy and
Technological University in Simferopol. Audiences (as large as 300,
consisting of students and researchers) were typically receptive to
the lectures and eager to discuss health and safety issues.


CRIMEAN OFFICIALS SKEPTICAL
---------------------------

7. (SBU) Mr. Phillips also gave a presentation for a dozen
representatives of the Ministry of Agricultural Policy of Crimea.
The First Deputy Minister dismissed the viability biotechnology,
questioning its safety and highlighting alleged long-term harmful
effects of products enhanced through biotechnology.


COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) Pushing against the tide of public opinion and the rhetoric
of policy makers, Post's biotechnology outreach in Ukraine appears
to have been appreciated by the business and scientific community.
Despite the enormous agricultural and industrial potential for
biotechnology applications in Ukraine, anti-biotech attitudes will
remain rooted among local citizens, absent viable information
campaigns and broader official endorsement. Post would like to
thank the Department for its continued support of biotech outreach
programs in Ukraine.


BUDGET
------

9. (SBU) Expenditures in support of the biotechnology outreach
totaled $7,290.12. A cost breakdown is as follows:

$2,726.10 Air Travel (roundtrip ticket from Washington, DC to Kyiv;
one-way ticket from Kyiv to Odesa; one-way ticket from Simferopol to
Kyiv)
$1,400.00 Speaker Fee for Michael Phillips (7 x 200/day)
$681.25 M&IE
$956.99 Interpretation in Kyiv, Odesa, Kherson, and Simferopol
$678.22 Transportation in Odesa, Kherson, and Simferopol
$149.38 Transportation in Kyiv (UAH 1210 based on an exchange rate
of UAH 8.1/1$
$118.00 Taxi to/from airport in Washington, DC
$481.25 Accommodation in Kyiv, Odesa, Kherson, and Simferopol
$98.93 Interpreter accommodation in Kherson and Simferopol

PETTIT

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