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Cablegate: Bangkok Proposal: 2009 Ag-Biotechnology Outreach Funds

VZCZCXRO9188
RR RUEHCHI RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #0125/01 0151048
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151048Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9585
INFO RUEHVN/AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE 5960
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH 3038
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 7826
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 7505
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 1053
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000125

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT - MSZYMANSKI AND JBOBO
USDA/FAS/OSTA/GILBERTA
USDA/FAS/OCRA/LUCHOKD
HO CHI MIN CITY FOR USDA MICHAEL RIEDEL
CHIANG MAI FOR KROSIER
DEPARTMENT FOR EB/TPP/ABT/BTT
EB/TPP/ABT/BTT/JFINN
EB/TPP/ABT/BTT/GCLEMENTS
FAS/OSTA/MHENNEY
DEPT PASS TO USTR/WEISEL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD TBIO KPAO BEXP SENV TH
SUBJECT: BANGKOK PROPOSAL: 2009 AG-BIOTECHNOLOGY OUTREACH FUNDS

REF: A) Bangkok 0111 and emailed Conference report to EEB; (B) 09
Bangkok 2551; (C) 09 STATE 122732 (D) 09 Bangkok 0141; (E) 09 State
94920 (F) Phnom Pehn 0128

1. SUMMARY: Embassy Bangkok requests $20,000 in funding from the
Bureau of Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs' (EEB) agricultural
biotechnology outreach funds for FY2010. EEB's funding would
support a workshop on the intersection of biotechnology, food
security, rice production and the four lower Mekong countries. Post
will also seek IIP speaker program funds to bring two U.S. speakers
to this workshop. Participants would include scientists and
agricultural policy officials from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and
Vietnam. The two-day workshop would seek to identify the threats to
rice production from climate change and from water infrastructure
management; update on rice biotech advances; show how biotechnology
can help solve food security issues; how biotech products can
improve export prospects; update on agricultural trade policy; and
how wetlands and protected area management should connect to
agricultural biotechnology. The conference would be in Bangkok and
would synchronize with the environment and education pillars of the
Secretary's Lower Mekong Initiative. END SUMMARY.

BACKGROUND - BIOTECH AND THAILAND
---------------------------------
2. Thailand is an important but difficult locale for biotech
outreach. (Refs B and D) As the world's number one rice exporter,
it is a key nation for regional food security. Climate change
threatens rice production via projected increases in flooding and
drought, as well as salinization of the Chao Praya waterway. There
is substantial biotech agricultural research in Thailand, but policy
lags over unsubstantiated concerns about safety for humans and the
environment, and misperceptions of trade implications, especially by
the NGO community. Embassy Bangkok used EEB and IIP outreach funds
to support a risk communication workshop in 2009 (Ref A). While the
workshop was well-received, there remain problems with acceptance of
GMOs despite well publicized concerns over looming climate change
effects. FAS Bangkok is considering a proposal, with which Embassy
economic section would support, for a follow-up workshop where
stakeholders could develop a risk communication strategy to move
biotech forward.


BACKGROUND - RICE, FOOD SECURITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
--------------------------------------------- ------
3. The Asian Development Bank has identified Cambodia, Burma and
Lao PDR as Asian countries most vulnerable to climate change.
According to an International Food Policy Research Institute study,
the Asia-Pacific region will experience the worst climate change
effect on rice and wheat yields worldwide, and decreased yields
could threaten the food security of 1.6 billion people in South
Asia. USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA) is
considering programmatic responses to rice, climate change and food
security, to include conducting forums that identify and promote
agriculture strategies which promote climate change adaptation;
examples include: promoting agro-forestry and integrated farming
systems; promoting research; and conducting pilots for upland rice
and other resilient crop varieties that withstand climate effects.
Embassy Bangkok's proposed conference would seek to fit into USAID
assessments and program strategies.

THE LOWER MEKONG INITIATIVE (LMI) AND FOOD SECURITY
--------------------------------------------- ------
4. Under LMI, the U.S. will collaborate with the Lower Mekong
countries - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - in the areas of
the environment and climate change, health, education and
infrastructure development. (Ref E) Another foreign policy
objective is global food security. Rice and other agricultural
production in the four Lower Mekong nations is complicated by not
only climate change, but also manmade water management plans. For
example, Thailand plans large diversions of the Mekong River on its
border, while Vietnam has made, and will continue to make, extensive
channeling of Mekong water to enhance rice production. China, of
course, also is planning several dams on the Mekong. Human
engineering for rice production may have unintended negative
consequences for the environment as well as rice production. For

BANGKOK 00000125 002 OF 003


this reason, one of the LMI activities is development of a
partnership between the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi
River Commission; lessons learned from Mississippi River management
(with rice a major crop in Louisiana and other states) will help
Mekong river management. As insecticide use in rice fields is
extensive in some lower Mekong areas, such as the Mekong delta, the
environmental benefits of GMOs could bring important allies from
environment officials. With rice and other crop production a key
element for the four nations, and the great promise that GMOs hold
for rice production in the face of climate change, an outreach event
that draws together these four countries, food security, rice and
the environment in the context of science and biotechnology is a
natural fit.

OUTREACH PROPOSAL
----------------
5. Embassy Bangkok, in collaboration with FAS, USAID/RDMA, Embassies
Vientiane, Phnom Phen and Hanoi would hold a conference on
"Agricultural Production, Climate Change and Biotechnology" for two
days in the spring of 2010. The conference would review climate
change predictions for rice and other crop production in the various
aspects of rice farming - dry and wet season, rice paddy and dry
land. Another presentation would relate rice and other crop
production to food security for Asia. Another would review how
manmade water management - irrigation diversions, canals, dykes and
hydropower dams, will affect rice production. The conference would
then move into the state of biotechnology for rice production in the
U.S. and China, what biotech could offer for rice producers, and
what the actual state of play is for rice biotech exports to, for
example, Europe under WTO rules. Targeted participants would be a
mix of scientists and government officials, the latter a mix of
environment, water management, trade and agriculture officials.

PLANNED PARTNERS
----------------
6. Post plans to collaborate with various partners to give
participants a range of considerations for how biotechnology
intersects with other disciplines. A conference date not later than
early April date would be preferred so that Embassy Bangkok can make
use of its visiting Embassy Science Fellow, a USDA soil scientist,
who can present on USDA knowledge and in particular, the synergy
that soil mapping can bring to rice production for the lower Mekong
countries. Under the LMI, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is
working to help model climate change and water management scenarios
for the Mekong River basin, and a USGS speaker could advance the LMI
while presenting on rice lessons learned from Louisiana and
California water management. A biotechnology U.S. speaker from the
IIP speaker program could cover the biotech presentation. Embassy
Bangkok proposes to use the February visit of Senior Advisor Jack
Bobo to help set the stage for a proposed conference, if accepted by
EEB. Embassy Bangkok would plan to make use of in-house expertise
with RDMA and FAS regional offices. Embassies Bangkok, Phnom Pehn,
Vientiane and Hanoi would cooperate to bring several key
participants from each country.

SUMMARY OF PROPOSAL
7. Per Ref C format:
-- Cost $20,000 in EEB funds for conference, to include site rental,
air fare and hotels for 15 participants from the three other LMI
countries; Post will seek IIP funding for two U.S. speakers and use
Thai experts for other speakers.
-- Target audiences: scientists and government officials in
environment, agriculture, trade
-- Ag-biotech issues to be addressed: rice production, climate
change, water management
-- How the project would help meet USG policy
Objectives: take difficulties with biotech policy in lower Mekong
countries and make positive connection with stakeholders other than
rice exporters to show how biotech can help lower Mekong countries,
the environment, food security and climate change preparations.
-- Proposed length of program: two days or less as funds allow;
-- IIP Speaker Program: yes, Post would want to use IIP
-- Post responsible officer: ESTH Hub officer Hal Howard for State,
howardhh@state.gov; (66) (2) 205-4712.


BANGKOK 00000125 003 OF 003


8. Post would evaluate the success of this event by four methods:
(1) the number and quality of participants, (2) the results of an
evaluation conducted at the conclusion of the event, (3) review of
media coverage and analysis of whether the program influenced public
perceptions, and (4) follow-ups with selected participants on how
knowledge acquired at the seminar was applied in their policy and
business decisions.

9. This proposal has been coordinated with Bangkok FAS and ESTHoffs
in Embassies Phnom Penh, Vientiane and Hanoi.

JOHN

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