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Cablegate: Sri Lanka Proposal for Fy10 Biotechnology Outreach Strategy

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLM #0015/01 0081536
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081536Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1089
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3675
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000015

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD TBIO KPAO
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA PROPOSAL FOR FY10 BIOTECHNOLOGY OUTREACH STRATEGY
AND DEPARTMENT RESOURCES

EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT for Marcella Szymanski and Jack Bobo

REF: STATE 122732

1. Post appreciates the opportunity to request support for
biotechnology outreach programs for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has put
forward regulations which require prior approval and mandatory
labeling of GM food imports, which hinder U.S food exports to Sri
Lanka. The country's domestic agriculture sector is largely
inefficient, and biotechnology could be an important tool to
increase farmer productivity. Post requests funds to sponsor a
conference on biotechnology to pave the way to facilitate
biotechnology in Sri Lanka.

2. Biotechnology is discussed at many forums and its importance to
domestic agriculture is acknowledged by local scientists. However,
there is no significant progress towards application of the
technology in local farming with biotechnology being confined to
research activities. There is a lack of expertise and capacity
locally for transfer of the technology from research to field
applications.

Outreach Proposal for Sri Lanka
-------------------------------

3. Post requests funding to organize a biotechnology conference in
association with a private sector biotechnology research company.
Post aims to engage local biotechnology regulators and scientists to
discuss the practical applications of biotechnology. The conference
will also seek to address the subject of 'Genetic Modification of
Plants' to educate the research community in Sri Lanka on the
underlying technologies pertaining to plant biotechnology and on
their many beneficial applications for the alleviation of a variety
of contemporary problems. The focus will also stress the need for
transparent, science-based regulations that do not hinder trade.

4. Through the conference, Post also plans to emphasize to
agriculture scientists, university professors, and officials of the
Department of Agriculture the immense potential the technology
offers to increase food security, alleviate poverty, and protect the
environment. The conference will also demonstrate in a laboratory
environment, the technical aspects and finer points of genetic
modification of plants to participants.

Cost and Target Audience
------------------------

5. The Cost of the proposed program will be approximately $12,000.
These costs will include renting the hall for 5 days, speaker fees,
chemical and demonstration materials, stationery, utility costs, and
incidentals.

6. Target Audiences include: Government officials responsible for GM
food regulation; Private sector agricultural associations and
industry leaders; Agriculture scientists involved in biotechnology
research and officials responsible for development of domestic
agriculture; Agriculture University officials; and the National
Science Foundation.

Issues and Objectives
---------------------

7. Specific agbiotech issues to be addressed include: regulations
relating to prior approval and mandatory labeling of GM food (this
regulation is being gradually implemented and is affecting U.S. GM
food exports); and biotech in domestic agriculture. (NOTE: Biotech
is identified as an important tool to develop local agriculture in
Sri Lanka. However, there are no commercial biotech crops in
production. We plan to spur discussion on how the technology can
move from trials and tests to commercial production. We believe
that if biotechnology were introduced locally, regulators would not
be able to prevent imports of GM products. END NOTE.)

8. This project meets USG policy objectives because the conference
would help local scientists grasp technical aspects of plant gene
modification which would hopefully act as an impetus to apply
biotechnology in local agriculture. The expansion and advancement
of commercial biotechnology being a USG policy objective, this
conference would focus on converting research into applied
biotechnology.

9. Furthermore, the conference will focus on the potential of
biotechnology to develop domestic agriculture and instill serious
thinking among policymakers to adopt biotechnology in local farming.
This also meets the USG policy objective to help the country
achieve important food security needs. The arbitrary use of
insecticide is a major issue that biotechnology could effectively
resolve.

10. Post responsible officer: Ken Kero-Mentz, Economic Officer.

Email: KeroKA@state.gov, Tel: 94-11-249-8500.

Comment
-------

11. Sri Lanka is in an important position with respect to
biotechnology. The country has in place regulations to label,
regulate and control the import of GM foods and utilization of
biotechnology in domestic agriculture. USDA has expressed concern
about the contents of some of the regulations in various meetings
and forums with local counterparts, noting that the regulations are
not consistent with a scientific approach to the technology and
lacks transparency. As a result, the regulations are affecting US
food exports to the country. Local agricultural scientists have
identified biotechnology as a tool to improve the domestic
agriculture sector by increasing productivity and farmer incomes,
reducing insecticide usage, increasing yields and contributing to
overall food security objectives of the country. This conference,
coming at this point as post-war Sri Lanka opens up vast areas to
agriculture, is a vital part in our attempts to change the
conversation about biotech issues in the country. End comment.

BUTENIS

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