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Cablegate: Pretoria's Proposal for Biotechnology Funds

VZCZCXRO6828
RR RUEHDU RUEHJO
DE RUEHSA #0075/01 0131326
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131326Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0875
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 2034
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 7499
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 9855
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 1565

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 000075

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EB/TPP/ABT, OES/PCI, AND AF/S
DEPT PASS EB/TPP/MTAA/ABT - MSZYMANSKI, JBOBO
USDA FAS FOR OSTA/NTPMB - ARUDE, EPORTER, MCHESLEY
USDA FAS FOR OCBD - KSKUPNIK, DEVANS
USDA FAS FOR OCRA - TMACLAUGHLIN, JROTHSCHILD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD KPAO PREL SENV SF TBIO
SUBJECT: PRETORIA'S PROPOSAL FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY FUNDS

REF: A) STATE 122732

1. Summary: Embassy Pretoria's proposal for the FY 2010
Biotechnology Outreach Strategy Fund requests funding to bring two
experts in the subject matter to South Africa to meet with
regulators, academia, consumers, and legislators on currently
relevant topics such as regulation of stacked genes, low level
presence and labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO) on
foods, and liability and redress. This proposal was developed among
EST/Econ, PAS, and USDA/FAS. Additionally, we considered SAG and
NGO representatives' input to establish this proposal.

2. While the topics of these outreach events are the same as in
previous years, continued exposure at a deeper level will build on
knowledge gained in previous activities and will allow the audience
to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and solutions. End
Summary.

3. Over the past 5 years, using funding from State/EB and USDA,
FAS/Pretoria developed relationships with key partners in Southern
Africa, the United States, and international organizations to
address regulatory and public acceptance issues pertaining to
biotechnology. As these relationships developed, trust and respect
also grew between the USG and the biotech industry, public and
private. To continue to build on these relationships, we are
requesting funding again this year to bring U.S. experts to engage
the local industry and stakeholders in discussions on labeling of
GMOs, liability and redress, stacked genes, and regional
harmonization.

Activity
---------
4. Two U.S. experts will travel to South Africa for two weeks to
conduct meetings and workshops in different cities with legislators,
academia, consumers, and regulators to discuss relevant topics of
labeling of GMOs, liability and redress, management of stacked genes
and regional harmonization.

5. The U.S. experts would travel to Cape Town, the seat of
Parliament, for 5 days to meet with different Parliamentary
Portfolio committees. These committees are the key players in
passing laws and regulations relating to biotechnology. However,
many committee members are not educated about biotechnology and
often make decisions based on erroneous information.

6. Post proposes to hold special meetings for media contacts
specifically associated with the agricultural and biotechnology
sectors to discuss biotechnology regulations and developments in the
United States. Additionally, PAS will arrange press opportunities
for the visiting expert to engage journalists that cover
agriculture, agribusiness and ag biotechnology issues. These could
include roundtables with print media, one-on-one interviews, radio
call-in programs, etc.

7. Additional opportunities for these experts will be arranged to
address biotech stakeholders include business breakfasts and
workshops in Pretoria, as well as meetings with the GMO Executive
Council and Advisory committees and relevant government agencies.


8. Length of Program: Two weeks (5 days in Pretoria and 5 days in
Cape Town, plus one weekend in between the two segments)

Cost for 2 experts:
TOTAL: $22,500.00

Airfare (US - Johannesburg - Cape Town - US):$8,000.00
Hotel and Per Diem (14 days): $8,500.00
Meeting Rooms: $4,000.00
Miscellaneous (materials, invitations, etc) $2,000.00
QMiscellaneous (materials, invitations, etc) $2,000.00

Background
----------
9. Misinformation and misperceptions about biotechnology threaten
the acceptance of U.S. agricultural and food products derived from
biotechnology in Southern Africa and threaten U.S. producers' access
to international markets. It is expected U.S. exports to these
markets will continue to increase in 2009 and beyond as consumer
demand increases and these countries begin to diversify their
suppliers to include the United States. USDA cooperators' interest
in conducting activities in these markets is also on the rise,
leading to increased interest in the United States as a supplier.

PRETORIA 00000075 002 OF 002


10. Several key countries in Sub-Saharan Africa passed biosafety
legislation in the past year, or are in the process of formulating
their policies and have requested help from USDA. These include
South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius. All have
drafted biosafety policies and are currently working on
implementation procedures. They are very pro-biotech, but admittedly
lack the necessary understanding of many aspects of biotech and
genetic engineering. There is a significant need for training on
implementation procedures, characteristics of efficient regulatory
frameworks, producer and consumer awareness strategies, et al.

11. The lack of basic understanding of agricultural biotechnology
among consumers, members of the media and political decision-makers
is a critical impediment to a rational, pragmatic acceptance of the
technology. The African public remains easily persuaded by
misinformation regarding the basic risks, benefits and regulatory
approaches to best evaluate the benefits of adopting agricultural
biotechnology. Biosafety committees in the region remain inactive
or unsure where to focus their attention due to a lack of
understanding of the benefits of biotechnology. Due to this lack of
activity, science-based information in the regulatory
decision-making process is minimal and opponents of biotechnology
are the most vocal input, which could be reflected in new
regulations concerning GMOs.

12. One of the most significant new regulations is a South African
consumer protection law that includes mandatory labeling of all food
products containing GMOs. Introduced by the Department of Trade and
Industry, without consultation with the GMO Act competent
authorities (Departments of Health and Agriculture), this law
requires mandatory labeling of GMOs for all domestic and imported
food products.

13. The bill includes a significant change to product liability,
where a consumer no longer has to demonstrate that a producer was
negligent before receiving compensation for injury. The new
legislation puts the burden of proof on the producer or supplier,
meaning that a consumer can sue almost any producer or supplier for
harm or injury that is the result of a failed, defective, or unsafe
product. Almost every supplier must comply with the bill, even if
the supplier does not reside in South Africa. Foreign producers who
sell products through a South African agent for use in South Africa
would be included under the bill.

14. These regulations will have a significant impact not only on
regional trade, but also on U.S. exports to South Africa, since all
products will have to be labeled and producers/suppliers could be
held liable for any purported harm their product may have caused.

15. Currently, South Africa does not allow the import of U.S. maize
due to asynchronous approval of biotechnology events (i.e. the
United States has approved events that are not approved in South
Africa). If events approved in the United States were also approved
in South Africa, there would be a greater opportunity for trade.
The precedence this sets is significant as new events begin to
appear in different crops, such as wheat - the United State's top
export to the region - increasing the likelihood of an embargo on
Qexport to the region - increasing the likelihood of an embargo on
U.S. wheat until the time the event has been approved in the
region.

16. Zero tolerance for adventitious presence is another issue under
discussion in these countries (South Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius,
and Mozambique) as is the management of stacked genes.

17. South Africa is seen as a leader in the biotechnology front in
Africa, and many neighboring countries look to South Africa, for
guidance and direction. South Africa is an ally of the United
States in that they have a progressive biosafety policy in place,
based on sound science and backed by an informed, forward-thinking
GMO Council and Advisory Committee. However, uneducated parties can
introduce legislation that will affect the administration of the
current GMO biosafety legislation, such as the consumer protection
law. Other countries that look to South Africa for guidance might
adopt similar legislations that would affect trade.
GIPS

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