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Cablegate: Embassy Quito Request for Funding of Biotech Proposal


DE RUEHQT #0054/01 0152234
R 152233Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Embassy Quito Request for Funding of Biotech Proposal

REF: 09 STATE 122732

1. Summary. In response to reftel, Embassy Quito is requesting
funding for a biotech proposal as part of the Department of State's
2010 Biotech Outreach Program. The project is focused on
informing a key group of journalists who, by providing accurate
information on biotech issues, have the potential for improving the
domestic debate on biotechnology during this critical time when new
legislation is being developed. The program consists of a trip to
the United States covering both policy and technology issues and
would cost close to $23,000. Proposal details are provided below.
End Summary.

Background on Biotech in Ecuador

2. Ecuador's acceptance of biotechnology is currently at a
crossroads. The 2008 Ecuadorian Constitution declares Ecuador free
of transgenic crops and seeds while also granting the President the
power to allow the importation and planting of biotech commodities.
Several laws concerning biotechnology exist but are not enforced.
At the same time, new laws and regulations are being drafted in
order to fulfill the Constitution's mandate. Much of this
legislation would restrict the trade of biotech crops and seeds if
passed and enforced. The Presidential exception in the
Constitution was added only as a result of lobbying from Ecuador's
influential agro-businesses. Ecuador's Food Sovereignty Law of
February 2009, which was intended to provide specifics on the
regulation of biotechnology, only reinforces the constitutional
mandate. As a consequence, it is expected that the National
Assembly will approve legislation that will affect biotechnology,
the use and commercialization of seeds, and consumer protection
issues regarding genetically modified organisms.

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3. Currently, Ecuador imports biotech commodities from its
international partners, including the United States, Argentina, and
Brazil. There have not been any recent disruptions in the
importation of biotech commodities but, because of current and
pending legislation, this could change.

Program Proposal

4. Post requests funding to support the travel of five Ecuadorian
journalists to the United States to participate in a one-week
biotech tour. Public opinion on biotechnology in Ecuador is
currently ambivalent about biotechnology and most of the general
public appears to be uneducated about the topic. The purpose of
the biotechnology tour for journalists is to educate opinion-makers
about biotechnology with the goal of generating honest,
science-based biotech news coverage consistent with the USG
position on biotechnology. See paragraph 12 for a notional
itinerary for the program.


5. The total estimated cost for the program is $22,900. The
breakdown of costs is as follows:

-Airfare, lodging/M&IE, and US visa for each journalist is $2, 884.
Total $14,420.

-Airfare and lodging/M&IE for a translator is $980.

-Translation services are estimated at $5,000.

-Miscellaneous is $2500.

Target Audience

6. The target audience for this program is Ecuadorian journalists
from major newspapers and TV shows who specialize in public opinion
pieces (editorials), scientific journalism, and day-time TV shows.
The ultimate goal of the program is to reach the Ecuadorian
consumer through their coverage of biotech issues.

Specific agricultural biotech issues to be addressed

7. Specific Agricultural Biotech Issues to be Addressed within the
Proposed Program Include:

- Global and U.S. perspective on biotechnology

- Biodiversity of agricultural crops and the effects of U.S.
agriculture off the farm

- Positive impacts of biotechnology (focusing on the state of

- U.S. industry perspective on biodiversity and biosafety and

- Regulation of biotechnology

- Perception of biotechnology

Purpose and Impact of Project

8. The United States supports the production of biotech
commodities and seeds. Soybeans and corn, two of the United
States' top export commodities, are commonly produced through the
use of biotechnology. As Ecuador is a commercial market for these
products, (In 2008, the United States exported over $33 million in
soybean meal and over $44 million in coarse grains to Ecuador), it
is in the interest of the USG to garner public support for
biotechnology. Pro-biotech coverage from trusted Ecuadorian media
will help to change public opinion. A positive public opinion
towards biotechnology will undoubtedly affect future legislation.
Pro-biotech press coverage will lay the foundation for positive
opinion and help prevent public outcry if/when the President or
National Assembly allow for biotech testing and planting.

Length of Program

9. The duration of the program is one business week. The
delegation will arrive in the United States on Sunday and depart
Saturday after meetings in Washington DC and St. Louis, Missouri.

International Information Programs (IIP)

10. Post is not requesting resources from IIP and can arrange for
speakers/experts during the program.

Post Contact Information

11. ECON: Janice Fair;

FAS: Eugene Philhower;, and Henry

12. Notional Itinerary for Proposed Biotech Trip to United States
for Ecuadorian Journalists


Delegation arrives in Washington


-Global Developments and U.S. Perspectives on Biotechnology -
USDA/Foreign Agricultural Service

-Discussion on Biodiversity of Agricultural Crops and the Effects
of US Agriculture on the off-farm Environment - USDA/Foreign
Agricultural Service

-Discussion on Positive Impacts of Biotechnology and the State of
Kansas - Representative of the

Department of Agriculture, State of
Kansas (TBC)

-Industry Prospective on Biodiversity/Biosafety and Coexistence -
Biotechnology Industry Organization

-Presentation and Discussion on the U.S. Approach to the Regulation
of Products for Environmental Safety - U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency

- Biotechnology Coordinator for the Office of the Secretary, U.S.
Department of Agriculture

-Presentation and Discussion of Perceptions of Food Biotechnology


Schmidt Farms (MD)

Tour of Chesapeake Farms Research Facility (MD)


Delegation travels to St. Louis


U.S. Soybean Export Council

Stemme Farms

Tour of Donald Danforth Plant and Science Center


National Corn Growers Association

Monsanto-Chesterfield Village Research Center

Tour of East Hannibal Elevator


Delegation returns to Ecuador

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