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Cablegate: Fy 2010 Biotechnology Outreach Funds: Tunisia Proposal

VZCZCXYZ0003
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #0018/01 0131451
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131451Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7132
INFO RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 8591

UNCLAS TUNIS 000018

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

FOR EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT SZYMANSKI AND BOBO; ALSO FOR NEA/MAG
USDA FOR FAS/OCRA, FAS/OCBD, FAS/OSTA, AND FAS/OFSO
RABAT FOR AGRICULTURAL ATTACHE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAGR ETRD TBIO KPAO TS
SUBJECT: FY 2010 BIOTECHNOLOGY OUTREACH FUNDS: TUNISIA PROPOSAL

REF: 09 State 122732

-------
Summary
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Sensitive but Unclassified; please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Tunisia is at a crossroads on biotechnology policy.
Tunisian policymakers are aware of the potential for biotechnology
to address chronic problems such as crop disease, weeds, and
irregularity of rainfall. A draft law currently under consideration
would establish a legal framework for the importation,
commercialization, and usage of biotechnology in agriculture.
However, this effort may be compromised by skepticism on the use of
biotechnology, a reflection of Tunisia's close ties with Europe.
Embassy Tunis's proposed outreach project would target
decision-makers and opinion leaders in the administration,
legislature, and civil society to help assure the passage of viable
biotechnology legislation; counter EU policies by explaining the
benefits of biotechnology; and encourage the adoption in Tunisia of
a science-based regulatory approach to biotechnology. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Project Proposal: Tunisia Workshop on Ag-Biotech
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (U) Per reftel questions, Embassy Tunis's biotechnology outreach
project consists of the following:

-- Purpose and impact: A regional leader in science and technology,
Tunisia holds great potential for the advancement of ag-biotech and
science-based policies. There are currently a dozen major
institutes conducting biotech research on new molecular biology
technologies such as viral genome isolation, gene cloning,
transformation methods and functional genomics. However, although
Tunisia is a signatory to the Cartagena protocol, this activity is
limited to the research level because current Tunisian law does not
treat the use and release of products of agricultural biotechnology.


A draft law on the use, marketing, and import of biotech products is
currently under review and could be adopted by the National Assembly
before the end of 2010. As this review goes forward, Embassy Tunis
proposes to hold a one-day international workshop to address key
questions raised by the biotechnology legislation; to counter EU
policies by explaining the benefits of biotechnology; and to
encourage the adoption in Tunisia of a science-based regulatory
approach to biotechnology. By weighing in on biotechnology while
the draft law is under consideration, the project could have a
direct positive impact on the future application of biotech
agriculture in Tunisia.

-- Specific ag-biotech issues to be addressed: With growing
population pressure and limited farm lands, Tunisia's food security
is increasingly threatened by irregularity of rainfall. The
proposed workshop would address the advantages of agricultural
biotechnology in arid and semi-arid regions, including positive
effects on crops yields, biotechnology's impact on biodiversity and
the environment, and direct socio-economic benefits to Tunisian
farmers from the use of biotechnology in agriculture.

In order to address these issues, Embassy Tunis would host two to
three U.S. experts to serve as keynote speakers and roundtable
participants at the workshop. These experts would also conduct
targeted outreach to key stakeholders through Embassy-organized
visits to research centers, Ministry offices, and other venues.
(Note: Embassy proposes to recruit the speakers through the Bureau
of International Information Programs and will coordinate with the
Office of Agricultural Affairs in making the final selection. End
note.)

-- Target audiences: The workshop would target decision-makers and
opinion leaders in the administration, legislature, and civil
society. These include Government of Tunisia officials from the
Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, and Public Health, as well
as key stakeholders in the National Assembly. Other participants
would include researchers and faculty members of universities and
research institutions; leaders of associations and nongovernmental
institutions dealing with agricultural issues; private agri-business
firms; and farmers' cooperatives and associations. Embassy Tunis
would work to obtain positive media coverage of the event to further
project the positive benefits of biotech agriculture.

-- Length of program: The program would consist of a one-day
workshop with two days of meetings, consultations, and other
targeted outreach activities. The optimal time frame would be June
2010.

-- Name of post responsible officer and contact information:
Youssef Chahed, Agricultural Specialist, Foreign Agriculture
Service, (216) 71-107-486, ChahedY@state.gov

-- Cost of the proposed program: $25,000 for the following
components:
$15,000 for three speakers' airfare, per diem, and lodging;
$5,000 rental of conference space;
$5,000 supplies and representational costs.

GRAY

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