WikiLeaks / Cablegate: US Biotech Firms Driving Government Policy

Reading the following leak it becomes clear that there is really no dividing line between government policy in the USA and corporate activity. Not a wisp of gossamar separates the wording of a cable written by the US Ambassador for France, Craig Stapleton, and any similar memo written by the CEO of Monsanto. Paragraphs 6 and 7 are key.

Richard Brenneman makes the excellent point that “the document…offers unimpeachable confirmation of GMO critics’ claims that Washington has been targeting them”. The second cable in this post, entitled “Spain’s biotech crop under threat”, shows blatant hand-holding by Monsanto with regards to the potential risk to GMO trade in Spain, including evidence that the Spanish government has received backhanders from the GMO corporations.

This is perhaps the most damaging leak with regards to GMOs so far in the Cablegate series.


Reference ID: 07PARIS4723
Created: 2007-12-14 16:04
Released: 2010-12-19 12:12
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Origin: Embassy Paris


C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 004723




E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2017


REF: A)PARIS 5364, B)PARIS 4255, C)PARIS 4170, D)PARIS 3970, E)PARIS
3967, F)PARIS 3853, G)PARIS 3429, H)PARIS 3399, I)PARIS 3429

Classified by Ambassador Craig Stapleton; reasons 1.4 (b), (d) and

¶1. (C) Summary: Mission Paris recommends that that the USG reinforce
our negotiating position with the EU on agricultural biotechnology by
publishing a retaliation list when the extend "Reasonable Time
Period" expires. In our view, Europe is moving backwards not
forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with
Austria, Italy and even the Commission. In France, the "Grenelle"
environment process is being implemented to circumvent science-based
decisions in favor of an assessment of the "common interest."
Combined with the precautionary principle, this is a precedent with
implications far beyond MON-810 BT corn cultivation. Moving to
retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to
EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices.
In fact, the pro-biotech side in France -- including within the farm
union -- have told us retaliation is the only way to begin to begin
to turn this issue in France. End Summary.

¶2. (C) This is not just a bilateral concern. France will play a
leading role in renewed European consideration of the acceptance of
agricultural biotechnology and its approach toward environmental
regulation more generally. France expects to lead EU member states
on this issue during the Slovene presidency beginning in January and
through its own Presidency in the second half of the year. Our
contacts have made clear that they will seek to expand French
national policy to a EU-wide level and they believe that they are in
the vanguard of European public opinion in turning back GMO's. They
have noted that the member states have been unwilling to support the
Commission on sanctioning Austria's illegal national ban. The GOF
sees the ten year review of the Commission's authorization of MON 810
as a key opportunity and a review of the EFSA process to take into
account societal preferences as another (reftels).

¶3. (C) One of the key outcomes of the "Grenelle" was the decision to
suspend MON 810 cultivation in France. Just as damaging is the GOF's
apparent recommitment to the "precautionary principle." Sarkozy
publicly rejected a recommendation of the Attali Commission (to
review France's competitiveness) to move away from this principle,
which was added to the French constitution under Chirac.

¶4. (C) France's new "High Authority" on agricultural biotech is
designed to roll back established science-based decision making. The
recently formed authority is divided into two colleges, a scientific
college and a second group including civil society and social
scientists to assess the "common interest" of France. The
authority's first task is to review MON 810. In the meantime,
however, the draft biotech law submitted to the National Assembly and
the Senate for urgent consideration, could make any biotech planting
impossible in practical terms. The law would make farmers and seed
companies legally liable for pollen drift and sets the stage for
inordinately large cropping distances. The publication of a registry
identifying cultivation of GMOs at the parcel level may be the most
significant measure given the propensity for activists to destroy GMO
crops in the field.

¶5. (C) Both the GOF and the Commission have suggested that their
respective actions should not alarm us since they are only
cultivation rather than import bans. We see the cultivation ban as a
first step, at least by anti-GMO advocates, who will move next to ban
or further restrict imports. (The environment minister's top aide
told us that people have a right not to buy meat raised on biotech
feed, even though she acknowledged there was no possible scientific
basis for a feed based distinction.) Further, we should not be
prepared to cede on cultivation because of our considerable planting
seed business in Europ
e and because farmers, once they have had
experience with biotech, become its staunchest supporters.

¶6. Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target
retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU
since this is a
collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the
worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and
must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an
early victory.

¶7. (C) President Sarkozy noted in his address in Washington to the
Joint Session of Congress that France and the United States are
"allies but not aligned." Our cooperation with France on a range of
issues should continue alongside our engagement with France and the
EU on ag biotech (and the next generation of environmental related
trade concerns.) We can manage both at the same time and should not
let one set of priorities detract from the other.

PARIS 00004723 002 OF 002



Reference ID: 09MADRID482
Created: 2009-05-19 12:12
Released: 2010-12-19 12:12
Origin: Embassy Madrid





E.O. 12958: N/A

MADRID 00000482 001.2 OF 002

¶1. (U) This is an action request. See paragraph 12.


¶2. (SBU) Spain's MON810 corn crop is under threat from an emerging
well-coordinated campaign to ban cultivation of genetically
engineered seed varieties in Europe, according to industry sources.
The campaign has gained strength and speed in recent months with the
April 14 German ban on MON810 cultivation - which followed an EU
vote supporting maintenance of a ban in Austria and Hungary.
Legislation which threatens MON810 cultivation has also been
introduced recently in both the Basque and Catalonian Regional

¶3. (SBU) In response to invocation of a safeguard and emergency
measure to suspend MON810 cultivation in France, the European Food
Safety Authority's (EFSA) Scientific Opinion of October 29, 2008
found no new scientific evidence of risk related to MON810
plantings. The EFSA report, however, is being questioned. Monsanto
maintains that anti-MON810 momentum was gained by a de facto
agreement between the Government of France and Greenpeace/Friends of
the Earth whereby the GOF would support the anti-GMO movement and
environmental activists would turn a blind eye to Sarkozy's nuclear
energy initiatives. A senior Spanish agriculture official has
expressed concern that Spain is under increasing pressure within the
EU. Post requests renewed USG support of Spain's science-based
agricultural biotechnology position, as well as support for a
non-USG science fellow to interact with Spanish interlocutors. End


¶4. (SBU) Spain was the first EU country to grow genetically
modified (GM) corn and now cultivates nearly 75 percent of the EU's
MON810 corn crop - nearly 200,000 acres. During a May 13 meeting
with Monsanto's Director for Biotechnology for Spain and Portugal,
Embassy officials were told that Spain is increasingly becoming a
target of anti-biotechnology forces within Europe and that Spain's
cultivation of MON810 corn was under serious threat. The sentiment
echoed by supporters of agricultural biotechnology regarding a ban
on MON810 cultivation in Spain is that "If Spain falls, the rest of
Europe will follow."

¶5. (SBU) Anti-biotechnology activists in the EU have gained
momentum in recent weeks. On April 14, Germany announced a ban on
the cultivation of MON810 following similar bans in France, Austria,
Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg, despite EU approval of MON810 as
safe for commercial use. This followed a March 2 vote in which
Spain joined with France and other EU corn producers to allow
Austria and Hungary to maintain their provisional bans on the use
and sale of MON810 corn. According to Ministry sources, this
surprising vote did not represent a change in position by Spain on
biotechnology; rather, technical considerations justified upholding
the provisional bans pending EU-wide renewal of MON810 corn.
Industry contacts, however, assert that Spain's vote was a political
gesture to thank French President Sarkozy for helping to arrange
President Zapatero's presence at the November 2008 G-20 financial
summit in Washington.

¶6. (U) The GOS has traditionally been a strong supporter of biotech
corn due to high domestic demand for feed corn within the livestock
sector. Spain is the number two pork producer within the EU and the
number one corn importer. GM corn plantings in Spain reached nearly
200,000 acres in 2008 - approximately 30 percent of total Spanish
feed corn production. Cultivation of MON810 corn is mainly
concentrated in Aragon and Catalonia, where the European corn borer,
which MON810 protects against, is a serious pest. The feed compound
industry and the livestock sector are supportive of GM corn. Within
the agriculture sector, only left-wing farmers' unions have negative
opinions of GMOs.


¶7. (SBU) Anti-GMO forces periodically attempt to build support for
a prohibition on GMO cultivation in Spain. According to Monsanto's
biotechnology director, two left-wing parties have recently
discussed introducing such legislation in the Spanish parliament. A
Socialist (ruling) party Member offered reassurances that his party
would oppose such a move, but advised that the issue bears watching,
especially given the government's uncertain majority.

¶8. (U) In addition, there have been worrisome developments in
several of Spain's 17 autonomous communities, which, led by

MADRID 00000482 002.2 OF 002

Catalonia and the Basque Country, continue to seek more autonomy via
a vis the central government. In March 2008, the Canary Islands
were declared GM-free. Since fewer than 1,380 acres of corn are
grown in the Canaries, this is considered mostly a symbolic gesture.
However, on February 5, 2009, an initiative was proposed in the
Catalonian Regional Parliament to declare the region GM-free. The
initiative has not yet come up for a vote, and its prospects are
uncertain. Such an action would be cause for serious concern, since
Catalonia is a center of GMO corn cultivation. More recently, on
April 21, 2009, the Basque Parliament passed stringent biotech
coexistence legislation which could likely force farmers to halt
planting of MON810 due to strict compliance issues. The Spanish
Association of Biotechnology Industries (ANOVE) will challenge the
Basque legislation.

¶9. (U) In February 2008, France notified to the EC an Order
suspending cultivation of MON810 and further invoked safeguard and
emergency measures to provisionally prohibit the cultivation of
MON810 on its territory. In response, the Scientific Panel on
Genetically Modified Organisms of the European Food Safety Authority
(EFSA) issued a Scientific Opinion on October 29, 2008. In its
report, the panel assessed the package of documents supporting and
justifying the French safeguard clause and the duration of the
invoked measure. The panel concluded that, in terms of risk to
human and animal health and the environment, the information
provided by France presented no new scientific evidence that would
invalidate the previous risk assessments of MON810. It further
concluded that invoking the safeguard clause and emergency measure
was scientifically unjustified. The EU is currently facing the
MON810 cultivation renewal process. The renewal is the legal
condition for the lifting of the ban under French law. Within the
scientific review carried out by EFSA, the Spanish authorities and
experts have completed the environmental risk assessment for MON810
corn. According to Monsanto, the EFSA Scientific Opinion report is
being questioned. The GOF has sent letters to different Member
States urging them to sign up and request an in-depth examination of
the application for the renewal of MON810.

¶10. (SBU) Monsanto asserts that anti-MON810 momentum was gained by
a de facto agreement between the Government of France and
Greenpeace/Friends of the Earth whereby the GOF would support the
GMO-free movement if activists turned a blind eye to President
Sarkozy's nuclear energy initiatives. In Spain, agricultural
factions against agricultural biotechnology include the
environmental side of MARM and organic farmers. Increasingly,
consumers are also expressing negative attitudes toward genetically
modified crops. On April 18th, the newspaper "El Pas" conducted a
survey on whether or not GM food should be prohibited. The
following results were obtained after a one month period: 85 percent
voted "Yes, they can be dangerous" and 15 percent voted "No, they
are absolutely safe".

¶11. (SBU) Secretary of State and Deputy Minister Josep Puxeu
contacted the Charg d'Affaires on April 22, following the Basque
vote on coexistence and the German ban, to express his concern that
the Government of Spain is under increasing pressure to ban MON810
cultivation. Puxeu, a long-time supporter of agricultural
biotechnology, lamented that it was "the most complicated week of my
life." He asked that the USG maintain pressure on Brussels to keep
agricultural biotechnology an option for Member States and requested
that the USG work together with Spain in this endeavor. Deputy
Minister Puxeu is becoming increasingly isolated on biotech issues
at the Ministry OF Environment and and Rural and Marine Affairs
(MARM) due to the rising influence of environmental officials within
MARM as well as the increased influence of France within the Spanish
government. While MARM Minister Espinosa has come out publicly in
favor of genetic engineering in agriculture, her views on issues
will generally reflect those of the Zapatero Administration which
has recently shown itself to be fickle when it comes to voting
against France's anti-GMO interests.

¶12. (SBU) ACTION REQUESTED: In response to recent urgent requests
by MARM State Secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto, post requests
renewed USG support of Spain's science-based agricultural
biotechnology position through high-level USG intervention in
support of the EFSA findings. Post also requests USG support for a
non-USG science fellow to meet with influential Spanish
interlocutors on this issue and assistance with developing an
agricultural biotechnology action plan for Spain. Post would also
welcome any comments from other posts concerning the anti-GMO


2 thoughts on “WikiLeaks / Cablegate: US Biotech Firms Driving Government Policy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s