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Viewing cable 09MADRID482, SPAIN'S BIOTECH CROP UNDER THREAT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MADRID482 2009-05-19 12:01 2010-12-19 12:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Madrid
VZCZCXRO7893
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMD #0482/01 1391201
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191201Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0645
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 3981
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 000482

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE AND EEB/TPP/ABT/BTT
USDA FOR OSTA/LIZ JONES, OCRA/JOE KOWALSKI, OFSO/DAVE YOUNG
USEU for AGRMINCOUNS DEBRA HENKE
USEU ALSO FOR APHIS AGRMINCOUNS PETER FERNANDEZ
PARIS FOR AGRMINCOUNS ELIZABETH BERRY
BERLIN for AGRCOUNS BOBBY RICHEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON TBIO SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN'S BIOTECH CROP UNDER THREAT

MADRID 00000482 001.2 OF 002


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

SUMMARY

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
Parliaments.

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
Summary.

BACKGROUND

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.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

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
campaign.

DUNCAN