US embassy cable - 02VATICAN2268

AG-BIOTECH: GETTING THE VATICAN TO "YES."

Identifier: 02VATICAN2268
Wikileaks: View 02VATICAN2268 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Vatican
Created: 2002-05-10 05:21:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PHUM EAGR EAID ETRD TBIO PHUM EAGR EAID ETRD TBIO PHUM EAGR EAID ETRD TBIO VT VTPREL VTPREL Biotechnology
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 VATICAN 002268 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/WE (MENNUTI), EB (GADSDEN), EUR/PD/PA (HILTON) 
STATE PASS TO USDA FAS WASHDC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2012 
TAGS: PREL, PHUM, EAGR, EAID, ETRD, TBIO, PHUM, EAGR, EAID, ETRD, TBIO, PHUM, EAGR, EAID, ETRD, TBIO, VT, VTPREL, VTPREL, Biotechnology 
SUBJECT: AG-BIOTECH: GETTING THE VATICAN TO "YES." 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: AMBASSADOR JIM NICHOLSON, REASON E.O. 12958 1.5 (B), (D) 
. 
 
1.    (SBU) SUMMARY: BECAUSE OF THE VATICAN'S MORAL 
AUTHORITY, IT CAN INFLUENCE GOVERNMENTS' SOCIAL AND 
DEVELOPMENTAL POLICIES.  PERSUADING THE VATICAN TO COME OUT 
MORE FORTHRIGHTLY IN FAVOR OF GMOS IN THE CONTEXT OF 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        VATICA  02268  01 OF 03  100539Z 
AGRICULTURE IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD COULD INFLUENCE DECISION 
MAKERS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND WOULD UNDERCUT ANTI-GMO 
EUROPEAN ACTIVISTS' ARGUMENTS THAT HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO 
GMO-HOSTILE EU AND EU-MEMBER STATES' POLICIES. VATICAN 
DECISION MAKERS BELIEVE BIOTECHNOLOGY IS PROMISING, BUT THEY 
COUNSEL CAUTION AND PATIENCE BECAUSE OF UNKNOWN RISKS.  KEY 
TO MOVING THE VATICAN POSITION ON BIOTECHNOLOGY AND GMOS IS 
UNDERSTANDING ITS PEOPLE AND ITS FOREIGN POLICY LEITMOTIF: 
"THE TRUE GOOD OF THE HUMAN PERSON."  BEFORE VATICAN DECISION 
MAKERS WILL PROMOTE BIOTECH, THEY WILL WANT TO SEE 
ENVIRONMENTAL RISKS, AND SOCIAL AND CONSUMER CONCERNS 
ADDRESSED.   THE VATICAN NEEDS CONVINCING THAT BIOTECHNOLOGY 
AND GMOS ARE FOR TODAY, AND THAT THE BEST SCIENCE DOVETAILS 
WITH ITS LEITMOTIF. 
 
2.  (SBU)  WORKING WITH EMBASSY ROME BIOTECH ACTION GROUP, 
EMBASSY VATICAN IS MAKING THIS ISSUE A FOCUSED PRIORITY OF 
OUR ACTIVITIES DURING THE COMING MONTHS. BUILDING ON OUR 
PREVIOUS EFFORTS (E.G. AMBASSADOR HOSTED DINNER FOR GMO 
EXPERT C.C. PRAKASH), WE WILL FOCUS ON BRINGING IN U.S. 
EXPERTS FOR CONSULTATIONS, NOMINATING A VATICAN FOREIGN 
MINISTRY OFFICIAL FOR THE INTERNATIONAL VISITORS PROGRAM, 
PROPOSING ACTIVITIES ON THE MARGINS OF THE WORLD FOOD SUMMIT 
IN JUNE, AND HOSTING A VISIT TO INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL 
RESEARCH STATIONS FOR VATICAN EXPERTS LATER IN 2002.  WE HAVE 
A GOOD WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY TO PRESS THE VATICAN ON THIS 
WITH THE NEW CONVERGENCE BETWEEN IT AND THE USG ON THE FLIP 
SIDE OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECH -- HUMAN CLONING.  END SUMMARY. 
 
-------------------------------- 
VATICAN ON BIOTECH: "YES, BUT.." 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 03        VATICA  02268  01 OF 03  100539Z 
-------------------------------- 
 
3.  (U) ARTICLES IN "LA CIVILITA CATTOLICA," A SEMI-OFFICIAL 
VATICAN PUBLICATION, ARE VETTED BY THE VATICAN'S SECRETARIAT 
OF STATE BEFORE PUBLISHING. THEY TEND TO REFLECT CURRENT 
VATICAN POLICY AND PREOCCUPATIONS. JESUIT PRIEST AND FORMER 
PROFESSOR OF HUMAN GENETICS IN THE FACULTY OF MEDICINE AT 
GEMELLI CLINIC, ANGELO SERRA, RECENTLY WROTE AN ASSESSMENT OF 
PLANT AND ANIMAL BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR "LA CIVILTA CATTOLICA." 
SERRA'S ARTICLE OFFERS INSIGHTS ON VATICAN THINKING ON 
SEVERAL ASPECTS OF BIOTECHNOLOGY AND ITS APPLICATION, AND 
FORMULATES "NEW OBLIGATIONS" FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND 
SOCIETY. 
 
4.  (U) THE ARTICLE LAUDS COLLABORATION BETWEEN SCIENTISTS, 
REGULATORS, FARMERS AND ENVIRONMENTALISTS (PARTICULARLY IN 
THE U.S.) AS A SOURCE OF CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IN GMO'S, SERRA 
DEDICATES THE GREATER PART OF HIS ARTICLE TO THE "RISKS" OF 
BIOTECHNOLOGY. FIRSTLY, FOOD AND HEALTH SECURITY RISKS: THE 
INCREASE IN ALLERGIES, RESISTANCE TO ANTIBIOTICS AND OF MOST 
CONCERN, ECOLOGICAL DAMAGE. THE U.S. IS SINGLED OUT FOR BEING 
TOO BLITHE TOWARDS RISK ASSESSMENT, BUT SERRA ALSO CRITICIZES 
THE SOMETIMES-IRRATIONAL OPPOSITION OF ANTI-GM ORGANIZATIONS. 
 SECONDLY, SERRA SOLICITS GREATER CONSIDERATION OF THE RISKS 
TO BIODIVERSITY, GIVING EXAMPLES OF COUNTRIES LIKE ITALY AND 
INDIA THAT PRODUCE MOST OF THEIR FOOD FROM 10 OR SO STRAINS 
OF RICE, GRAIN AND CORN. SERRA CALLS FOR ATTENTIVE AND 
DETAILED OBSERVATION OF AREAS WHERE GMO ORGANISMS HAVE BEEN 
INTRODUCED TO AVOID THREATS TO BIODIVERSITY THAT MAY IN TURN 
ADVERSELY AFFECT HUMAN BEINGS. 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 04        VATICA  02268  01 OF 03  100539Z 
5.  (U) SERRA'S THIRD "RISK" DEALS WITH THE SOCIAL 
REPERCUSSIONS OF BIOTECHNOLOGY, PARTICULARLY ECONOMICS AND 
EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION. HE QUOTES FIGURES THAT PUT 81 PERCENT 
OF THE GLOBAL AGROCHEMICAL MARKET AND 37 PERCENT OF THE 
GLOBAL SEED MARKET IN THE HANDS OF TEN COMPANIES.  SERRA 
LAMENTS THE PRODUCTION OF STERILE PATENTED SEEDS BECAUSE IT 
CONCENTRATES GREAT WEALTH IN A FEW HANDS AND THREATENS THE 
SURVIVAL OF THE POOREST.  HE CALLS FOR STRATEGIES THAT ENSURE 
AN EQUITABLE ECONOMIC "EVENING OUT" THAT FAVOR THE POOREST. 
 
6.  (U) SERRA CONCLUDES BY DESCRIBING PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY'S 
GOAL AS "THE PERFECT", THE MEANS USED BY GENETIC ENGINEERING 
TO REACH THIS GOAL AS "EXTRAORDINARY," THE RESULTS AS 
"PROMISING," BUT THAT ITS CONSEQUENCES NEED ACCURATE ETHICAL 
REFLECTION. (NOTE: SERRA'S VIEWS TRACK VERY CLOSELY WITH THE 
VIEWS WE HAVE HEARD BOTH PUBLICLY AND PRIVATELY FROM KEY 
VATICAN INTERLOCUTORS IN THIS DISCUSSION, E.G., BISHOP 
SGRECCIA AND ARCHBISHOP MARCHETTO END NOTE.) 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
WHO'S WHO ON GMOS IN THE VATICAN; WHERE THEY STAND 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ5424 
 
PAGE 01        VATICA  02268  02 OF 03  100540Z 
ACTION EUR-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AGRE-00  AID-00   AMAD-00  EVG-00   ACQ-00 
      CIAE-00  COME-00  INL-00   DODE-00  PERC-00  SRPP-00  DS-00 
      EB-00    E-00     VC-00    HHS-01   TEDE-00  INR-00   VCE-00 
      MED-07   NSAE-00  OES-01   SSO-00   SS-00    STR-00   TRSE-00 
      EPAE-00  ECA-00   DSCC-00  DRL-02   SAS-00     /011W 
                  ------------------AC8E02  100540Z /38 
O 100521Z MAY 02 
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 
INFO ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE 
 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 02 OF 03 VATICAN 002268 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/WE (MENNUTI), EB (GADSDEN), EUR/PD/PA (HILTON) 
STATE PASS TO USDA FAS WASHDC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2012 
TAGS: PREL, PHUM, EAGR, EAID, ETRD, TBIO, VT 
SUBJECT: AG-BIOTECH: GETTING THE VATICAN TO "YES." 
 
7. (C) GENERALLY POSITIVE:  BISHOP ELIO SGRECCIA, VICE 
PRESIDENT, PONTIFICAL ACADEMY FOR LIFE. SGRECCIA IS THE TOP 
VATICAN ETHICIST SPECIALIZING IN BIOTECHNOLOGY, MEDICAL 
ETHICS, HEALTH AND FAMILY ISSUES. HIS APPROACH TO 
BIOTECHNOLOGY IS ONE OF CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM - THE THEORETICAL 
BENEFITS NEED TO BE BALANCED BY ADEQUATE RESEARCH AND PATIENT 
OBSERVATION. LIKE ALL VATICAN OFFICIALS HE LOOKS TO THE 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        VATICA  02268  02 OF 03  100540Z 
SECRETARIAT OF STATE FOR GUIDANCE AND PERMISSION TO UNDERTAKE 
 
SIPDIS 
BIOTECHNOLOGY INITIATIVES. THE ACADEMY FOR LIFE HAS PUBLISHED 
THE VATICAN'S CLEAREST POSITION TO DATE ON BIOTECHNOLOGY. 
SGRECCIA WAS EXTREMELY SUPPORTIVE OF AN EMBASSY INITIATIVE 
THAT BROUGHT U.S. BIOTECHNOLOGIST, C.S. PRAKASH, AND VATICAN 
SCIENTISTS TOGETHER FOR A ROUND TABLE IN 2001.  AT A RECENT 
LUNCH, SGRECCIA TOLD DCM THAT HE LOOKED FORWARD TO WORKING 
WITH US ON THIS ISSUE. 
 
8. (C)  GENERALLY NEGATIVE:  ARCHBISHOP AGOSTINO MARCHETTO, 
PERMANENT OBSERVER, FAO, ROME, AND SINCE NOVEMBER 2001 
SECRETARY OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF 
 
SIPDIS 
MIGRANTS AND ITINERANTS. HE ENTERED THE HOLY SEE DIPLOMATIC 
SERVICE IN 1968, AND SERVED IN A NUMBER OF SUB-SAHARAN 
NUNCIATURES. MARCHETTO IS THE CLASSIC EUROPEAN BIOTECHNOLOGY 
SKEPTIC. HIS POSITION APPEARS BASED MORE ON POPULAR 
PERCEPTIONS OF GMOS THAN ON GOOD SCIENCE. HE RELISHES PLAYING 
THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE AND CONCENTRATING ON THE "WHAT IFS." 
YET, LIKE THE REST OF THE HOLY SEE, HIS PRIMARY MOTIVATION IS 
SERVING HUMANITY.  IF HE CAN BE PERSUADED THAT GMOS PRESENT A 
NET BENEFIT, HE WOULD BE A POWERFUL ADVOCATE FOR THEM. 
 
9.  (C)  GENERALLY POSITIVE:  ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN, 
PERMANENT OBSERVER, UN OFFICES AND SPECIALIST AGENCIES, 
GENEVA. MARTIN, A FORMER IV VISITOR, IS NOT A PROFESSIONALLY 
TRAINED VATICAN DIPLOMAT AND THUS UNTAINTED BY THE PALL OF 
"SUPER CAUTION." HE CALLS A SPADE A SPADE AND APPRECIATES 
GOOD SCIENCE. HE WOULD BE AN IMPORTANT ALLY ON THE BIOTECH 
INTERNATIONAL PLAYING FIELD. HIS REPUTATION IN WORLD TRADE 
AND MONETARY CIRCLES IS HIGH, MAKING HIM POTENTIALLY 
INFLUENTIAL WITH DEVELOPING NATIONS. MARTIN'S FOCUS ON HUMAN 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 03        VATICA  02268  02 OF 03  100540Z 
RIGHTS ISSUES IN GENEVA COULD BE AN ENTRY POINT FOR THE 
PROMOTION OF BIOTECH BENEFITS. 
 
10.  (C)  GENERALLY POSITIVE: MONSIGNOR CELESTINO MIGLIORE, 
DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER. MIGLIORE WILL LIKELY BE RESPONSIBLE 
FOR GIVING THE WORKING LEVEL "OK" TO MOST BIOTECHNOLOGY 
INITIATIVES. AS IS MARTIN, MIGLIORE IS PRAGMATIC AND 
STRAIGHTFORWARD. ONE OF THE EMBASSY'S MOST ACCESSIBLE 
HIGH-LEVEL INTERLOCUTORS, WE CAN EXPECT HIM TO BE REASONABLE. 
 HE HAS FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE OF THE PROBLEMS CAUSED IN 
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES BY MALNUTRITION AND CROP FAILURE. HE 
SERVED AT THE NUNCIATURE IN WASHINGTON DURING THE 1990S AND 
WOULD BE OPEN TO THE BENEFITS OF BIOTECHNOLOGY, BUT HE WOULD 
ALSO INSIST ON ADEQUATE PRECAUTIONS BEFORE GIVING HIS "NULLA 
OSTA". (NOTE: IT IS CLASSIC VATICAN STRATEGY TO NOT MAKE A 
MOVE BEFORE RECEIVING PERMISSION -- THE "NULLA OSTA" -- FROM 
ONE'S SUPERIORS. THIS STIFLES INITIATIVE AND GIVES UNDUE 
EMPHASIS TO THE CAUTIONARY APPROACH. THIS APPLIES TO ALL OF 
THE ABOVE-MENTIONED PERSONS. END NOTE.) 
 
-------------------------------- 
GETTING THEM TO PLAY ON OUR TEAM 
-------------------------------- 
 
11.  (SBU)  THE VATICAN IS POTENTIALLY A VALUABLE ALLY IN THE 
PUBLIC DIPLOMACY EFFORT TO PROMOTE BROADER ACCEPTANCE OF 
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND GMOS AMONG OUR KEY TRADING PARTNERS. ITS 
MORAL CLOUT STILL INFLUENCES MANY NATIONS IN THE EU, AND 
PARTICULARLY IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD, WHERE, IN CERTAIN 
INSTANCES, INDIVIDUAL CLERGY ANTAGONISTIC TO PROFIT-MAKING 
MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS HELP BEAT THE ANTI-GMO DRUMS. 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 04        VATICA  02268  02 OF 03  100540Z 
VATICAN BACKING FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY AND GMOS AS A MEANS TO FEED 
THE WORLD'S POOR WOULD HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON CHANGING 
THE GENERALLY FEARFUL EUROPEAN MINDSET BY UNDERCUTTING A KEY 
RATIONALE OF ANTI-BIOTECH ACTIVISTS (THAT U.S. COMPANIES WILL 
DISPLACE TRADITIONAL METHODS OF AGRICULTURE ACROSS THE 
WORLD).  POST'S EFFORTS TO EXPOSE VATICAN PROTAGONISTS TO THE 
SCIENCE HAVE BEEN RELATIVELY SUCCESSFUL. FOR EXAMPLE, IN JULY 
2001 WE ORGANIZED A PANEL DISCUSSION BETWEEN VISITING GMO 
EXPERT C.S. PRAKASH OF TUSKEEGEE UNIVERSITY AND MEMBERS OF 
THE PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF THE SCIENCES (PAS) AND THE 
PONTIFICAL ACADEMY FOR LIFE (PAL).  AMBASSADOR FOLLOWED THAT 
WITH A DINNER IHO DR. PRAKASH IN FEBRUARY 2002, ATTENDED BY 
VATICAN FM TAURAN AND SEVERAL SENIOR VATICAN OFFICIALS. 
 
12.  (SBU) EMBASSY VATICAN IS BUILDING ON THIS FOUNDATION 
FOLLOWING OUR BIOTECHNOLOGY ACTION PLAN WORKED IN 
COORDINATION WITH EMBASSY ROME AND THE US MISSION TO THE UN 
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL AGENCIES. OUR PART OF THE PLAN 
ENVISAGES: 
 
-- AMBASSADOR REGULARLY REMARKING ON GMO POTENTIAL FOR 
PROMOTING DEVELOPING WORLD FOOD SECURITY DURING HIS 
VATICAN-RELATED PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ENGAGEMENTS (E.G. HIS 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ5425 
 
PAGE 01        VATICA  02268  03 OF 03  100540Z 
ACTION EUR-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AGRE-00  AID-00   AMAD-00  EVG-00   ACQ-00 
      CIAE-00  COME-00  INL-00   DODE-00  PERC-00  SRPP-00  DS-00 
      EB-00    E-00     VC-00    HHS-01   TEDE-00  INR-00   VCE-00 
      MED-07   NSAE-00  OES-01   SSO-00   SS-00    STR-00   TRSE-00 
      EPAE-00  ECA-00   DSCC-00  DRL-02   SAS-00     /011W 
                  ------------------AC8E05  100540Z /38 
O 100521Z MAY 02 
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 
INFO ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE 
 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 03 OF 03 VATICAN 002268 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/WE (MENNUTI), EB (GADSDEN), EUR/PD/PA (HILTON) 
STATE PASS TO USDA FAS WASHDC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2012 
TAGS: PREL, PHUM, EAGR, EAID, ETRD, TBIO, VT 
SUBJECT: AG-BIOTECH: GETTING THE VATICAN TO "YES." 
 
APRIL 5 PARTICIPATION ON A PANEL DISCUSSING GLOBALIZATION); 
-- A VATICAN-RELATED DINNER OR OTHER MEETING WE WISH TO 
PROPOSE FOR AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VENEMAN AND/OR U/S AL 
LARSON ON THE MARGINS OF THE JUNE 10-13 WORLD FOOD SUMMIT; 
-- FURTHER U.S. EXPERT VISITS (BOTH USG AND PRIVATE) TO 
DISCUSS BENEFITS FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION OF BIOTECH CROPS 
AND RESULTS OF MOST RECENT SCIENTIFIC STUDIES; 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        VATICA  02268  03 OF 03  100540Z 
-- NOMINATING A VATICAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DEVELOPMENT 
SPECIALIST FOR A U.S. INTERNATIONAL VISITORS VISIT FOCUSED ON 
BIOTECHNOLOGY; 
--  AMBASSADOR LEADING A PARTY OF VATICAN OFFICIALS TO TWO 
DIFFERENT INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH STATIONS: THE 
IRRI IN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE CYMMT IN MEXICO, IN A PROJECT 
COORDINATED WITH EMBASSY ROME FAS. (NOTE: WE HAVE ALREADY 
RAISED THIS IDEA AT THE MFA WORKING LEVEL, AND THEY ARE 
ENTHUSIASTIC). 
 
13. (U) THIS CABLE WAS CLEARED WITH FODAG AND EMBASSY ROME. 
NICHOLSON 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
> 
 

 2002VATICA02268 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL 


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