US embassy cable - 02ROME2765

ITALY AND BIOTECH: COULD BE (HAS BEEN) WORSE

Identifier: 02ROME2765
Wikileaks: View 02ROME2765 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Rome
Created: 2002-06-07 17:28:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: EAGR ETRD ECON IT PREL TBIO TSPL ETRD ECON IT PREL TBIO TSPL ETRD ECON IT PREL TBIO TSPL WTOEAGR WTOEAGR WTO
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 ROME 002765 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCIENCE ADVISOR NEUREITER 
EB FOR A/S WAYNE, PDAS DONNELLY, DAS GADSDEN 
EB/TPP/ATT FOR PEREZ 
E FOR SHUB 
EUR/ERA FOR HEN-NIL 
OES FOR A/S TURNER, PDAS ROCK 
STATE PASS USTR FOR STROJE, NOVELLI 
STATE PASS USDA FOR APHIS:SMCCAMMON, USDA/FAS:BLUM 
USDA/FAS/ITT:EJONES, USDA/FAS/OA:SLUTSKY 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  02765  01 OF 03  080706Z 
USDA/OS/HEGWOOD 
STATE PASS FDA FOR EFLAMM 
EPA FOR OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATOR 
NSC FOR EDSON 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/05/2007 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, ECON, IT, PREL, TBIO, TSPL, ETRD, ECON, IT, PREL, TBIO, TSPL, ETRD, ECON, IT, PREL, TBIO, TSPL, WTOEAGR, WTOEAGR, WTO 
SUBJECT: ITALY AND BIOTECH: COULD BE (HAS BEEN) WORSE 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: ECMIN MARGARET DEAN; REASON 1.5 B/D. 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY.  IN THE BUILD-UP TO PRESIDENT BUSH'S MAY 
27-28 VISIT TO ROME, THE GOI GOT BUSY ON BIOTECH.  PRIME 
MINISTER BERLUSCONI HAD MFA GIN-UP AN INTERAGENCY PROCESS TO 
CONSIDER THE GOI CORN BAN, THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE'S 
MISGUIDED WHITE PAPER, AND A POTENTIAL USG-GOI RESEARCH 
ACCORD.  THE PM TOLD THE MINISTERS OF AGRICULTURE, HEALTH, 
AND ENVIRONMENT TO GO INTO A CORNER AND WORK OUT THEIR 
BIOTECH DIFFERENCES.  BIOTECH, AS IT TURNS OUT, WAS NOT A 
MAJOR TOPIC OF DISCUSSION AT THE SUMMIT.  IN ITS AFTERMATH, 
VARIOUS GOI CONTACTS ASSURE US THAT THEY HAVE HEARD OUR 
COMPLAINTS AND THAT, AT A MINIMUM, SCIENCE WILL BE A MORE 
SIGNIFICANT ASPECT OF THE FORTHCOMING GOI AND PARLIAMENTARY 
BIOTECH DEBATE.  IN DISCUSSIONS WITH VISITING EB ASSISTANT 
SECRETARY, SENIOR GOI OFFICIALS DISMISSED THE MOA WHITE PAPER 
 
SIPDIS 
AS MERELY ONE VIEWPOINT AND NOT EVEN AN OFFICIAL ONE. 
 
2. (C) SUMMARY CONTINUED.  PM BERLUSCONI SEEMS IN NO HURRY TO 
CLARIFY THE STATE OF GOI BIOTECH POLICY.  SPEAKING BESIDE 
ALEMANNO AT A JUNE 3 PRESS CONFERENCE, THE POLITICALLY NIMBLE 
PM SAID ITALY SHOULD GO FORWARD ON BIOTECH RESEARCH "WITH 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  02765  01 OF 03  080706Z 
MUCH CAUTION, BUT WITHOUT CLOSING THE DOOR TO TECHNICAL 
PROGRESS AND WATCHING WHAT HAPPENS IN OTHER COUNTRIES."  ONE 
THING IS CERTAIN -- ALEMANNO'S AGGRESSIVE COUNTDOWN TO 
BIOTECH POLICY DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION IS ON HOLD.  HE 
HAD HOPED TO SPARK PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE THIS MONTH.  NOW HE 
SPEAKS BRAVELY OF HAVING A COHERENT GOI BIOTECH POLICY IN 
PLACE BEFORE NEXT SPRING'S PLANTING SEASON.  WE WILL KEEP THE 
PRESSURE ON.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3. (SBU) LOOKING TO REMOVE A POTENTIAL TRADE IRRITANT FROM 
THE AGENDA FOR PRESIDENT BUSH'S MAY 27-28 VISIT TO ROME, 
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI HASTILY ORCHESTRATED OSTENSIBLE 
MOVEMENT ON BIOTECH IN THE RUN-UP TO THE SUMMIT.  HE HAD THE 
ITALIAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, NEVER MORE THAN 
RELUCTANTLY ENGAGED ON THE ISSUE, CONVOKE AN INTERMINISTERIAL 
PROCESS TO CONSIDER GOI BIOTECH POLICY AND, MORE 
PARTICULARLY, TO REVIEW THE ITALIAN AUGUST 2000 BAN ON FOUR 
BIOTECH CORN VARIETIES APPROVED BY THE EU, THE POLICY WHITE 
PAPER LOOSELY AUTHORED BY THE AGRICULTURE MINISTRY, AND A 
PROPOSED USG-GOI ACCORD ON BIOTECHNOLOGY RESEARCH.  CALLS 
FROM SEVERAL GOI OFFICIALS JUST BEFORE THE SUMMIT ASSURED 
EMBOFFS THAT A MAY 22 MEETING OF THE MFA-LED AD HOC GROUP HAD 
PRODUCED RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PM THAT WOULD PLEASE US -- 
CALLS TO REVOKE THE CORN BAN, DAMPEN THE WHITE PAPER, AND 
PROCEED WITH THE BILATERAL ACCORD. 
 
4. (SBU) BIOTECHNOLOGY WAS BRIEFLY MENTIONED DURING THE 
PRESIDENT'S 50 MINUTE BILATERAL MEETING WITH THE PRIME 
MINISTER WITH THE LEADERS AGREEING TO DEFER THE SUBJECT UNTIL 
THE FOLLOW-ON DINNER.  OTHER BUSINESS, HOWEVER, ATE UP THE 
TIME. 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 04        ROME  02765  01 OF 03  080706Z 
 
5. (SBU) VISITING EB ASSISTANT SECRETARY TONY WAYNE AND 
ECONOFF MET WITH MFA DIRECTOR GENERAL FOR EUROPE ROCCO 
CANGELOSI AND PM DIPLOMATIC ADVISOR AND G-8 SHERPA GIOVANNI 
CASTELLANETA ON MAY 30.  CANGELOSI HOSTED THE MAY 22 
INTERMINISTERIAL MEETING ON BIOTECH AND CASTELLANETA ACCEPTED 
THE GROUP'S RECOMMENDATIONS ON BEHALF OF THE PRIME MINISTER. 
A/S WAYNE EXPRESSED TWO USG CONCERNS REGARDING GOI BIOTECH 
POLICY: THE FAILURE OF THIS GOI TO REPEAL THE UNJUSTIFIED 
CORN BAN ENACTED BY ITS PREDECESSOR AND THE STATUS OF THE 
MOA'S OVERTLY ANTI-BIOTECH WHITE PAPER AS THE DE FACTO CENTER 
OF GOI BIOTECH DEBATE. 
 
6. (SBU) PERHAPS REFLECTING THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE 
HERETOFORE ATTACHED TO THE SUBJECT BY BERLUSCONI (WHO WEARS 
BOTH THE PM AND FM HATS), CASTELLANETA AND CANGELOSI WERE 
EACH WELL-VERSED ONLY ON NARROW AREAS OF THE BIOTECH DEBATE. 
ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THE CORN BAN LACKS ANY GROUNDING IN 
SCIENCE, CASTELLANETA SPOKE OF THE DOMESTIC POLITICAL 
DIFFICULTY OF REPEALING IT.  HE REVEALED THAT BERLUSCONI HAS 
ISSUED A HURRY-UP ORDER FOR A RECOMMENDATION FROM HIS CABINET 
ON NEXT STEPS.  COMMENT.  ASIDE FROM MANUFACTURING "NEW" 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ4356 
 
PAGE 01        ROME  02765  02 OF 03  080756Z 
ACTION EB-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   MFA-00   AGRE-00  AID-00   CIAE-00  CTME-00  DODE-00 
      EUR-00   EXIM-01  E-00     VC-00    FRB-00   HHS-01   H-01 
      TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    ITC-01   AC-01    NSAE-00  NSCE-00 
      OES-01   OMB-01   OPIC-01  ACE-00   SP-00    SSO-00   STR-00 
      TRSE-00  USIE-00  G-00     SAS-00     /008W 
                  ------------------BA1EF5  080756Z /25 
P 071728Z JUN 02 
FM AMEMBASSY ROME 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4114 
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE 
AMCONSUL FLORENCE 
AMCONSUL MILAN 
AMCONSUL NAPLES 
HQ EPA WASHDC 
NSC WASHDC 
 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 02 OF 03 ROME 002765 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCIENCE ADVISOR NEUREITER 
EB FOR A/S WAYNE, PDAS DONNELLY, DAS GADSDEN 
EB/TPP/ATT FOR PEREZ 
E FOR SHUB 
EUR/ERA FOR HEN-NIL 
OES FOR A/S TURNER, PDAS ROCK 
STATE PASS USTR FOR STROJE, NOVELLI 
STATE PASS USDA FOR APHIS:SMCCAMMON, USDA/FAS:BLUM 
USDA/FAS/ITT:EJONES, USDA/FAS/OA:SLUTSKY 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  02765  02 OF 03  080756Z 
USDA/OS/HEGWOOD 
STATE PASS FDA FOR EFLAMM 
EPA FOR OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATOR 
NSC FOR EDSON 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/05/2007 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, ECON, IT, PREL, TBIO, TSPL, WTO 
SUBJECT: ITALY AND BIOTECH: COULD BE (HAS BEEN) WORSE 
 
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE JUSTIFYING A REPEAL OR DISCUSSING OPTIMUM 
POLITICAL TIMING FOR REPEAL OF THE BAN, WE CAN'T IMAGINE WHAT 
THE MINISTERS HAVE TO DEBATE.  THERE NEVER HAS BEEN ANY 
SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR THE BAN.  END COMMENT.  CASTELLANETA 
SAID BERLUSCONI HAS INSTRUCTED AGRICULTURE MINISTER ALEMANNO 
AND HEALTH MINISTER SIRCHIA TO ENGAGE ONE ANOTHER WITH A VIEW 
TO FINDING COMMON GROUND ON THE CORN BAN AND BIOTECH POLICY 
MORE GENERALLY.  LOOKING TO STRIKE A POSITIVE NOTE ON 
BIOTECH, HE SAID THE PM'S BIOTECHNOLOGY COMMISSION AND THE 
ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY ARE HOT TO INK A RESEARCH COOPERATION 
ACCORD WITH THE USG. 
 
7. (C) A/S WAYNE THANKED CANGELOSI FOR THE MFA'S RECENT 
EFFORT TO CONVOKE AN INTERMINISTERIAL PROCESS TO FOSTER A 
BALANCED BIOTECH DISCUSSION.  NOTE.  THE GOI HAVING NO 
INSTITUTIONALIZED INTERMINISTERIAL STRUCTURE, EFFORTS TO 
BRING MINISTRIES TOGETHER ARE NECESSARILY AD HOC AND 
LABOR-INTENSIVE.  END NOTE.  CANGELOSI SUMMARILY DISMISSED 
THE WHITE PAPER AS AN UNSIGNED POSITION PAPER SUCCESSFULLY 
DESIGNED TO STIMULATE DEBATE.  HE SAID THE PAPER HAS NOT BEEN 
FORMALLY INTRODUCED INTO PARLIAMENT AND DID NOT SEE ITS 
INFORMAL CIRCULATION AS UNDULY INFLUENCING INTERMINISTERIAL 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  02765  02 OF 03  080756Z 
DELIBERATIONS, WHICH HE SAID WOULD CONTINUE.  CANGELOSI'S 
DEPUTY, RITA MANNELLA, TOLD ECONOFF ON JUNE 6 THAT 
RESPONSIBILITY FOR ORGANIZING ANY FURTHER INTERMINISTERIAL 
MEETINGS ON BIOTECH HAS BEEN SHIFTED TO THE PM'S OFFICE AND 
THAT NO FOLLOW-UP MEETING HAD BEEN SCHEDULED.  COMMENT. 
ALTHOUGH WE WELCOME MFA'S ENTRY INTO THE BIOTECH FRAY, 
MANNELLA'S COMMENTS CONFIRM THAT THE MINISTRY SEES ITSELF IN 
A CAMEO ROLE.  PRIOR TO THE SUMMIT, SHE MADE CLEAR THAT MFA'S 
MANDATE FROM THE PM WAS TO DEFUSE THE BIOTECH ISSUE IN AN 
EFFORT TO GET IT OFF THE VISIT AGENDA.  ABSENT FURTHER 
INSTRUCTIONS FROM BERLUSCONI, MFA WILL BE LOOKING TO FADE 
AWAY AGAIN RATHER THAN TO DEVELOP THE IN-HOUSE EXPERTISE 
NECESSARY TO SHEPHERD AN ONGOING GOI BIOTECH DEBATE.  END 
COMMENT. 
 
8. (SBU) SINCE THE BIOTECH HICCUP BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE 
PRESIDENTIAL VISIT, THE AGRICULTURE MINISTRY HAS REASSERTED 
ITSELF AS THE PRIMARY GOI ACTOR ON THE FILE, ALBEIT WITH 
IMPORTANT CHANGES.  AGRICULTURE MINISTER ALEMANNO HAD LONG 
TARGETED A JUNE 4 MEETING OF THE "TAVOLO AGROALIMENTARE" (A 
LOOSELY KNIT FORUM OF AGRICULTURE STAKEHOLDERS) FOR BRINGING 
HIS WHITE PAPER ON BIOTECH POLICY OUT OF THE CLOSET. 
(CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS REPORTED SEPTEL.)  INSTEAD, IN A JUNE 
3 PRESS CONFERENCE HE REFERRED TO THE WHITE PAPER AS A WORK 
IN PROGRESS, EXPRESSLY ALLOWING THAT  "WE WILL INCLUDE 
PROPOSALS, IDEAS, AND EVERYTHING THAT CAN HELP CHECK GMO'S 
OUT SCIENTIFICALLY IN THE WHITE PAPER."   AT THE SAME PRESS 
CONFERENCE, ALEMANNO CALLED FOR A "MORATORIUM ON GMO'S" BUT 
EXPRESSLY QUALIFIED HIS OPPOSITION TO BIOTECH PRODUCTS AS 
BASED "PRIMARILY ON ECONOMIC GROUNDS" (COMMENT. I.E., NOT ON 
SCIENCE.  END COMMENT. ) AND INFLUENCED HEAVILY BY POLLS 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 04        ROME  02765  02 OF 03  080756Z 
SHOWING THAT  "70 PERCENT OF (ITALIAN) CONSUMERS ARE AGAINST 
THEIR USE." ALEMANNO SAID HE HOPES TO HAVE A POLICY PAPER TO 
SUBMIT TO PARLIAMENT BY THE END OF THE SUMMER WITH A VIEW TO 
ENACTMENT OF ITALIAN LEGISLATION BEFORE NEXT GROWING SEASON. 
 
9. (SBU) APPEARING AT THE SAME PRESS CONFERENCE, PM 
BERLUSCONI OFFERED WOBBLY GUIDANCE, SAYING "WE MUST UNDERTAKE 
TO GO FORWARD WITH (GMO) RESEARCH, WITH MUCH PRUDENCE, BUT 
WITHOUT CLOSING THE DOORS TO TECHNICAL PROGRESS AND WATCHING 
WHAT HAPPENS IN OTHER COUNTRIES."  COMMENT. WE KNOW OF NO 
PRIVATE BERLUSCONI WORDS THAT CLARIFY HIS TERSE PUBLIC 
COMMENT.  OUR GOI CONTACTS ARE TRYING TO PARSE THE ABOVE 
SENTENCE FOR HIDDEN MEANING JUST AS WE ARE. 
 
10. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED.  ALEMANNO'S FAILURE TO LAUNCH HIS 
TWICE RE-WRITTEN WHITE PAPER AS SCHEDULED IS WELCOME NEWS AND 
A VALIDATION OF USG EFFORTS TO PRESSURE THE GOI TO CONDUCT A 
SCIENCE-BASED DEBATE THAT WOULD INFORM PUBLIC OPINION RATHER 
THAN MERELY REACT TO IT.  THE MINISTER CLEARLY UNDERSTANDS 
THAT HIS EFFORT TO END-RUN ITALIAN SCIENTISTS AND THE GOI 
STRAIGHT TO PARLIAMENT HAS FAILED.  WHAT REMAINS TO BE SEEN 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ4359 
 
PAGE 01        ROME  02765  03 OF 03  080800Z 
ACTION EB-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   MFA-00   AGRE-00  AID-00   CIAE-00  CTME-00  DODE-00 
      EUR-00   EXIM-01  E-00     VC-00    FRB-00   HHS-01   H-01 
      TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    ITC-01   AC-01    NSAE-00  NSCE-00 
      OES-01   OMB-01   OPIC-01  ACE-00   SP-00    SSO-00   STR-00 
      TRSE-00  USIE-00  G-00     SAS-00     /008W 
                  ------------------BA1F1B  080800Z /25 
P 071728Z JUN 02 
FM AMEMBASSY ROME 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4115 
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE 
AMCONSUL FLORENCE 
AMCONSUL MILAN 
AMCONSUL NAPLES 
HQ EPA WASHDC 
NSC WASHDC 
 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 03 OF 03 ROME 002765 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCIENCE ADVISOR NEUREITER 
EB FOR A/S WAYNE, PDAS DONNELLY, DAS GADSDEN 
EB/TPP/ATT FOR PEREZ 
E FOR SHUB 
EUR/ERA FOR HEN-NIL 
OES FOR A/S TURNER, PDAS ROCK 
STATE PASS USTR FOR STROJE, NOVELLI 
STATE PASS USDA FOR APHIS:SMCCAMMON, USDA/FAS:BLUM 
USDA/FAS/ITT:EJONES, USDA/FAS/OA:SLUTSKY 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  02765  03 OF 03  080800Z 
USDA/OS/HEGWOOD 
STATE PASS FDA FOR EFLAMM 
EPA FOR OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATOR 
NSC FOR EDSON 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/05/2007 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, ECON, IT, PREL, TBIO, TSPL, WTO 
SUBJECT: ITALY AND BIOTECH: COULD BE (HAS BEEN) WORSE 
 
IS THE MAKE-UP OF THE GOI SCIENCE TEAM FIELDED AND WHETHER 
THE GROUP WILL BE FREE TO REASSESS SOME OF THE PSEUDO-SCIENCE 
CONCLUSIONS OF THE WHITE PAPER -- E.G., THAT BIOTECH VARIETY 
CROPPING WOULD INEVITABLY "CONTAMINATE" CONVENTIONAL 
VARIETIES. 
 
11. COMMENT CONTINUED.  ALEMANNO'S COUCHING OF HIS BIOTECH 
OBJECTIONS IN ECONOMIC TERMS GREATLY RESTRICTS THE ARGUMENTS 
AVAILABLE TO HIM.  HE HAS NEVER GIVEN INDICATION THAT HIS 
GRASP OF ECONOMICS IS ANY BETTER THAN HIS GRASP OF SCIENCE. 
WE KNOW OF NO STUDY, FOR EXAMPLE, SUPPORTING HIS VIEW THAT 
OPENING THE ITALIAN MARKET TO BIOTECH PRODUCTS WOULD TAINT 
THE IMAGE OF ITALIAN QUALITY PRODUCTS WITH RESULTANT ECONOMIC 
HARM.  AT A MINIMUM, ALEMANNO HAS BEEN COMPELLED TO ALLOW THE 
LEVEL OF DEBATE TO RISE FAR ABOVE THE SOPHISTRY OF THE 
OUTSTANDING WHITE PAPER.  WE REALIZE THAT THE MINISTER IS NOT 
ABOUT TO ABANDON HIS PURITY-OF-THE-MOTHERLAND AND TRADITIONAL 
PRODUCTS RHETORIC IN FAVOR OF SUBSTANTIVE DEBATE, BUT HE IS 
AT LEAST BEING FORCED TO LET OTHERS STAKEHOLDERS TALK.  WE 
ANTICIPATE, GIVEN THAT ALEMANNO IS A PARTICULARLY ASTUTE 
POLITICIAN, THAT WITH EVERY STEP FORWARD PRO-BIOTECH FORCES 
ACHIEVE, THE MORE DEMAGOGIC AND RADICALIZED ALEMANNO'S 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  02765  03 OF 03  080800Z 
RHETORIC AND RESPONSE WILL BE.  WE INTEND TO BE ACTIVELY 
ENGAGED. 
POPE 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
> 
 2002ROME02765 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL 


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