US embassy cable - 02ROME3299

WORLD FOOD SUMMIT ENVIGORATES ITALIAN BIOTECH DEBATE IN THE MEDIA

Identifier: 02ROME3299
Wikileaks: View 02ROME3299 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Rome
Created: 2002-07-05 14:50:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: EAGR ETRD ECON TBIO ETRD ECON TBIO ETRD ECON TBIO IT ITEAGR ITEAGR
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.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ROME 003299 
 
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 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  03299  01 OF 03  051439Z 
USDA/OS/HEGWOOD 
STATE PASS FDA FOR EFLAMM 
NSC FOR EDSON 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, ECON, TBIO, ETRD, ECON, TBIO, ETRD, ECON, TBIO, IT, ITEAGR, ITEAGR 
SUBJECT: WORLD FOOD SUMMIT ENVIGORATES ITALIAN BIOTECH 
DEBATE IN THE MEDIA 
 
REFS: (A) ROME 3214 
 
      (B) ROME 2765 
 
1. SUMMARY: THE RECENT WORLD FOOD SUMMIT (WFS5YL) IN ROME 
PROMPTED THE ITALIAN MEDIA TO FEATURE A HEALTHY DOMESTIC 
BIOTECHNOLOGY/GMO DEBATE.  WHILE FULL LIBERALIZATION OF 
BIOTECH TRADE WAS PERCEIVED AS A U.S. AGENDA, A NUMBER OF 
PROMINENT ITALIAN POLITICAL FIGURES QUESTIONED THE ANTI-GMO 
STANCE OF MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE ALEMANNO AND CAME OUT IN 
SUPPORT OF FURTHER BIOTECHNOLOGY RESEARCH AND APPLICATION. 
ARTICLES AND EDITORIALS ON THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF GMOS, 
THEIR ECONOMIC VALUE TO ITALY, AND THEIR POTENTIAL TO 
REDUCE WORLD HUNGER ALSO PRESENTED AGRICULTURAL 
BIOTECHNOLOGY IN A POSITIVE LIGHT.  IN THE WAKE OF THIS 
PUBLIC AIRING OF THE ISSUES, ITALIAN MEDIA COVERAGE OF 
BIOTECHNOLOGY IS NOW SHOWING A MORE BALANCED DISCUSSION OF 
THE ISSUES THAN PREVIOUSLY SEEN IN ITALY.  WE ALSO WELCOME 
THE CHORUS OF OPINION MAKERS THAT HAVE JOINED INTO THE 
DEBATE, AGMINISTER ALEMANNO HAVING MONOPOLIZED IT FOR SOME 
TIME.  END SUMMARY. 
 
ITALIAN PRESS PORTRAYS BIOTECH ARGUMENTS MORE FAIRLY 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  03299  01 OF 03  051439Z 
 
2. AN EDITORIAL BY UNDERSECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC AFFAIRS ALAN 
LARSON APPEARED IN IL SOLE ON JUNE 7 AND FRAMED MANY ISSUES 
THAT WOULD BE DISCUSSED DURING THE WEEK OF THE WFS5YL. 
RECOGNIZING THAT REDUCING HUNGER WILL REQUIRE ACTION ON 
MULTIPLE LEVELS, LARSON WROTE THAT THE USE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY 
IS ONE OF THE MOST PROMISING METHODS FOR IMPROVING 
AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY.  HE ADDED THAT DEVELOPING 
COUNTRIES ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY AWARE OF THE BENEFITS 
OF BIOTECHNOLOGY, AND HE OBSERVED THAT BIOTECH ALSO OFFERS 
ADVANTAGES BOTH TO EUROPE AND TO THE UNITED STATES.  ITALY, 
LARSON CONCLUDED, COULD ASSUME A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN HELPING 
EUROPE OVERCOME CONTEMPORARY SUPERSTITIONS AND FOCUS ON 
SCIENTIFIC FINDINGS, REVISING NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY 
POLICIES THAT BLOCK BIOTECHNOLOGY'S GREAT POTENTIAL TO 
REDUCE HUNGER, ENCOURAGE RURAL DEVELOPMENT, REDUCE THE USE 
OF PESTICIDES, AND MANAGE MORE EFFICIENTLY THE PLANET'S 
SCARCE NATURAL RESOURCES. 
 
3. THROUGHOUT THE SUMMIT, MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE ALEMANNO 
USED THE MEDIA TO CALL FOR A CONTINUATION OF ITALY'S 
CONSERVATIVE APPROACH TO AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY.  IN A 
JUNE 10 EDITORIAL IN IL CORRIERE DELLA SERA, ALEMANNO WROTE 
THAT THE SUMMIT DECLARATION CALLED FOR AN EXTREMELY PRUDENT 
OPENING TO GMOS AND LEFT ROOM FOR MULTIPLE POSSIBILITIES. 
HE THEN LAUNCHED INTO HIS MANTRA THAT GMOS DO NOT MAKE 
SENSE ECONOMICALLY OR COMMERCIALLY FOR ITALY, WHOSE PROBLEM 
HE DESCRIBED AS NOT PRODUCING MORE BUT SELLING WHAT IT 
ALREADY PRODUCES.  HE ADDED THAT, AMONG THE THREE NATIONAL 
FARMER ORGANIZATIONS, COLDIRETTI SUPPORTS ZERO TOLERANCE 
AND THAT CONFAGRICOLTURA AND CIA HAVE NOT SHOWN A STRONG 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        ROME  03299  01 OF 03  051439Z 
DESIRE FOR GMO USAGE.  IN DEFENDING HIS POSITION IN LA 
REPUBBLICA AND FOGLIO (BOTH JUNE 11), ALEMANNO, ON SEPARATE 
OCCASIONS, PORTRAYED THE SUMMIT DECLARATION AND HIS 
COMMENTS TO SECRETARY VENEMAN DURING THEIR BIOTECH MEETING 
AS VICTORIES FOR INDIVIDUAL CHOICE AND SAFETY OVER THE U.S. 
OBJECTIVE WHICH HE CHARACTERIZED AS TOTAL LIBERALIZATION. 
 
4. ON JUNE 12 MINISTER OF PRODUCTIVE ACTIVITIES ANTONIO 
MARZANO PUBLICLY ENDORSED GMOS AS A NECESSARY AND IMPORTANT 
INSTRUMENT IN THE BATTLE AGAINST HUNGER.  THE PRESS FOCUSED 
ON THE MINISTERIAL DIVISION OVER TRANSGENIC FOOD (REPORTED 
IN LA STAMPA, FOGLIO, LA NAZIONE, IL TEMPO, AND L'UNITA', 
JUNE 13).  ALEMANNO, WHO HAS MAINTAINED THAT BIOTECHNOLOGY 
IS NOT ESSENTIAL TO SOLVING WORLD HUNGER (IL TEMPO, JUNE 
12), RETORTED THAT MARZANO, DUE TO HIS MINISTERIAL 
POSITION, WAS MORE DISPOSED TOWARD USING NEW TECHNOLOGIES 
AND WAS EXPRESSING HIS PERSONAL OPINION.  HE SUGGESTED THE 
ISSUE NEEDED TO BE EXPLORED IN GREATER DEPTH IN THE COUNCIL 
OF MINISTERS AND POSSIBLY IN PARLIAMENT (LA STAMPA, IL 
TEMPO).  HE MAINTAINED THAT, ALTHOUGH GMO FOODS MIGHT BE 
USEFUL IN OTHER COUNTRIES, THEY ARE NOT MARKETABLE IN ITALY 
(LA REPUBBLICA, JUNE 11) AND IRONICALLY COMMENTED THAT HE 
WOULD SHAKE THE HAND OF ANYONE WHO WOULD CHOOSE GMO- 
CONTAINING MOZZARELLA OVER THE D.O.C. VERSION (LA STAMPA). 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ7174 
 
PAGE 01        ROME  03299  02 OF 03  051438Z 
ACTION EUR-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AGRE-00  AID-00   CEA-01   CIAE-00  COME-00 
      CTME-00  DODE-00  ITCE-00  DOTE-00  SRPP-00  EB-00    EXME-00 
      E-00     FAAE-00  UTED-00  VC-00    FRB-00   HHS-01   H-01 
      TEDE-00  INR-00   ITC-01   LAB-01   L-00     VCE-00   AC-01 
      NSAE-00  OES-01   OMB-01   OPIC-01  PM-00    ACE-00   SP-00 
      IRM-00   SSO-00   SS-00    STR-00   TEST-00  TRSE-00  USIE-00 
      EPAE-00  ECA-00   PMB-00   DRL-02   G-00     SAS-00     /011W 
                  ------------------C70771  051438Z /38 
P 051450Z JUL 02 
FM AMEMBASSY ROME 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4634 
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE 
AMCONSUL FLORENCE 
AMCONSUL MILAN 
AMCONSUL NAPLES 
NSC WASHDC 
 
UNCLAS SECTION 02 OF 03 ROME 003299 
 
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 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  03299  02 OF 03  051438Z 
USDA/OS/HEGWOOD 
STATE PASS FDA FOR EFLAMM 
NSC FOR EDSON 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, ECON, TBIO, IT 
SUBJECT: WORLD FOOD SUMMIT ENVIGORATES ITALIAN BIOTECH 
DEBATE IN THE MEDIA 
 
5. THE JUNE 13 COMMENTS OF PM SILVIO BERLUSCONI AT THE 
CONCLUSION OF THE WFS5YL WERE CAUTIOUS, BUT, UNLIKE 
ALEMANNO, THE PM ACKNOWLEDGED THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF 
AGRICULTURAL BIOTECH.  BERLUSCONI REJECTED IDEOLOGICAL AND 
PREJUDICIAL POSITIONS AND STATED THAT THE PRODUCTIVE AND 
ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF GMO SEEDS COULD NOT BE IGNORED. 
HE ADDED THAT THE FREEDOM OF THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO USE GMOS 
AND WHOSE HUNGER CAN BE ABATED BY THEM SHOULD NOT BE 
RESTRICTED BY CONSUMERS WHO DO NOT WANT TO PURCHASE GM 
PRODUCTS (FOR FULL COMMENTS, SEE ROME 02989).  IL CORRIERE 
DELLA SERA COMMENTED THAT BERLUSCONI'S REMARKS ECHOED 
POINTS MADE AT THE SUMMIT BY SECRETARY VENEMAN.  THERE 
APPEARED TO BE NO OUTRIGHT PRESS SANCTION OR APPROVAL OF 
BERLUSCONI'S COMMENTS, BUT NEWSPAPERS REPORTED THEM WITHIN 
THE LESS PRO-BIOTECH CONTEXT OF FODAG DG JAQUES DIOUF'S 
OBSERVATION THAT WATER IS A MORE IMMEDIATE PRIORITY THAN 
BIOTECH (IL TEMPO), GREENPEACE'S OPPOSITION TO THE PM'S 
STANCE (IL SOLE), AND ALEMANNO'S COMMENT THAT THE U.S. AND 
EU OPINIONS STILL REMAINED FAR APART AT THE CLOSE OF THE 
SUMMIT (IL TEMPO).  IL SOLE STATED THAT THE COMPROMISE 
REACHED ON BIOTECH BETWEEN THE U.S. AND EUROPE WOULD PROVE 
TO BE MORE OF A POLITICAL RECONCILIATION THAN A TOOL IN 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  03299  02 OF 03  051438Z 
FIGHTING HUNGER (ALL REPORTED ON JUNE 14). 
 
THE MEDIA'S GMO DEBATE: TO MODIFY OR NOT TO MODIFY? 
 
6. THE PRO-GMO/ANTI-GMO DEBATE TOOK PLACE IN THE FORM OF 
NUMEROUS ARTICLES, INTERVIEWS, AND EDITORIALS. SCIENTIFIC 
ENDORSEMENTS OF GMOS HELPED BALANCE ALEMANNO'S ANTI-GMO 
STATEMENTS AND THE UNFAVORABLE OPINIONS ESPOUSED BY 
ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS THE NGO FORUM.  INTERVIEWS WITH NOBEL 
PEACE PRIZE WINNER NORMAN BORLAUG (LA NAZIONE, JUNE 13, 
SEPTEL), PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES 
TOMMASO SCARASCIA MUGNOZZA (IL CORRIERE DELLA SERA, JUNE 
9), AND FORMER MINISTER OF HEALTH VERONESI (IL CORRIERE 
DELLA SERA, JUNE 11) ALL SPOKE TO THE HEALTH SAFETY OF 
GMOS, NOTING THAT CONVENTIONAL FOODS DO NOT CARRY ZERO 
RISK.  IN ITALY'S ELITE, CLASSICAL LIBERAL DAILY (IL 
FOGLIO, JUNE 13), THE EDITORIAL "BIOTECH FOOD TRIES HARD TO 
BECOME NICER (AND MORE USEFUL)," ARCHLY OBSERVED THAT 99 
PER CENT OF THE 70 PER CENT OF ITALIANS WHO OPPOSE GMO FOOD 
WOULD REGARD A WORM IN THEIR PRODUCE WITH DISGUST, DESPITE 
THE FACT THAT THESE PARASITES ARE THE ONLY POSITIVE PROOF 
THAT THE FOOD HAS NOT BEEN GENETICALLY MODIFIED. 
 
7. IN HIS CORRIERE INTERVIEW, SCARASCIA MUGNOZZA (A WHEAT 
BREEDER FROM THE 1960S) NOTED THAT HE SAW SIGNS OF AN 
OPENING IN THE GOVERNMENT THAT COULD ALLOW ITALY TO JUMP 
BACK ON THE BIOTECH TRAIN AND STRESSED THAT BIOTECHNOLOGY 
IN AGRICULTURE IS NECESSARY IF ITALY WANTS TO BE 
COMPETITIVE.  IN AN EDITORIAL SPEAKING TO THE 
ENTREPRENEURIAL TUSCAN SPIRIT, PRESIDENT OF THE FLORENCE 
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE LUCA MANTELLASSI TALKED OF THE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        ROME  03299  02 OF 03  051438Z 
PROPORTIONAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RESEARCH AND ECONOMIC 
GROWTH AND LAMENTED ITALY'S RELATIVELY LOW LEVEL OF 
INVESTMENT DEDICATED TO SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL 
RESEARCH (LA NAZIONE, JUNE 11.)  THE UTILITY THAT GMOS 
COULD HAVE IN ALLEVIATING WORLD HUNGER WAS HIGHLIGHTED 
OFTEN IN VIRTUALLY ALL OF THE DAILIES, AND IL FOGLIO MADE A 
REFERENCE TO THE STUDY BY UNIVERSITY OF MILAN PROFESSOR 
FRANCESCO SALA SHOWING HOW ITALIAN AT-RISK "TYPICAL" 
PRODUCTS COULD BE SAVED BY BIOTECHNOLOGY.  A JUNE 12 
EDITORIAL IN IL CORRIERE COMMENTED THAT GMOS WERE A NATURAL 
STEP IN THE AGRICULTURE CONTINUUM, THAT ITALIAN AVERSION TO 
THEM RESULTED MORE FROM THEIR LACK OF BEING CHIC THAN FROM 
ANY SCIENTIFIC OPPOSITION, AND THAT IT WOULD BE IMMORAL TO 
ALLOW RICH CONSUMERS' DIFFIDENCE TOWARD GMOS TO PRECLUDE 
THEIR USE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER. 
 
8. OPPOSITION TO GMOS, ASIDE FROM ALEMANNO'S ASSERTION THAT 
THEY DID NOT MAKE SENSE FOR ITALY, WAS REPORTED MAINLY IN 
THE CONTEXT OF NGO OBJECTIONS, WHICH CONTRADICTORILY CALLED 
FOR ZERO TOLERANCE AND AN END TO PATENTING.  WHILE SOME 
PAPERS TENDED TO PORTRAY NGO ACTIVISTS AS SLIGHTLY EXTREME 
AND IRRATIONAL, OTHERS FEATURED ACTIVISTS IN MORE POSITIVE 
INTERVIEWS.  L'UNITA', THE PAPER OF THE PRO-DEMOCRATIC LEFT 
PARTY, GAVE PARTICULARLY STRONG ATTENTION TO THE ACTIVISTS' 
CAUSE, STRESSING THAT IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING THE 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ7175 
 
PAGE 01        ROME  03299  03 OF 03  051438Z 
ACTION EUR-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AGRE-00  AID-00   CEA-01   CIAE-00  COME-00 
      CTME-00  DODE-00  ITCE-00  DOTE-00  SRPP-00  EB-00    EXME-00 
      E-00     FAAE-00  UTED-00  VC-00    FRB-00   HHS-01   H-01 
      TEDE-00  INR-00   ITC-01   JUSE-00  LAB-01   L-00     VCE-00 
      AC-01    NSAE-00  OES-01   OMB-01   OPIC-01  ACE-00   SP-00 
      SSO-00   SS-00    STR-00   TEST-00  TRSE-00  USIE-00  EPAE-00 
      ECA-00   DRL-02   G-00     SAS-00     /011W 
                  ------------------C7077C  051438Z /38 
P 051450Z JUL 02 
FM AMEMBASSY ROME 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4635 
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE 
AMCONSUL FLORENCE 
AMCONSUL MILAN 
AMCONSUL NAPLES 
NSC WASHDC 
 
UNCLAS SECTION 03 OF 03 ROME 003299 
 
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 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  03299  03 OF 03  051438Z 
USDA/OS/HEGWOOD 
STATE PASS FDA FOR EFLAMM 
NSC FOR EDSON 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, ECON, TBIO, IT 
SUBJECT: WORLD FOOD SUMMIT ENVIGORATES ITALIAN BIOTECH 
DEBATE IN THE MEDIA 
 
ENVIRONMENT AND ASSURING THAT THE RIGHTS TO A REGION'S 
BIODIVERSITY AND LOCAL AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES REMAIN IN THE 
HANDS OF THE LOCAL POPULATION.  THE CONCERN THAT 
MULTINATIONALS MIGHT MONOPOLIZE PROFITS TO THE DETRIMENT OF 
POOR FARMERS (THROUGH PATENTING, TERMINATOR SEEDS, ETC.) 
WAS A THEME RAISED IN IL CORRIERE DELLA SERA, IL TEMPO, AND 
L'UNITA', AMONG OTHERS.  PROTESTERS' OCCUPATION OF A 
UNIVERSITY RESEARCH FACILITY NEAR VITERBO LATE IN THE WEEK 
RECEIVED WIDESPREAD COVERAGE, CALLING ATTENTION TO THE 
CONTINUED OBJECTIONS RAISED TO NGO RESEARCH.  NOTE: 
ACTUALLY ONLY ABOUT 40 PEOPLE WERE INVOLVED IN THE 
UNIVERSITY OF TUSCIA INCIDENT.  END NOTE. 
 
9. COMMENT: THE SUMMIT TEMPORARILY TRIGGERED A TREMENDOUSLY 
INCREASED QUANTITY OF PRESS COVERAGE ON BIOTECH.  NEWS 
COVERAGE IN THE CORRIERE DELLA SERA, IL GIORNALE, LA 
NAZIONE, AND IL FOGLIO WAS THE MOST COMPLETE, FEATURING 
BOTH SIDES, RATIONAL ARGUMENTATION, AND THE OBSERVATION 
THAT BIOTECHNOLOGY, LIKE MANY OTHER TOOLS, CAN BE USED TO 
BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE ENDS.  IL FOGLIO, IN FACT, 
EXPRESSED ITSELF IN FAVOR OF A MORE OPEN GMO POLICY. 
OVERALL, THE PRO-BIOTECH SIDE WAS BETTER REPRESENTED THAN 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  03299  03 OF 03  051438Z 
IT NORMALLY IS IN ITALIAN PRESS. IL TEMPO E L'UNITA' TENDED 
TO BE MORE CRITICAL OF BIOTECHNOLOGY AND TO WORRY ABOUT THE 
ENVIRONMENTAL, ETC. RISKS OF GMOS.  CONCERNS THAT 
BIOTECHNOLOGY WILL ONLY BENEFIT MULTINATIONALS AND THAT 
GMOS WILL HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON BIODIVERSITY HAVE 
EMERGED IN THE MEDIA AS AREAS OF CONTENTION THAT NEED TO BE 
ADDRESSED.  END COMMENT. 
 
10. THIS CABLE WAS PREPARED BY SCIENCE INTERN LEIGH SYLVAN. 
 
SEMBLER 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
> 
 2002ROME03299 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED 


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