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|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 HARARE 002016 SIPDIS DEPT FOR PA/OBS/P (NANCY RILEY) INFO AF/PD (COX), AF/S (SCHLACHTER), AF, EB E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: KPAO, OPRC SUBJECT: RESULTS REPORT: AUGUST 30 INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH U/S ALAN LARSON 1. This program was extremely useful and successful -- one of the best interactive programs we have had. U/S Larson's hard-hitting yet respectful exegesis on the biotech issue was absolutely on target. We were particularly impressed with Larson's quick and thoughtful reaction when one of our panelists tried to inject out-of- context information into his comment/question. U/S Larson's firm but polite clarification of the real issue at hand, the complete absence of scientific evidence that biotech maize carries health risks, was perfect. 2. Our audience of about 30 included journalists, a representative from the Zimbabwean Ministry of Agriculture, a representative from one of Zimbabwe's leading seed companies, agricultural researchers from the University of Zimbabwe, an official from the Zimbabwe Bureau of Standards, and a farmer. Before the program the audience was roughly one-third pro-biotechnology, one third anti- biotechnology, and one-third wait-and-see. By the program's end, the "wait-and-see" members of our audience were largely persuaded that biotech food does not present a health risk and should be used to meet Zimbabwe's food crisis. As seems common, the anti-biotechnology people were not terribly interested in scientific data. 3. We used the technical pause at the beginning of the program to begin a dialogue with our audience that continued after the program ended. In that discussion the pro-biotechnology people were categorical about the need for Zimbabwe to make a policy decision on BT food, a decision they hoped would provide food for the nation's hungry. Their arguments were well constructed, echoed what U/S Larson had said and, in our opinion, carried the field. Our anti-biotechnology participants could do no better than to fall back on the argument that BT crops would "put small Zimbabwean farmers at the mercy of international seed companies." Fortunately, one of the agricultural researchers pointed out that Zimbabwe has been using hybrid maize seed, purchased from seed companies, for 60 years. In the end, the pro- and anti-biotechnology factions simply had to agree to disagree. Significantly, the issue of biotech safety was not a major point of argument in the post-program discussion. Score one point for science. 4. The program's effectiveness was enhanced by an article carried in the September 1 Sunday Mirror (independent, pro- government weekly). The article accurately quoted U/S Larson and dispassionately presented US policy on biotechnology and agricultural development in Africa. 5. Post made further use of the program by distributing the transcript to Zimbabwean editors and other opinion leaders on September 2. We will report further use of the transcript as it occurs. 6. Two factors made this program especially successful: The skill and expertise of U/S Larson and the active participation of only two posts. In spite of the time lost at the top of the program, the participation of only two posts allowed our audience and panelists a thorough discussion of the topic at hand. Many thanks for an excellent program. SULLIVAN
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