US embassy cable - 02HARARE2016

RESULTS REPORT: AUGUST 30 INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH U/S ALAN LARSON

Identifier: 02HARARE2016
Wikileaks: View 02HARARE2016 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Harare
Created: 2002-09-03 15:15:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: KPAO OPRC
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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