US embassy cable - 02ROME5831

FODAG AMBASSADOR CONVEYS U.S. MESSAGE ON FOOD AID AND FAMINE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA

Identifier: 02ROME5831
Wikileaks: View 02ROME5831 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Rome
Created: 2002-12-03 14:26:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: AORC AF EAID ETRD EU AF EAID ETRD EU TBIO FAO WFP FAS TBIO AORC FAO WFP FAS
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 02 ROME 005831 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FROM FODAG 
 
E.O. 12958:  N/A 
TAGS: AORC, AF, EAID, ETRD, EU, AF, EAID, ETRD, EU, TBIO, FAO, WFP, FAS, TBIO AORC, FAO, WFP, FAS 
SUBJECT:  FODAG AMBASSADOR CONVEYS U.S. MESSAGE ON FOOD AID 
AND FAMINE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA 
 
REF:  STATE 239750 (NOTAL) 
 
1.  SUMMARY:  AMBASSADOR TONY HALL, U.S. MISSION ROME, 
PRESENTED U.S. VIEWS ON THE GROWING HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCY 
IN SOUTHERN AFRICA ON DECEMBER 2 TO SELECTED ROME-BASED 
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVES.  AMBASSADOR NICHOLSON, U.S. 
AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEE ALSO PARTICIPATED.  EU AND 
AFRICAN REPRESENTATIVES WELCOMED THE U.S. INITIATIVE; A 
CONSENSUS ON THE GROWING URGENCY OF THE SITUATION WAS ALSO 
EVIDENT. THE ZIMBABWE REPRESENTATIVE, SPEAKING FOR THE 
SOUTHERN AFRICAN SUB-REGION, EXPRESSED APPRECIATION FOR 
DONORS' CONCERN AND ASSISTANCE. PARTICIPANTS DID NOT COMMENT 
DIRECTLY ON THE AMBASSADOR'S REQUEST FOR COUNTRIES TO SPEAK 
OUT ON THE SAFETY OF U.S. FOOD AID OTHER THAN THE EC 
REPRESENTATIVE'S AFFIRMATION OF 1) THE SAFETY OF THE FOOD 
AID IN QUESTION BUT 2) THE RIGHT OF COUNTRIES TO CHOOSE TO 
ACCEPT OR NOT, BASED ON THE "PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE."  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  05831  01 OF 02  031557Z 
2.  AMBASSADOR TONY HALL CONVENED SELECTED ROME-BASED 
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVES TO THE FAO ON DECEMBER 2, 2002 TO 
DISCUSS FOOD AID TO COUNTRIES AFFECTED BY DROUGHT IN THE SUB 
REGION (REFTEL).   ALL EU MEMBERS, PLUS JAPAN, CANADA, 
AUSTRALIA AND HEADS OF OTHER FAO REGIONAL GROUPS WERE 
INVITED AS WELL AS THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN COUNTRIES AFFECTED 
BY THE DROUGHT (WITH THE EXCEPTION OF ZAMBIA, WHICH IS NOT 
REPRESENTED IN ROME).  OF THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN COUNTRIES, 
ONLY ZIMBABWE AND SOUTH AFRICA ATTENDED.  AMBASSADOR HALL 
BRIEFED PARTICIPANTS USING THE TALKING POINTS IN REFTEL AND 
DISTRIBUTED WRITTEN COPIES OF THE U.S. POSITION FOLLOWING 
THE MEETING.  AMBASSADOR NICHOLSON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE 
HOLY SEE, PARTICIPATED AS WELL, USING THE OPPORTUNITY TO 
DISCUSS THE RECENT FOCUS OF EMBASSY VATICAN IN ATTEMPTING TO 
HAVE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH PLAY A MORE POSITIVE ROLE IN THE GM 
FOOD AID DEBATE, NOTING IN PARTICULAR HIS CONCERN ABOUT THE 
JESUIT COMMUNITY IN ZAMBIA BEING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THIS 
ISSUE. 
 
3.  EUROPEAN AND AFRICAN COLLEAGUES WELCOMED THE U.S. 
INITIATIVE (UNUSUAL BETWEEN REGULARLY SCHEDULED MEETINGS OF 
ROME-BASED UN AGENCIES).  DONORS EXPRESSED GROWING CONCERN 
WITH THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION IN SOUTHERN AFRICA. 
DENMARK, SPEAKING AS THE EU PRESIDENT, CALLED FOR GREATER 
DONOR COORDINATION, GUIDELINES TO GOVERN DISTRIBUTION IN 
ZIMBABWE, PLANNING FOR REHABILITATION OF COUNTRIES FOLLOWING 
THE CURRENT CRISIS, AND THE NEED FOR HARMONIZED REGIONAL 
GUIDELINES ON GM COMMODITIES.  THE EC PERMANENT 
REPRESENTATIVE (COMMENT: THE EC IS A FAO MEMBER. END 
COMMENT) STATED THAT THE EC HAD ALREADY PROVIDED 250 MILLION 
EUROS TO THE SIX AFFECTED COUNTRIES OF THE SUB REGION. SHE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        ROME  05831  01 OF 02  031557Z 
SAID THAT FIGURE INCREASED TO 328 MILLION EUROS WHEN 
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM INDIVIDUAL MEMBER COUNTRIES WERE 
INCLUDED. (COMMENT: FODAG CAN VERIFY USD 60 MILLION IN FOOD 
AID FROM EC-EUROPEAID AND USD 314,651 FROM EC-ECHO THROUGH 
WFP AND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM INDIVIDUAL EU MEMBER STATES TO 
WFP AMOUNTING TO ANOTHER USD 57.41 MILLION.  END COMMENT.) 
 
4.  THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE IN VIEWS CONCERNED BIOTECH FOOD 
AID.  AMBASSADOR HALL CITED THE U.S. EXPERIENCE, NOTING 
THERE HAD BEEN NO ILL EFFECTS ON MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WHO 
HAVE EATEN BIOTECH FOOD FOR YEARS, AND THE URGENT NEED TO 
GET U.S. AID TO THOSE WHO ARE LIKELY TO STARVE IF NOT 
PROVIDED FOOD.  THE EC PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE REAFFIRMED 
THE EC COMMISSIONER'S STATEMENT THAT THERE WERE NO HEALTH 
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH U.S.-APPROVED GM MAIZE VARIETIES, 
BUT UNDERLINED THAT DEVELOPING COUNTRIES COULD ADOPT 
WHATEVER LEGISLATION THEY SAW FIT, BASED ON THE 
"PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE." 
 
5.  THE AMBASSADOR OF ZIMBABWE NOTED THAT ZIMBABWE HAD A 
BIOSAFETY COUNCIL, AS A RESULT OF WHICH THE GOVERNMENT HAD 
BEEN ABLE TO ASSESS THE PROPERTIES AND SAFETY OF THE FOOD 
AID IN QUESTION.  THEY HAD CONCLUDED THAT IT COULD BE 
DISTRIBUTED AS MILLED MEAL.  SHE ADDED THAT ZIMBABWE'S 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ1239 
 
PAGE 01        ROME  05831  02 OF 02  031557Z 
ACTION EUR-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AF-00    AID-00   CEA-01   CIAE-00  CTME-00 
      USNW-00  DODE-00  ITCE-00  WHA-00   SRPP-00  EAP-00   EB-00 
      EXME-00  OIGO-00  E-00     UTED-00  FDRE-01  VC-00    FRB-00 
      HHS-01   H-01     TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    ITC-01   L-00 
      VCE-00   AC-01    NEA-00   NSAE-00  NSCE-00  OES-00   OIC-02 
      OMB-01   OPIC-01  PER-00   ACE-00   SP-00    SSO-00   STR-00 
      TEST-00  TRSE-00  USIE-00  SA-00    PRM-00   DRL-02   G-00 
      NFAT-00  SAS-00   SWCI-00    /012W 
                  ------------------12042D  031826Z /38 
R 031426Z DEC 02 
FM AMEMBASSY ROME 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7182 
INFO USDA FAS WASHDC 2455 
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 
USMISSION GENEVA 
AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 
AMEMBASSY TOKYO 
AMEMBASSY GABORONE 
AMEMBASSY HARARE 
AMEMBASSY LILONGWE 
AMEMBASSY LUANDA 
AMEMBASSY LUSAKA 
AMEMBASSY MAPUTO 
AMEMBASSY MASERU 
AMEMBASSY MBABANE 
AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        ROME  05831  02 OF 02  031557Z 
USDOC WASHDC 
EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE 
 
UNCLAS SECTION 02 OF 02 ROME 005831 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FROM FODAG 
 
E.O. 12958:  N/A 
TAGS:  AORC, FAO, WFP, AF, EAID, ETRD, EU, FAS, TBIO 
SUBJECT:  FODAG AMBASSADOR CONVEYS U.S. MESSAGE ON FOOD AID 
AND FAMINE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA 
 
DECISION WAS BASED ON THE "NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE."  GM MAIZE 
WAS "NOT THEIR FIRST CHOICE" BUT THEY "HAD TO MAKE DO WITH 
WHAT WAS AVAILABLE."   FOR COUNTRIES IN THE REGION THAT DO 
NOT HAVE BIOSAFETY COUNCILS IN PLACE, SHE STRESSED THE NEED 
FOR DONOR ASSISTANCE IN HELPING THEM BUILD UP THEIR NATIONAL 
CAPACITY IN THIS REGARD.  SHE ADDED THAT IN THE LONGER TERM, 
SADC EXPERTS HAVE DISCUSSED WORKING ON A REGION-WIDE POLICY 
ON GMO'S.  THE AMBASSADOR OF ZIMBABWE NOTED THAT THERE HAD 
BEEN PROBLEMS IN SOME PLACES WHERE THE GOVERNMENT WAS 
LETTING "TRADITIONAL LEADERSHIP" HANDLE FOOD DISTRIBUTION. 
SHE STATED THAT THEY WERE GETTING FEEDBACK FROM AND LEARNING 
FROM DONORS ON PROBLEMS IN THIS AREA.  SHE WENT ON TO SAY 
THAT THE MAJOR CHALLENGE WAS FOR FARMERS TO ACCESS INPUTS 
FOR THE NEXT SEASON (PLANTING FOR WHICH HAD ALREADY BEGUN). 
 
6.  THE ITALIAN AMBASSADOR STATED THAT HIS GOVERNMENT WAS 
"SENSITIVE TO THE ISSUE OF BIOTECH FOOD AID," DESPITE 
"DIVERGING VIEWS IN OUR COUNTRY ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY" 
AND AFFIRMED THAT AFRICA WAS A HIGH PRIORITY FOR THE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        ROME  05831  02 OF 02  031557Z 
GOVERNMENT OF ITALY.  THE CANADIAN REPRESENTATIVE ASKED 
SPECIFICALLY IF ZIMBABWE COULD NOT IMPROVE ACCESS TO FOOD IN 
THE REGION BY LIFTING THE GRAIN BOARD'S MONOPOLY (AS HAD 
BEEN DONE FOR FUEL.)  THE ZIMBABWE REPRESENTATIVE REPLIED 
THAT HER GOVERNMENT WAS CONSULTING WITH DONORS AND WITH THE 
PRIVATE SECTOR ON SUCH ISSUES. 
 
7.  COMMENT - THIS INITIATIVE WAS MUCH APPRECIATED.  U.S. 
MISSION WOULD RECOMMEND IN FAVOR OF CONDUCTING SIMILAR 
BRIEFINGS ON CRISES IN THE FUTURE.  END COMMENT. 
 
HALL 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
> 
 2002ROME05831 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED 


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