Leaked cables reveal GMO, agrofuel agendas


UPDATED

The U.S. is targeting African officials to push genetically modified crops on Africa, and promoting agrofuels appears to be a significant item on the State Department’s agenda.

Those facts were revealed in our search of the American cables released by WikiLeaks and have not been reported by the nation’s news media.

The cables confirm the fears of Third World activists reported here on previous occasions. We would simply note that the Pentagon’s recently created military command for Africa — AFRICOM — was created by the now retired Air Force four-star general who retired to become a paid lobbyist for the agrofuel industry.

Now straight to the cables, which are available for online searches here.

African resources targeted by Clinton’s State Department

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been in office less than three months when the head of operations for her department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research [INR] sent out a cable on 9 April 2009 titled “REPORTING AND COLLECTION NEEDS: AFRICAN GREAT.”

The message was classified SECRET//NOFORN, meaning that no copies were to be provided to any foreign nationals.

First, Cunnigham tasked her spooks with gathering “the following information as possible when they have information relating to persons linked to African Great Lakes: office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information, such as telephone directories (in compact disc or electronic format if available) and e-mail listings; internet and intranet ‘handles’, internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information.”

The intelligence gathering effort will “guide participating USG [U.S. government] agencies as they allocate resources and update plans to collect information on African Great Lakes. . .The priorities should also serve as a useful tool to help the Embassy manage reporting and collection, including formulation of Mission Strategic Plans (MSPs).”

Specific countries targeted were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda.

Under the heading “Country-Specific Issues,” the first heading, taking precedence over “Genocidal Legacy Issues” is “Mineral Resources, ” which would seem to confirm that a major focus behind the creation of AFRICOM was control of Africa’s oil riches.

But the issue of immediate concern is to be found under the heading “Food Security and Agriculture (FOOD).”

Among the areas targeted for intelligence collection are three that should alarm bells for African activists and others concerned with resource issues, specifically:

– Government acceptance of genetically modified food and propagation of genetically modified crops.
– Status of structural adjustments and infrastructure improvements to increase agricultural producer income and reduce migration to urban areas.
– Information on surface and groundwater resources, to include sources, treatment, distribution and storage.

The interest in government policies on GMOs sounds a warning that the State Department is pushing the interests of the powerful U.S. corporations which have taken the lead in pushing proprietary crops and their accompanying suites of patented herbicides and pesticides.

“Structural adjustments” is a particularly ominous pair of words, usually invoked by outfits like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund when mandating privatization of basic resources in exchange for financial aid.

Sarkozy and the GMO industry

The next cable, classified CONFIDENTIAL, was sent by U.S. Ambassador Craig R. Stapleton on 26 October 2007 during Condoleeza Rice’s tenure at State prior to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s first state visit to the U.S. It’s titled “PRESIDENT SARKOZY’S FIRST OFFICIAL VISIT TO THE U.S.: POLICY COORDINATION WITH A SELF-CONSCIOUSLY INDEPENDENT FRANCE.”

GMOs, as well as pharmaceuticals, are mentioned in the 14th paragraph:

¶14. (SBU) The U.S.-French economic relationship remains robust, with over $1 billion in commercial transactions per day taking place between the two countries’ firms. During President Sarkozy’s visit, CEOs from some of the most important of these will meet, for the first time in several years as the French-American Business Council (FABC) to exchange views on policy priorities. U.S. firms have been almost unanimously positive about the Sarkozy government. Nonetheless there are a number of regulatory unknowns that could potentially impact U.S. commercial interests. Among these are the GOF’s evolving views on genetically-modified organisms, IPR in the digital environment and pricing policy as it relates to pharmaceutical spending.

UPDATE: And then there’s this from the same cable, pointed out by reader Madeline Love [see the comments], revealing that Sarkozy’s “opposition” to GMO crops may be little more than a deft bit of political cover:

¶33. (SBU) GMO Moratorium: When Sarkozy [French President] came into office not only did he create a ‘mega’ environment ministry, but he also directed it to undertake a process, the ‘Grenelle’, involving all sectors of the economy to reshape French environmental policies. Among the topics considered in the Grenelle was what to do about Genetically Modified Organisms, a subject of considerable domestic concern in France. The result is that France is currently considering a moratorium on biotech planting that would significantly undermine U.S. agricultural exports to Europe. We believe President Sarkozy may support the politically popular moratorium in order to gain capital to use in his reform efforts.

GMOs, agrofuel and Great Britain

The next cable, marked  UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY, recounts discussions on both agrofuels and GMOs with then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 25 April 2008. The heading: UK FOOD SUMMIT HIGHLIGHTS PM BROWN’S CONCERN.

Cause for special concern for African land use activists is the British push for large-scale plantation agriculture, but there lots more about GMOs and agrofuels as well

Here’s the relevant text:

¶1. (SBU) Summary: At an April 22, PM Brown-hosted meeting to address increases in food prices, participants disagreed about future trends and the impact of biofuels, agreed that action needed to be taken both for immediate social protection and longer-term agricultural investment, and that care should be taken not to talk up a “crisis.” The UK press release following the meeting included a broad range of proposed actions that the UK plans to pursue both domestically and internationally, ranging from increased assistance to a WTO trade deal and improved World Bank and IMF effectiveness. DFID also announced a new GBP 455 million ($910 million) five-year assistance package. In DFID’s view, the current crisis is being caused by high and rising food prices, not a shortage of food. End Summary.

¶2. (SBU) On April 22, PM Brown hosted a one and a half hour meeting to discuss ways the international community could respond to the growing global food price crisis. Overseas Development Institute (ODI) Director Simon Maxwell, who was called on to set the stage at the meeting, told us he was surprised that the meeting, which was originally intended to be a small private event, was publicized and expanded to include more international players. Participants included UK government ministers, international organizations such Josette Sheeran from the World Food Program, business, academics and others. For the full list, see paragraph 16.

¶3. (SBU) PM Brown opened the meeting, introducing the list of action areas he had asked the Japanese Prime Minister to put on the G8 agenda, including short tern measures to deal with immediate hardship and long term structural measures as outlined in paragraph 13. (see also http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page15321.asp). UK Development Secretary Douglas Alexander concluded the meeting by
SIPDIS emphasizing the need for the international architecture to keep up. He noted that this had been a key theme at the World Bank Development Committee in Washington earlier in April. He also expressed surprise there had not been more discussion about concluding a WTO trade deal as a means to address food price concerns.

Food Prices and Biofuels
————————

¶4. (SBU) Participants disagreed about likely food price trends and the impact of biofuels. UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn noted that the futures market for wheat showed the price falling more than 25 percent from current levels by next year. Cargill’s Ruth Rawling predicted that wheat prices would come down quite quickly, noting that there is a harvest somewhere on the planet every sixty days, except for rice. ODI estimated that prices would fall back from their current peak to roughly what they had been in the early 1990s. (See ODI’s discussion paper on the topic at http://www.odi.org.uk/publications/briefing/ bp37-april08-rising-food-prices.pdf)

¶5. (SBU) On the other hand, Stefan Tangermann from the OECD Trade & Agriculture Directorate said their modeling showed maize prices for the next ten years would be 60 percent higher than during the past decade and that half of this increase was due to biofuels. Joachim Von Braun, Director General, Inter Food Policy Institute Research (IFPRI) suggested a moratorium on maize for biofuels. Their modeling showed it would reduce maize prices by 20 percent immediately and wheat prices by 10 percent, with further reductions because it would discourage speculation.

¶6. (SBU) Others defended biofuels. Benn wanted to see hard facts and analysis on biofuels. Mike Bushell, from agri-business company Syngenta, argued against demonizing biofuels. Rawling argued against rigid mandates and in favor of buy-out clauses for biofuels. She also noted that flexibility is essential since biofuel targets are fixed in terms of fuel markets not food markets, and 2.5 percent of the fuel market can represent as much as 20 percent of a food market.

Causes and Remedies
——————-

¶7. (SBU) Maxwell told us the headline messages about social protection in the short run and agricultural investment in the long run were clear to the participants, but everything else about causes and remedies was contested. Paul Collier, Oxford University, argued that the main cause was growth in China, which no one wants to reduce. He also pointed to “follies” that he wanted to undo, specifically U.S. biofuels subsidies, and the EU refusal to accept genetically modified crops. Collier wanted to see large-scale farming in Africa along the lines of the Brazilian model. (For details, see Collier’s April 15 article in the Times: Food Shortages: Think Big. http://www.timesonline.co.uk) On April 24, Malcolm Bruce, MP and chairman of Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC), speaking at an IDC evidence session dismissed Collier’s suggestion that African countries adopt the Brazilian model as a “professorial point of view, not a politician’s.”

We hope that people on the left side of the spectrum will stop smearing WikiLeaks and really explored the cables. They are filled with revelations of the sort we’ve featured here.

Come on guys, let’s all start digging.

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11 responses to “Leaked cables reveal GMO, agrofuel agendas

  1. There’s also paragraph 33 from the Sarkozy cable 07PARIS4357:

    ¶33. (SBU) GMO Moratorium: When Sarkozy [French President] came into office not only did he create a ‘mega’ environment ministry, but he also directed it to undertake a process, the ‘Grenelle’, involving all sectors of the economy to reshape French environmental policies. Among the topics considered in the Grenelle was what to do about Genetically Modified Organisms, a subject of considerable domestic concern in France. The result is that France is currently considering a moratorium on biotech planting that would significantly undermine U.S. agricultural exports to Europe. We believe President Sarkozy may support the politically popular moratorium in order to gain capital to use in his reform efforts.

    http://cablesearch.org/cable/view.php?id=07PARIS4357

    Discussion about this paragraph here: http://on.fb.me/g7G0RR

  2. Thanks for this, this is great.

    As for those on the left who see the CIA’s shadow behind every door, they should realize that these are only diplomatic cables that reflect the views of US diplomats. In some cases, they are more cogent while in other cases the diplomats believe their own rhetoric. That’s not the fault of Wikileaks. Moreover, less than half a percent of the cables have thus far been released.

    Also major news media are spinning the materials as they see fit, giving the impression that the cables are one sided, especially since very little if anything has been released on Colombia or Israel where US influence and positioning is most shady.

    It’s up to others to decode the more telling of the cables including the ones presented here.

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  4. Great!!

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