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(International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria)

Revealed: How US State Department 'Twists Arms' on Monsanto's Behalf

Selling seeds, selling out democracy: US State Department does biotech industry's bidding

Jacob Chamberlain

The U.S. State Department does the bidding of biotech giants like Monsanto around the world by "twisting the arms of countries" and engaging in vast public campaign schemes to push the sale of genetically modified seeds, according to a new report released Tuesday by Food & Water Watch.

The report, Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda, which pulls from over 900 State Department diplomatic cables (obtained via WikiLeaks), reveals an environment wherein US ambassadors act as sales representatives for the global biotech industry.

U.S. ambassadors and their staffs actively lobby foreign governments to adopt pro-biotechnology policies and laws, create "rigorous public relations campaigns to improve the image of biotechnology" and challenge "commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules — including opposing genetically engineered (GE) food labeling laws."

"It really goes beyond promoting the U.S.'s biotech industry and agriculture," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "It really gets down to twisting the arms of countries and working to undermine local democratic movements that may be opposed to biotech crops, and pressuring foreign governments to also reduce the oversight of biotech crops."

As FWW reports, the State Department has gone to great lengths to see that biotech companies' desires are met:

  • The U.S. State Department’s multifaceted efforts to promote the biotechnology industry overseas: The State Department targeted foreign reporters, hosted and coordinated pro-biotech conferences and public events and brought foreign opinion-makers to the United States on high-profile junkets to improve the image of agricultural biotechnology overseas and overcome widespread public opposition to GE crops and foods.
  • The State Department’s coordinated campaign to promote biotech business interests: The State Department promoted not only pro-biotechnology policies but also the products of biotech companies. The strategy cables explicitly “protect the interests” of biotech exporters, “facilitate trade in agribiotech products” and encourage the cultivation of GE crops in more countries, especially in the developing world.
  • The State Department’s determined advocacy to press the developing world to adopt biotech crops: The diplomatic cables document a coordinated effort to lobby countries in the developing world to pass legislation and implement regulations favored by the biotech seed industry. This study examines the State Department lobbying campaigns in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria to pass pro-biotech laws.
  • The State Department’s efforts to force other nations to accept biotech crop and food imports: The State Department works with the U.S. Trade Representative to promote the export of biotech crops and to force nations that do not want these imports to accept U.S. biotech foods and crops.

“It’s not surprising that Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow want to maintain and expand their control of the $15 billion global biotech seed market, but it’s appalling that the State Department is complicit in supporting their goals despite public and government opposition in several countries,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of Organic Consumers Association. “American taxpayer’s money should not be spent advancing the goals of a few giant biotech companies.”

"The biotech agriculture model using costly seeds and agrichemicals forces farmers onto a debt treadmill that is neither economically nor environmentally viable," said Ben Burkett, President of the National Family Farm Coalition.  “An overwhelming number of farmers in the developing world reject biotech crops as a path to sustainable agricultural development or food sovereignty."

"Thanks, Monsanto. And thanks, State Department. Not only are you selling seeds, you're selling out democracy," Hauter concludes.

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