Print

Print


WikiLeaks: US Embassy in Sofia Backed Pro-GMO Lobby
Novinite

August 28, 2011,

	Bulgaria's legislation on Genetically Modified Organisms 
(GMO) has been carefully followed by the US Embassy in Sofia.
	The information comes from several US diplomatic cables, (one 
by current US Ambassador in Sofia, James Warlick), which were 
released by WikiLeaks and their Bulgarian partner, the site for 
investigative journalism 
<http://www.bivol.bg/wl%3Cb%3E%3Cb%3Egmo%3C/b%3E%3C/b%3E.html>Bivol.bg.
	According to the cables, GMO supporters in Bulgaria are 
actively backed and financed by the American Embassy, as Bivol writes.
	In a cable, sent in 2006, Charge d'Affaires, Alex 
Karagiannis, informs the US Department of State that the main 
obstacle for the passing of more liberal GMO legislation has been 
opposition coming from the President of the Bulgarian Academy of 
Science (BAS), Ivan Juchnovski.
	"According to Atanas Atanassov, Director of the Agro-Bio 
Institute (ABI), Juchnovski sent various "experts", who knew little 
about the science of GMOs, to the Environmental and Agriculture 
Parliamentary Committees to critique the draft law. These experts 
propagated the view that "the harmful effects of GMOs on human health 
and the environment is a fact." BAS insisted on a ban on the 
cultivation of modified crops since "no convincing evidence as to the 
safety of GMOs" exists. Taking BAS's concerns to heart, the current 
law's stated priority is "to protect human health and the 
environment" regardless of the existing economic interests or the 
unavailability of sufficient scientific data," Karagiannis writes, 
explaining that GMO lobbyists, with the support of Deputy Minister of 
Agriculture Svetla Batchvarova, have sent a letter to the EU 
Commission asking if Bulgarian GMO law is consistent with EU 
legislation..
	"Atanassov believes Bulgaria could face penalties if the law 
is shown to be out-of-step with EU policy, which might just be the 
stick GMO supporters here are looking for to convince the government 
to revise the law," the cable reads.
	"Embassy Sofia has a well-defined biotechnology strategy 
supported by the US biotech industry and important local 
stakeholders", Ambassador Nancy McEldowney writes in January 2009.
	According to McEldowney's report, "the goal of the Embassy's 
public diplomacy initiative is to spur debate and discussion about 
biotechnology, create positive public opinion, and to provide broader 
availability of scientific information about agricultural 
biotechnology to both the media and consumers...Gaining key opinion 
leaders' support will help increase the public's awareness and trust 
in foods derived from GMO products.  The proposed program has been 
discussed with and received the backing of local counterparts who 
have created an informal consortium to steer the program's activities 
and content. This Consortium includes: the National Agricultural 
Academy, National Biosafety Commission, agricultural and food 
research universities and institutes, the local Association of 
Agricultural Producers, and specialized media."
	Bivol further points out that in 2010, the American lobby got 
a new chance for success, after the liberalization of GMO legislation 
became a strategic priority of the new cabinet of Prime Minister, 
Boyko Borisov.
	"Under heavy pressure to amend the draft legislation, the 
current government suggested adding a five-year moratorium for 
releasing GMO products into the environment or for farming purposes. 
Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Naydenov admitted in a meeting with 
Ambassador February 11 that this moratorium is a tactical approach in 
order to achieve the strategic goal of passing the draft law. He 
expected that once the new legislation is passed, the	European 
Commission would view the moratorium as a delay in the implementation 
of the law and Bulgaria would be forced to lift it. In Naydenov's 
view, it would be easier to lift a moratorium under pressure from the 
EC than to change the legislation," current US Ambassador in Sofia, 
James Warlick, wrote in February 2010, stressing such strategy was 
"walking on a tight rope," since the public opinion has been heavily 
influenced by anti-GMO rhetoric.
	"If Naydenov is correct, and the EC ultimately forces 
Bulgaria to lift the proposed moratorium, the government will have 
the excuse it needs to finally liberalize Bulgaria's biotech regime. 
But it will be a tough fight," the Ambassador concludes.
	As Bivol stresses, the development of events proved Naydenov 
wrong - not only didn't the EC sanction Bulgaria, but due to the 
activities of a number of Bulgarian politicians, the European 
Parliament accepted and backed the right of each country to determine 
the local level of GMO restrictions.
	The original text of Ambassador Warlick's cable read 
<http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=131570>HERE and 
<http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/02/10SOFIA105.html>HERE.
	The full text of Ambassador McEldowney's cable 
read<http://www.wikileaks.org/cable/2009/01/09SOFIA23.html> 
<http://www.wikileaks.org/cable/2009/01/09SOFIA23.html>HERE.
	The full text of Charge d'Affaires Karagiannis cable read 
<http://www.wikileaks.org/cable/2006/08/06SOFIA1173.html>HERE.

SOURCE URL: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=131572