U.S. documents leaked by Wikileaks show interest in genetically modified organisms around the world

With more than 200,000 U.S. cables in its possession, Wikileaks has released detailed information about America’s support of worldwide use of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Reports include evidence that State Department officials have made efforts to fight Europe’s strict labeling regulations on GM foods. One cable outlines the political conditions in Austria as of August 2009, noting the country’s ban on GMOs demonstrates its “isolationist, anti-EU, and anti-U.S. positions.”

Spain, the EU’s biggest supporter of GM crops was urged to keep pressure on Brussels in hopes that the rest of Europe would follow Spain’s lead into biotech foods.

Africa was named a potentially lucrative source for U.S. biotech companies in cables to intelligence officials in Burundi, the Congo, and Rwanda, directing agents to gather information on “government acceptance of genetically modified food and propagation of genetically modified crops.”

Catholic resistance to GM crops in developing countries was addressed by pressure put on the Pope’s direct advisers, according to cables to and from the U.S. Vatican Embassy, which ended in a rejection of the U.S. efforts by Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Martino had withdrawn his support for the U.S. said the cable, “A Martino deputy told us recently that the cardinal had co-operated with embassy Vatican on biotech over the past two years in part to compensate for his vocal disapproval of the Iraq war and its aftermath – to keep relations with the USG [US government] smooth. According to our source, Martino no longer feels the need to take this approach.”

The cables also showed U.S. diplomats working directly with GM companies including Monsanto—the largest manufacturer of GM seeds including canola, soy, and corn—in responding to their requests to keep supporting Spain’s “science-based agricultural biotechnology position.”

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Photo: Johan Ohrling