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Monsanto in US Foreign Policy

May 16, 2013

The NGO Food and Water Watch yesterday released a report entitled “Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda.” Based on a review of nearly 1,000 diplomatic cables dated between 2005 and 2009 leaked by WikiLeaks, Food and Water Watch concludes that, “in the past decade, the United States has aggressively pursued foreign policies in food and agriculture that benefit the largest seed companies. The U.S. State Department has launched a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology, often over the opposition of the public and governments, to the near exclusion of other more sustainable, more appropriate agricultural policy alternatives.”

Interestingly, the State Department’s initiative went beyond the usual “charm offensive” to promote agricultural biotechnology in general. It also included specific efforts to promote commercial interests. As the report notes,

The seed companies, including Monsanto, DuPont, Pioneer, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and Dow Agrochemical, are more commonly mentioned in the biotech cables than food aid (6.9 percent of the cables and 4.4 percent, respectively)… The State Department worked especially hard to promote the interests of Monsanto… The State Department exercised its diplomatic persuasion to bolster Monsanto’s image in host countries, facilitate field-testing or approval of Monsanto crops and intervene with governments to negotiate seed royalty settlements.

The report raises some real concerns about the intersection of U.S. foreign policy and U.S. commercial interests. While the two have always been closely related, there seems to be an increasing amount of overlap. One wonders how far removed we are now from the good old days of the Dutch East Indies and British South Africa Companies.

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