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Obama's State Department Pledges to Step Up Its Cheerleading for Monsanto and GMOs

The U.S. State Department will aggressively confront critics of agricultural biotechnology as the United States seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change, Jose Fernandez, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, told several hundred attendees from around the world at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual convention last week in Chicago.

Nearly 15,000 stakeholders from the medical, agricultural and industrial sectors crowded the vast McCormick Place conference center, where it can be a half-mile walk between meeting rooms.  Highlights of the May 3-6 meeting were keynote presentations by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and former Vice President Al Gore.  Lesser-known celebrities included New Yorker writer Michael Specter, author of the book Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives (see also stories on Page 5).

Though he was not the first speaker at an opening afternoon "Leadership Summit," Fernandez warmed up the crowd when he said the State Department is ready to take on the naysayers.  Agriculture has greater potential to mitigate climate change than either energy or transport measures, he said. "There are more people in the world, and the world is getting warmer.  Our challenge is to produce more food with less."

Noting Turkey's recent ban on biotech food imports and India's rejection of biotech eggplant cultivation, Fernandez said the State Department is "working to overcome these obstacles."  He outlined a four-pronged strategy to promote biotech crops worldwide:  (1) highlighting the science; (2) confronting the critics; (3) building alliances; and (4) anticipating and addressing roadblocks to acceptance.
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