Should our diplomats be Monsanto saleswomen?

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Monsanto

A State department official in Hong Kong explained in January 2009 that his diplomatic post “played a key role in reversing Hong Kong (HK) regulators’ intention to announce a mandatory scheme” for labeling of which foods are genetically modified.

The cable, intercepted by Wikileaks, went on:

Continuing an effective biotech outreach program, which was greatly assisted by last year’s grant, is essential to countering persistent pro-labeling sentiment. For FY2009 post requests a total of $92,000 to carry out a number of outreach and capacity building activities targeting educators, policy makers, consumer groups, and the press.

I think the worries about biotech foods is very overblown, and I oppose mandatory labeling laws. I just wonder why the State Department — as opposed to, say, the companies that want to sell biotech foods into Hong Kong — are lobbying that point in Hong Kong.

Liberal magazine Mother Jones (which doesn’t share my openness to biotech foods) explores this question.

I asked similar questions about the State Department acting as Boeing salesmen. One highlight:

In Tanzania in 2007, U.S. embassy officials reported that they “have engaged at the highest reaches of this government, and for the moment halted the rush to Airbus and opened a window that Boeing intends to exploit.” In Turkey in 2004, an embassy cable solemnly expressed “concern about extensive lobbying by senior European Union officials and the heads of state of Germany and France on behalf of Airbus,” before assuring State and Commerce Department officials that the embassy “will continue its active advocacy on behalf of Boeing.”

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