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Homeland Security

Washington File

23 June 2003

Bush: Biotech Key to Fighting Global Hunger, Terrorism

(Urges European governments to end opposition to biotech) (2530)
President Bush June 23 urged governments to "end their opposition" to
biotechnology in order advance the global fight against hunger.
Addressing the Biotechnology Industrial Organization's (BIO) Annual
Convention in Washington, Bush said many European governments have
blocked the import of new biotech crops based on "unfounded,
unscientific fears."
"Because of these artificial obstacles," he said, "many African
nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried that their products
will be shut out of important European markets."
"For the sake of a continent threatened by famine I urge the European
governments to end their opposition to biotechnology," added Bush.
"America and other wealthy nations have a special responsibility to
combat hunger and disease in desperate lands," said Bush, noting that
the United States will provide more than $1 billion in food and aid in
the coming year.
While agriculture advances have produced greater crop yields and grown
crops with high resistance to drought, pests and disease, Bush said,
many of the advantages of biotechnology have not reached developing
nations in Africa and nations where they are needed most.
The president called for the U.S. and other nations to share best
practices in crop production and use advances in bio-science to help
fight global hunger and disease.
President Bush also urged support for a $6 billion initiative called
Project BioShield to accelerate development of drugs and vaccines to
protect the U.S. population in the event of a chemical or biological
weapons attack.
Project BioShield, he said, will lead to safer and more effective
vaccines and treatments against agents like smallpox, anthrax,
botulinum toxin, e-bola and plague, and also to greater understanding
of the workings of other diseases.
"My administration is committed to working with your industry [the
biotechnology industry] so that the great powers of biotechnology can
serve the true interests of our nation and mankind," he said.
Following is the text of the President's speech:
(begin text)
Office of the Press Secretary
June 23, 2003
Washington Convention Center 
Washington, D.C.
1:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks a lot. Welcome to the nation's capital, and
thanks for having me drop by.
I knew Tommy was here when I saw his Harley Davidson parked out front.
(Laughter.) So I just put my Segway right next to it. (Laughter.)
It is a pleasure to be with so many leaders in such a vital industry.
Each of you is carrying on the incredible work began some 50 years ago
by Doctors Watson and Crick. Since then, biotechnology is advancing
knowledge and relieving suffering. In the years to come, the
contributions of your industry will help us to win the war on terror,
will help us fight hunger around the world and will help us to save
countless lives with new medicines.
My administration is committed to working with your industry so that
the great powers of biotechnology can serve the true interests of our
nation and mankind.
Tommy Thompson is the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is
the point man for this administration on biotechnology and other
matters of national health. And he is doing a fantastic job for
America. (Applause.) Thank you, buddy.
I want to thank Carl Feldbaum for inviting me and inviting you. I want
to thank the -- and welcome the premiers and ministers and ambassadors
and distinguished guests from around the world who are here today. I
want to thank the members of Congress who are here, some of our
nation's governors have joined us today.
I understand the Mayor is here -- I always like to see the Mayor and
remind him that potholes in front of the White House need to be
repaired on a regular basis. (Laughter.)
I appreciate my Commissioner, the man I named to head the Food and
Drug Administration, Mark McClellan, for his service to the country.
The biotechnology industry finds itself on the front lines of some of
the great challenges of our time. The first challenge is the need to
fight terror. All of us know the great possibilities of modern
science, when it is guided by good and humane purposes. We understand,
as well, the terrible harm that science can do in the hands of evil
On September the 11th, 2001 the world saw what terrorists could do
with commercial airliners turned into weapons of mass murder. We know
that our enemies have ambitions to acquire and use biological,
chemical and nuclear weapons. We will not sit idly by as these threats
gather, and we will continue to act before dangers are upon us. The
most direct way, the best way of removing threats to our country is to
eliminate them at their source. And that's what the United States of
America has done and we will do by waging a focused, relentless effort
to hunt down any terrorist that would harm the United States of
America and our citizens. (Applause.)
And we're making progress. We have captured or killed many key leaders
of al Qaeda. And the other one knows we're hot on their trail. In
Afghanistan and Iraq, we gave ultimatums to terror regimes. Those
regimes chose defiance, and those regimes are no more. (Applause.)
As we take the battle to the enemy, we must always remember where the
battle began: here in our own country. So we've reorganized government
to defend the homeland -- with greater security at our borders and
ports, with more screeners at airports, and the nation's first
environmental sensors, a network of labs to quickly detect a
biological attack.
A key part of our all-out effort to prepare for the threat of
bio-terror is what this administration has called Project Bioshield. I
have proposed that our government spend nearly $6 billion over the
next 10 years to speed the research, production and availability of
effective vaccines and treatments against small pox and anthrax,
botulin toxin, E-bola plague and other possible agents of bioterror.
Under Project BioShield, the government will have the spending
authority to ensure that the most advanced vaccines and treatments are
available to our people. Project BioShield will give our scientific
leaders greater authority and more flexibility in decisions that may
affect our national security. Our labs will be able to hire the right
experts, to buy the right equipment and to speed the construction of
the right facilities to accelerate urgently needed discoveries.
Like other great scientific efforts, Project BioShield will have
applications beyond its immediate goals. As scientists work to defeat
the weapons of bioterror, I know they will gain new insights into the
workings of other diseases. And this will also break new ground for
the search for treatments and cures.
And this, in turn, can provide great benefits for all humanity,
especially in developing countries, where infectious diseases often go
uncontrolled. Your industry must stay involved with this issue. If
you're interested in seeing more flexibility and more research dollars
for the sake of national security, I need your help in lobbying the
members of the United States Congress. And the message is clear: for
the sake of our national security, the United States Congress must
pass the BioShield legislation as soon as possible. (Applause.) Your
industry is also helping this country and the world to meet a second
great challenge: sparing millions of people from starvation. America
and other wealthy nations have a special responsibility to combat
hunger and disease in desperate lands. We meet that responsibility
with emergency food in times of crisis. Next year the United States
will devote more than a billion dollars providing food and aid to the
hungry. But for the long-term, we must help troubled nations to avert
famine by sharing with them the most advance methods of crop
Through the work of scientists in your field, many farmers in
developed nations are able to grow crops with high resistance to
drought and pests and disease; enable farmers to produce far greater
yields per acre. In our own country, we see the benefits of biotech
every day with food prices and good land conservation practices. Yet,
the great advantages of biotechnology have yet to reach developing
nations in Africa and other lands where these innovations are now most
Acting on unfounded, unscientific fears, many European governments
have blocked the import of all new biotech crops. Because of these
artificial obstacles many African nations avoid investing in
biotechnology, worried that their products will be shut out of
important European markets.
For the sake of a continent threatened by famine I urge the European
governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. (Applause.)
We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win
the fight against global hunger. (Applause.)
Finally, your industry is in the forefront of improving health care
for all Americans, and we are grateful. Thanks to biotechnology, we
may soon be able to grow life-saving therapies and useful chemicals in
plants. Biotechnology might allow scientists to produce large amounts
of monoclonal antibodies, which target specific, disease-causing
molecules without attacking healthy cells. We're closing in on the
ability to protect and fight against a range of illnesses, including
cancer, and HIV and heart disease.
In coming years we will see further innovations, like insulin, that
can be inhaled rather than administered by a needle. Men and women in
your field are at work on synthetic blood that is free from infections
and capable of being administered to all blood types. New therapies
are nearing which will enable doctors to look at diseases for genetic
markers and then give patients individualized treatments. The future
of medicine in the United States of America is incredibly bright
because of your work and your skill and your research.
Our biotechnology industry is the strongest in the world, and we need
to keep it that way. (Applause.)
And now we have a challenge to make sure that many of the advances you
have made in making sure out health care system can be world-class is
extended to all Americans, especially our senior citizens. (Applause.)
The Medicare system has served seniors well for nearly four decades.
Yet, while medicine has dramatically advanced, Medicare hasn't. The
program was designed at a time when hospital stays were common and
drug therapies were rare. Thanks to your efforts, there are drugs and
other treatments that can dramatically reduce hospital stays which, in
turn, improves quality of care and quality of life. We have a
responsibility to improve and strengthen Medicare by making modern
medicine an integral part of the Medicare system, and that includes
prescription drugs for all our seniors. (Applause.)
This is a goal you have supported for several years. And if we finally
put aside partisan politics and focus on what's right for American
seniors, I believe we can achieve the goal this year. (Applause.)
The debate is on in the United States Congress. And I've submitted a
framework for reform that insists that our seniors have choices under
Medicare so that affordable health care plans compete for their
business and give them the coverage they need, not the coverage that a
Washington bureaucrat thinks they need. (Applause.)
The principle of choice, of trusting people to make their own health
care decisions is behind the health plan enjoyed by every person on
the federal payroll, including the members of the United States
Congress. All federal employees get to choose their health care plan.
Health care plans compete for their business. Members of Congress have
got excellent choices. If the choice idea is good enough for the
lawmakers, it ought to be good enough for the seniors of the United
States of America. (Applause.)
Seniors who want to stay in the current Medicare system should have
that option, plus a new prescription drug benefit. Seniors who want
enhanced benefits, such as more coverage for their preventative care
and other services should have that choices, as well. Seniors who like
the affordability of managed care plans should be able to enroll in
them. And low-income seniors should receive extra help, so that all
seniors will have the ability to choose a Medicare option that
includes prescription drug benefits.
As we pursue Medicare reform, we must make sure that whatever system
evolves does not undermine America's biotechnology industry. We need
to keep rewarding innovation and protecting competition without
unnecessary intervention by the government. When the government
determines which drugs are covered by health insurance and which
illnesses are treated, patients face delays and inflexible limits on
coverage. That is a fact. Medicine works best when doctors and their
patients decide what treatments to pursue. (Applause.)
We're making progress on this important issue. The House committee has
marked up legislation. The Senate is actively debating the issue on
the floor. We have a chance to finally modernize Medicare, and I ask
for your help. Please contact your senators and members of the United
States House of Representatives, ask them to take a tough vote, if
need be, to modernize a system which needs to be saved.
And as you make your voices heard on necessary reform for Medicare,
make sure you make your voices heard on making sure that we have legal
reform in America, as well. We sue each other too much in the United
States of America. (Applause.)
We passed a medical liability reform bill and a class action reform
bill out of the House of Representatives. These bills are stuck in the
United States Senate. For the sake of a balanced legal system, we need
tort reform in Washington, D.C. (Applause.) And I call upon the United
States Senate to act, to pass meaningful liability and class action
suit reforms now. (Applause.)
These are times of great challenge for this country. Our country must
continue to meet the grave dangers of bioterrorism. We've got to
continue to work to help relieve suffering around the world. And we've
got to continue to seek cures to terrible diseases. In all of this,
we're relying on the skill and conscience of scientists in the field
of biotechnology.
As men and women of science you have accepted a moral calling to
improve lives and to save lives. That calling also requires a deep
respect for the value of every life. Because even the most noble ends
do not justify any means. This nation is counting on your to serve the
true interests of all humanity. You face great challenges, yet you're
an industry who welcomes challenge. Your hard work and inspiration
have produced incredible successes. You have made us all proud. After
all, millions of people are in your debt. The American people are
grateful for your many achievements and we look forward to the many
achievements yet to come.
May God bless your work, and may God continue to bless America.
END 1:29 P.M. EDT
(end text)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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