LEGISLATION: Bio-Terror Legislation (2001), Bio-Terror Legislation (2002), Bio-Terror Legislation (2003), Bio-Terror Legislation (2004), Bio-Terror Legislation (2005), Bio-Terror Legislation (2010), Bio-Terror Legislation (2011), and Bio-Terror Legislation (2012).
Date: June 23, 2003
Abstract: President Bush asked attendees Monday at the Biotechnology Industry Organization to urge Congress to pass Project BioShield, which would earmark $6 billion for biological defense research.
He was preaching to the choir as he touted the ability of the biotech industry to defend the United States against terrorism in the form of biological weapons like anthrax, smallpox and Ebola at BIO's 10th annual meeting here.
"The biotechnology industry finds itself on the front lines of some of the great challenges of our time," the president said. "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 people."
The BioShield legislation passed through a House committee with the stipulation that the bill's request for a "permanent indefinite funding authority" would not be granted. The Senate version of the bill allows the unlimited spending.
Those opposed to the unlimited and mandatory spending say they worry that the bill could cut into other Homeland Security needs. House and Senate members must hammer out their spending disagreements before the bill can become law.
"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," Bush said. "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."
Project BioShield would solicit efforts from private and academic researchers to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for biological attacks. It also stipulates that such products would be expedited as they go through the Food and Drug Administration approval process.
The announcement of the proposed legislation during the president's State of the Union address prompted almost every state to launch efforts to attract biotechnology companies. States hope more biotechs inside their borders will be a boon for their slumping economies.
About 20 states have rented booths on the exhibition floor at the BIO conference.
In his speech, Bush also renewed his criticism of European nations for refusing to accept genetically modified foods and said the ban was contributing to famine in Africa.
"Acting on unfounded, unscientific fears, many European governments have blocked the import of all new biotech crops," he said. "Because of these artificial obstacles, many African nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried that their products will be shut out of important European markets."
Last week, a final round of negotiations between the United States and the European Union failed and the administration announced it would ask the World Trade Organization to overturn Europe's ban on new biotech foods and other goods.
"For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger," Bush said.
An initial WTO ruling in the case could come as early as next spring.
U.S. corn farmers say they are losing about $300 million in sales to the European Union each year because of the 5-year-old trade barrier.
The trans-Atlantic fight over the future of biotech farm products heated up last month when Bush accused the EU of contributing to hunger in Africa by slowing the world's embrace of biotech seeds, which he said could dramatically boost crop production. The EU contends that it provides more aid to African countries than the United States and that it has done nothing to turn African countries away from biotechnology.
The European Commission had tried to repeal the moratorium on biotech
foods, with officials publicly fretting about ceding a burgeoning
biotech industry to the United States. But with consumer sentiment in
many European countries running high against biotech foods, it has
failed so far (Wired, 2003).