President Clinton got a jump on Earth Day by announcingWednesday that he is backing two environmental initiativesthat President Bush rejected a year ago -- targets for reducinggreenhouse gases and the international biodiversity treaty.
In his first major environmental address as president, Clintonsaid that the biodiversity treaty, which the U.S. refused to signat last year's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is "criticallyimportant to the future of the world."
Clinton went on to say, "The biodiversity treaty had some flawsand we all knew that," but added that his administration hasworked with industry officials -- referring to a business-environment coalition comprised of Genentech Inc., ShamanPharmaceuticals, Merck & Co. Inc., the World WildlifeFederation, World Resources Institute and the Energy andEnvironment Study Institute -- to address their concerns aboutsufficient patent protection for U.S. businesses by adding an"interpretive statement" to the treaty as it was originallypresented.
The interpretative statement would make it clear that the U.S.will construe key sections of the treaty in a way that protectsits intellectual property rights.
Clinton's decision to sign the biodiversity treaty "is a major stepforward for the U.S. in protecting plant and animal life on theplanet," said Carl Feldbaum, president of the BiotechnologyIndustry Organization (BIO), the new entity created from themerger of the Industrial Biotechnology Association and theAssociation of Biotechnology Companies. Feldbaum said he washeartened that Clinton "arrived at the new position for the U.S.through close and productive cooperation with thebiotechnology industry."
That strategy seems to have paid off. "We have received strongindications from the administration that the questions we hadlast year about protecting innovation have been answered, andthat intellectual property rights will be respected under thetreaty," Feldbaum said.
-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor
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