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US Statement Upon Adoption of Biosafety Protocol

Frank E. Loy Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and Head of the U.S. Delegation Press Statement Upon Adoption of the Biosafety Protocol Montreal, Canada, January 29, 2000

During this negotiation the United States worked hard for an agreement it could support -- one that protects the earth's biological diversity without disrupting world food trade.

The final text is a major improvement over the draft agreement prepared almost a year ago in Cartagena. We are gratified that an agreement emerged.

Make no mistake. This agreement is not perfect. The key to its success will lie in its implementation.

The agreement will contribute to the protection of biological diversity.

First, it creates an international framework for addressing the environmental impacts of bioengineered products. Information and expertise exchanged through this system will help governments assess the environmental risks and benefits of biotechnology in a more predictable and consistent manner.

Second, the agreement ensures that each country will have an opportunity to get needed information before these products enter their market.

Third, the agreement reaffirms each country's right to regulate the import of bioengineered products, subject to existing international obligations.

The agreement seeks to address the special challenges faced by developing countries and creates a framework to help improve their capacity to protect biodiversity.

Lastly, the agreement should make it easier to harness the promise of this technology to feed the world's growing population using less land, water and pesticides.

Consumers, farmers, and industry can work with the agreement reached today.

We have worked hard with our Miami Group allies to ensure that the Biosafety Protocol does not subject agricultural commodities to onerous trade restrictions. As a consequence, consumers around the world will benefit from lower prices, and farmers and agricultural exporters will benefit from more predictable access to foreign markets.

The agreement establishes a process for developing appropriate documentation requirements for bulk agricultural products. I am particularly happy that the agreement managed to avoid the creation of costly and unworkable documentation requirements, and that the agreement emphasizes that regulatory decisions must be based on science.

More generally, by reaching agreement today we have taken an important step toward depolarizing the debate about biotechnology. Conversely, failure to reach agreement would have exacerbated tensions over this issue.

In sum, this agreement provides concrete benefits for the United States.

Let me say a few words about how these negotiations unfolded this week.

A spirit of cooperation and goodwill characterized the discussions among the various negotiating groups.

All of the negotiating groups set aside past rancor and pulled together the final text.

We are grateful to our partners in the Miami Group for their unflagging support. In addition, I wish to thank Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson, our host here in Montreal, for his gracious hospitality.

Finally, let me emphasize that much of the credit for this successful outcome belongs to the Chairperson of this process, Colombian Environment Minister Juan Mayr. Without his tireless efforts and commitment to conclusion of what will be known as the Cartagena Protocol would have been almost impossible.

[end of document]

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