Good Day BIO: “COVID-19 won’t just go away.”

July 21, 2021
Today, we have a quick recap of yesterday’s Senate hearing on the federal COVID-19 response, plus a look at a must-read long-read on how the tide is turning on GMOs and why it matters. (842 words, 4 minutes, 12 seconds)
BIO

Today, we have a quick recap of yesterday’s Senate hearing on the federal COVID-19 response, plus a look at a must-read long-read on how the tide is turning on GMOs and why it matters. (842 words, 4 minutes, 12 seconds)

 

“COVID-19 won’t just go away.”

 
 

We need all Americans to get vaccinated—and we need to take lessons from this pandemic with us to better prepare for the next one, bipartisan Senators agreed at a hearing yesterday on the federal COVID-19 response.   

The hearing: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing yesterday, The Path Forward: A Federal Perspective on the COVID-19 Response.

The witnesses: CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, and HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Dawn O’Connell, in her first appearance on Capitol Hill since her confirmation in June.  

The key message: Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and several other members voiced grave concern over vaccination rates plateauing and rising vaccine hesitancy. All witnesses emphasized how critically important it is for people to get vaccinated and vouched for the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. 

“COVID-19 won’t just go away. We need all Americans who can get the vaccine to get the vaccine,” said Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC)’s opening statement, which also praised Sen. Murray for her work on bipartisan public health efforts. “If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your friends and family, for your neighbors and your local community.”

“Even after we are through this crisis, our work won’t be done,” Sen. Murray said in her opening remarks. “We have to make sure we learn from this history, and take action so we never repeat it. This crisis has cost too much—has taken too many lives—for us to do anything less.” 

The big picture: As of this morning, 59.6% of adults (18+) in the U.S. are fully vaccinated—and COVID cases “are rising rapidly in counties where less than 30% of residents have been fully vaccinated,” reports The New York Times. “And the trend is likely to accelerate as the weather cools and people head indoors, where the virus thrives.” Meanwhile, states have millions of surplus doses that are about to expire, reports STAT News.

 
 
 
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The tide is turning on GMOs—and it’s about time

 
 

“Overblown fears have turned the public against genetically modified food. But the potential benefits have never been greater,” says a New York Times Magazine long-read that’s well worth your time. 

Scientists are using biotechnology to supercharge foods—like a purple tomato with proven anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties due to an added boost of anthocyanin, explains The New York Times Magazine.

The challenge? The purple tomato is classified as a GMO—which “brings with it a host of obligations,” including a regulatory process that could cost $1 million and a history of public mistrust and misconceptions about the technology.

Read: Gene Editing 101 

“People think, Well, if you’ve got this really strict regulatory system, then it must be really dangerous. So it becomes self-reinforcing,” said Eric Ward, co-CEO of AgBiome, a biotech company using microbes to improve food crops. 

Read: Resilience needs innovation—and workable regulations 

But with the global population expected to increase by 2 billion by 2050, we need GMO crops more than ever. “So where’s that extra food going to come from?” asked Andrew Allan, a plant biologist at the University of Auckland. “It can’t come from using more land, because if we use more land, then we’ve got to deforest more, and the temperature goes up even more. So what we really need is more productivity. And that, in all likelihood, will require GMOS.”

The better news: “In recent years, many environmental groups have also quietly walked back their opposition as evidence has mounted that existing GMOs are both safe to eat and not inherently bad for the environment.” 

“Probably the angriest I’ve ever felt was when anti-GMO groups destroyed fields of Golden Rice growing in the Philippines,” said Mark Lynas, a former anti-GMO writer and activist who disavowed his opposition to GMOs in 2013. “To see a crop that had such obvious lifesaving potential ruined—it would be like anti-vaxxer groups invading a laboratory and destroying a million vials of COVID vaccine.” 

Read the whole thing.  

Learn how BIO’s working to grow trust in innovation.


More Agriculture and Environment News: 

White House: The Path to Achieving Justice40
Justice40 is a whole-of-government effort to ensure that Federal agencies work with states and local communities to make good on President Biden’s promise to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from Federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities. Today, we are taking a key step toward achieving the President’s ambitious goal and issuing interim guidance that will help Federal agencies deliver on the Justice40 Initiative. Read more from BIO's Cornelia Poku on biotech's role to help address environmental justice.

 
 
 
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IP Counsels Committee Webinar on July 18 on Managing Trade Secrets
 
 

On Wednesday, July 28 at 1:00 PM ET, BIO will hold a webinar, Trade Secrets: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Sponsored by Venable LLP, the panel of experts will provide information on preventative measures to protect trade secrets and to minimize allegations of trade secret misappropriation, including: identifying and managing trade secrets; employee agreements, policies, training and separation procedures; disclosure of trade secrets to others; and managing third-party trade secrets. 

This webinar is free for BIO members—register today!

 
 
 
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BIO Beltway Report
BIO Beltway Report
 
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President Biden’s Wednesday: Heading to Cincinnati, OH, to discuss how his Build Back Better agenda will create union jobs at the IBEW/NECA Electrical Training Center at 5:40 PM ET. Then, he will participate in a CNN Town Hall at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati at 8:00 PM ET.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: House Energy and Commerce will markup 24 bills ranging from confronting the dangers of excessive opioid use to legislation that supports making vaccines more accessible, while bipartisan members will launch a Congressional Social Determinants of Health Caucus, focused on addressing health disparities in the U.S. Meanwhile, hearings to note include a Senate HELP subcommittee hearing on addressing disparities in life expectancy, a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on how to facilitate the post COVID-19 recovery of the U.S. wood industry, a House Small Business Subcommittee hearing on the role of the SBA in climate solutions, and a House Science subcommittee hearing on extreme heat in the United States

 
 
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