Keeping data flowing and soil healthy

June 17, 2020
It’s a busy Wednesday. We have news from our international team on the rise in measures around the world to restrict the flow of data and what we’re doing about it, as well as the winner of the World Food Prize, a pioneer in soil research. We’re also watching several…

It’s a busy Wednesday. We have news from our international team on the rise in measures around the world to restrict the flow of data and what we’re doing about it, as well as the winner of the World Food Prize, a pioneer in soil research. We’re also watching several important hearings on Capitol Hill, including the House Energy and Commerce hearing on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. Here are around 925 words, 4 minutes, 37 seconds.

Why we need data to keep flowing across borders

If you’re reading this, you know the biotech industry is becoming increasingly data driven—and there’s a need for companies to access data from across the globe in a timely manner. Here’s an update on what BIO’s International Affairs team has been doing to make this happen. 

We joined EuropaBIO, which represents the European biotech sector, in a response to a public consultation on a European Strategy for Data.

In our joint letter to the European Commission, we highlighted the importance of a robust and reliable global data ecosystem necessary to enable innovation in the life sciences, while also underscoring the importance of transatlantic scientific collaborations.   

We also illustrated how ambiguities in the implementation of the General Data Protection Rule (GDPR) across EU Member States impact biotech innovation and slow down global R&D collaborations by limiting access to and use of scientifically relevant data. 

Around the world we’ve also been seeing a rise in measures that restrict the flow of data needed to drive life science innovation.

In China, for example, the People’s National Congress has proposed a draft Biosecurity Law, which Reuters says is being promoted as a way to “prevent infectious diseases and other ‘biological threats,’ but…could discourage potential whistleblowers and put the public at risk.” 

The law would restrict all data resulting from cross-border scientific collaborations from leaving China without government approval—and without the partnering Chinese entity retaining some sort of rights over any technologies eventually developed. 

If implemented, the law could have a major impact on the ability of foreign entities to collaborate with Chinese researchers to advance science, as we said in our letter to China’s People’s National Congress. 

Why it matters: The convergence of big data and biotech advances in biotechnology is unleashing a new wave of innovations, particularly from small and medium-sized enterprises, with the potential to profoundly improve quality of life around the world. Medicine will be revolutionized by better diagnostics and cures for diseases. Food security will be improved by enhanced quality and quantity in food and feedstuffs. Our ability to respond to climate change will improve by moving the world towards biobased and zero-waste economies. 

The bottom line: We need to ensure data laws support data-driven innovations in life sciences, and global collaboration to help us address the world’s biggest challenges. – Matt O’Mara, BIO’s Vice President of International Affairs


Meet the “soil trailblazer” tackling some of the planet’s biggest challenges

Dr. Rattan Lal is the 2020 World Food Prize winner, a refugee who worked on a small subsistence farm in India and went on to pioneer research in soil health that “has been pivotal in enhancing the productivity and sustainability of global agricultural systems,” according to the announcement.

The 2020 World Food Prize Laureate is a “soil trailblazer.” Dr. Lal developed and put into action “a soil-centric approach to increasing food production that conserves natural resources and mitigates climate change,” according to the announcement.

Specifically: “He explored and transformed techniques such as no-tillage, cover cropping, mulching and agroforestry that protected the soil from the elements, conserved water and returned nutrients, carbon and organic matter to the soil. This in turn improved the long-term sustainability of agroecosystems and minimized the risks to farmers of droughts, floods, and other effects of a changing climate.” 

He's also researched carbon sequestration in soil, showing the world how soil can be “an important part of mitigating climate change.”

What they’re saying: “The world’s population continues to grow, and we need to use the resources we have more productively and efficiently to make sure everyone has enough food on their table,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Dr. Lal’s research in soil science shows that the solution to this problem is right under our feet. He’s helping the earth’s estimated 500 million small farmers be faithful stewards of their land though improved management, less soil degradation, and the recycling of nutrients. The billions of people who depend on these farms stand to benefit greatly from his work.”

We congratulate Dr. Lal! BIO agrees that we need to find more ways to increase food production while preserving the environmentincluding and especially soil healthif we want to tackle the dual challenges of economic turmoil and climate change. Science discovered by trailblazers like Dr. Lal can help. 

Read more about why carbon sequestration in soil is an important in solving climate change and boosting rural economies.


More Agriculture & Environment News: 

Bloomberg: There’s low risk of food spreading the virus, experts say after salmon panic
"Food poses little risk of spreading the coronavirus, health experts around the globe said, reassuring consumers after an outbreak in Beijing was blamed on imported fish."

NPR: Cows help with COVID-19 treatment, no bull
“These special cows are injected with what essentially amounts to a coronavirus vaccine that will then cause them to try to fight off what the body sees as an infection—and they will ‘produce a specifically targeted high-neutralizing antibody that can be used in patients,’ says SAB CEO Eddie Sullivan.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Wednesday: He’s announcing the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS). Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on where things stand with COVID-19.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: It’s a busy Wednesday. As the House Democrats’ police reform bill moves through the markup process, Senate Republicans are expected to introduce a similar bill today, POLITICO reports. We’re watching several hearings on the U.S. trade policy agenda, the Paycheck Protection Program, and telehealth, as well as the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee hearing on racial and ethnic disparities in the impact of COVID-19. Read BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath’s reaction to the hearing.

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