What to expect from the 117th Congress

February 1, 2021
Can you believe it’s February 1? We start a new month with what to expect from the 117th Congress, as well as how biotech can save everyone’s favorite lockdown fruit. Also, we’ll be celebrating Black History Month by introducing you to Black scientists and innovators…
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Can you believe it’s February 1? We start a new month with what to expect from the 117th Congress, as well as how biotech can save everyone’s favorite lockdown fruit. Also, we’ll be celebrating Black History Month by introducing you to Black scientists and innovators—beginning today with facts you may not have known about George Washington Carver. (720 words, 3 minutes, 36 seconds)

 

What to expect from the 117th Congress

 
 

As the new Congress gets underway, we caught up with Mike Mattoon, BIO’s VP of Federal Government Relations, to get the big picture on what to expect in terms of congressional leadership and legislation.  

A new Congress brings new priorities—which are, in large part, dictated by the result of the 2020 election, especially with the U.S. Senate now controlled by Democrats. Keep reading for key leadership changes and what they mean for the agenda.

At the top of the agenda is passing a COVID-19 relief package, but there are also several standard must-pass bills such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the budget, although the latter will likely result in the passage of a Continuing Resolution. 

Then, there’s the impeachment factor. According to a vote taken ahead of the trial, 45 Republican Senators oppose the trial. But to convict, 17 Republicans would need to join every Democrat to find the former president guilty.

“This year will be driven largely by COVID and the administration’s attempt to ‘correct’ what they perceive to be wrong, and getting vaccinations delivered to the American people," said BIO’s Mike Mattoon. He drew parallels between 2021 and 2009—the last time Democrats had unified government at the federal level.

And while there is already a great deal of prognostication regarding the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, to understand those races, it is first necessary to understand the current Congress.

Read the whole thing for more exclusive insight.

 
 
 
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Black History Month @ BIO
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Throughout February, we’ll be highlighting Black and African American scientists and biotech innovators from history who you should know.

We begin with a Black scientist near and dear to BIO: George Washington Carver, an agricultural scientist and inventor (and the namesake of the BIO IMPACT Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture).

Carver is most famous for his work to develop food, medical, and industrial products made from peanuts—but he also pioneered new soil techniques like crop rotation and fertilization. He was also a proponent of using chemistry “to find non-food uses for agricultural surpluses,” such as sweet potato-based dyes, paints, and writing ink.

Born one year before slavery was abolished, he was the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree.

To learn more about promoting and advancing black professionals in food and agriculture, click here.

 

How biotech can save the bananas

 
 

The average person consumes 27 pounds of bananas per year—and we bet that number might be higher after 2020’s worldwide banana bread bake-off. But this nutritious and delicious fruit faces an uncertain future. Here's how biotech can help.

Love bananas? Thank Minor Keith, the American entrepreneur who grew the cheap, nutritious fruits to feed his workers building the 100-mile railroad from Costa Rica’s San Juan to Límon, explains NPR’s history podcast Throughline.

The humble banana has shaped our world—leading to innovations like the first refrigerated ships and ingenious marketing strategies, and even playing a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, explains BIO’s Cornelia Poku.

“Now, however, this little fruit is in crisis and the world economies built around it are, too,” she continues

Bananas face rapidly spreading disease threats. Tropical Race 4 (TR4) is a fungus that’s immune to pesticides and causes “banana wilt,” which kills the bananas and damages the soil. TR4 is currently threatening Cavendish bananas, the most popular variety and the most-exported fruit on the planet.

Biotech to the rescue. With gene editing technology, disease-resistant bananas are within reach. Now, we need to ensure that policy and public opinion don’t stymie this kind of innovation from reaching our kitchens. 

Watch: Way back when we could still have in-person events, we spoke with Cassie Edgar of Tropic Biosciences about how her company is using gene editing to fight banana wilt and climate change. Click to watch the video.

 
 
 
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President Biden’s Monday: The White House COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 AM ET. This evening, President Biden and VP Harris will meet with Senate Republicans to discuss the relief package. Meanwhile, Biden’s turning to his veep to “sell COVID vax to communities of color,” reports POLITICO.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House is expected to vote on the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package this week. Agriculture nominee Tom Vilsack will get his hearing in front of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee tomorrow. Meanwhile, former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretaries Kathleen Sebelius and Donna Shalala called for quick confirmation of nominee Xavier Becerra.

 
 
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