WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced the Global Pandemic Prevention and Biosecurity Act to help combat future deadly virus outbreaks by identifying and shutting down live wildlife markets around the world that pose risks to public health and by increasing capacity for zoonotic disease prevention, surveillance, and response.
The legislation would establish a Global Zoonotic Disease Task Force charged with working to prevent and detect zoonotic disease spillover and overseeing the Federal government’s response to worldwide infectious disease outbreaks. It would also require relevant agencies to prevent commercial trade in live wildlife that risks contributing to zoonotic spillover, conserve and protect forests, and to support a “One Health” approach – which emphasizes the interconnection of human, animal, and environmental health.
The House version of the bill would also establish an integrated zoonotic diseases program within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); require the Administrator of USAID to develop a multisectoral strategy for food security, global health, and biodiversity to help reduce demand for wildlife for human consumption; and establish a Conservation Corps at USAID comprised of volunteers to implement the multisectoral strategy by delivering technical and strategic assistance to in-country leaders.
“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that we also take steps to prevent another infectious disease outbreak before it starts. There is a clear connection between the health of humans, animals, and the habitats they live in, so we should be investing now in protecting habitats to reduce unnatural contact between humans and wildlife and ending live wildlife trade that poses a clear risk. I’m proud to work with Senator Graham and Representatives Fortenberry and Meng on this important legislation,” said Senator Coons, co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus.
“For the last year, our national conversation has focused on how we can best recover from COVID-19,” said Senator Graham. “There is another question though, equally urgent, that demands our attention: How can we prevent this from happening again? Markets selling high-risk wildlife for human consumption must be shut down, and an we must have an integrated approach to the detection, preparedness, and response to the transmission of zoonotic diseases that pose a global health risk."
“We are getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel as we work to move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic but we must not forget about the need to prevent future outbreaks,” said Congresswoman Meng. “We must do all we can combat future deadly infectious diseases and this legislation would be a critical component in that vital effort. I’m pleased to partner with Senator Coons and Graham and Congressman Fortenberry on this crucial and bipartisan measure. I urge all of my colleagues in both chambers to support it."
“As we fight past the COVID-19 pandemic, a further policy consideration is the origin and transmission of disease in wildlife markets overseas. Our Global Pandemic Prevention and Biosecurity Act gets at the source of animal-borne infectious pathogens to help prevent virus outbreaks at their source," said Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Great to see leaders in Congress work together across party lines to promote global health and protect against deforestation and biodiversity losses. The world witnessed first-hand over the past year how truly disruptive a global pandemic can be, and policymakers are wise to take steps to protect against the next one. We applaud Senators Coons and Graham and Representatives Fortenberry and Meng for their efforts in advancing a bipartisan and bicameral solution to a major global problem,” said David H. Barron, Chairman of the ICCF Group.
“As the US begins to turn the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic, we should also do everything possible to prevent the next one. Science tells us that the main factors driving the spillover of zoonotic diseases from wildlife to humans are the destruction of forests and other habitats that brings people and livestock closer to wild species, and high-risk trade in wildlife for human consumption. Now our task is clear: protect nature, prevent high-risk wildlife trade, and reduce demand for risky animal products – all while ensuring the rights and needs of local communities and Indigenous Peoples are protected and supported,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. “The Global Pandemic Prevention and Biosecurity Act, introduced today by Senators Coons and Graham and Representatives Meng and Fortenberry, would ensure the US government follows this course of action. The legislation would bring a comprehensive approach to addressing the root causes of most emerging infectious disease outbreaks, creating a new Global Zoonotic Disease Task Force that brings together relevant expertise from across the federal government. If backed by significant new investments and enhanced programs to help stop forest loss, prevent high-risk wildlife trade, and promote ‘One Health’ approaches for people, livestock, wildlife, and nature, the policies in this bill will make it much more likely that we will stop the next pandemic before it starts.”
“Conservation International applauds Senators Coons and Graham and Representatives Meng and Fortenberry for their bold leadership to address the root cause of pandemics. This bipartisan legislation recognizes that pandemics start when viruses jump from wildlife into humans, particularly as a result of habitat destruction. The United States, through USAID, will help prevent pandemics at the source by stopping deforestation, stopping unsafe wildlife trade and trafficking, and establishing community health centers in emerging infectious disease hotspots worldwide. USAID programs designed to prevent pathogen spillover at the source are far more cost effective than attempting to contain an outbreak,” said Pasha Majdi, Senior Director of U.S. Policy and Government Affairs for Conservation International.
“The Global Pandemic Prevention and Biosecurity Act, introduced by Representatives Meng and Fortenberry, and Senators Coons and Graham is a much-needed shot in the arm. The legislation will ensure that the U.S. leads a global effort to provide an early warning system to prevent future pandemics that originate from the exploitation of wildlife and the destruction of wild places. WCS zoonotic disease surveillance experts are warning us that the next pandemic is just around the corner – unless we can build a safer future for humanity and wildlife. The Global Pandemic Prevention and Biosecurity Act will do just that, and WCS is proud that our Protect Wildlife, Protect Us campaign supports this important bill,” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs.
"Pandemics are the product of policy choices, and are not inevitable. Without change, pandemics are both accelerating and intensifying. The Global Pandemic Prevention and Biosecurity Act helps reverse the dramatic increase in spillover of new diseases from animals to humans—a critical and urgently needed step. We cannot afford to neglect the key drivers of pandemics, and passage this year is a must for our 50-state team of families who have lost loved ones, health workers and activists trying to prevent the pandemics of the future. How many more people will die before we apply the painful lessons from COVID-19 and pandemic-proof our planet,” said Pranav Savanur, State Captain and Policy Team Member, R2H Action [Right to Health].
The Global Pandemic Prevention and Biosecurity Act is endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, Re:wild, R2H Action, Animal Defenders International, and Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS).