“foreign investors hold just 3.1 percent of all privately owned agricultural land in the United States, according to the most recent USDA report, which covers through the end of 2021. The numbers vary by state, but overall, investors from Canada own the most, and foreign-owned land was most often timber or forest.”
“Chinese investors own less than 1 percent of foreign-owned acreage nationwide. The total share of acreage owned by foreign investors and entities has been growing rapidly over the past few decades, but the overall numbers remain small.”
“Here’s a big number: $44 trillion.
That’s how much of the world’s total economic output is dependent on animals and ecosystems, according to the World Economic Forum. Insects pollinate commercial crops, coral reefs protect coastal buildings, wetlands purify water, and all of those services — and more — help fuel economic growth.
If the economy is embedded in nature, then the global decline of wildlife and ecosystems is a risk for companies and investors alike. If insects vanish from farmland, say, farmers might have to pay to import pollinators or produce less, which hurts their bottom lines. That’s one reason why WEF ranks “biodiversity loss” as the third most severe risk to the economy over the next decade, after failure to act on climate change and extreme weather.”
“Three-quarters of the world’s food crops (and a third of global crop production) depend to some extent on pollination from birds, bees, and many other insects and small animals. And some insect populations have fallen by more than 70 percent in just a few decades. In fact, there are farmers in California who already pay to import bees because there aren’t enough local pollinators. That could eat into investor returns.”
“Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has faced a backlash since Politico reported earlier this week that he indirectly funds and wields unusually heavy influence over an important White House office tasked with advising President Joe Biden’s administration on technical and scientific issues.
The ethical concerns surrounding this news are glaring: A tech billionaire with an obvious personal interest in shaping government tech policy is giving money to an independent government agency devoted to tech and science, albeit through his private philanthropic foundation.
The real scandal, however, is that a government office needed philanthropic aid to fund its work in the first place, creating an ethical quandary over potential conflicts of interest.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is responsible for advising the president on a vital and wide breadth of public policy — whether it’s “a people’s Bill of Rights for automated technologies” or the gargantuan effort of preparing for future pandemics. It also has a meager $5 million annual budget — which means it has to get creative to do its work.
“The use of staff from other federal agencies and the armed services, universities, and philanthropically funded nonprofits dates back five presidential administrations — but President Biden was the first to elevate the office to Cabinet level,” an OSTP spokesperson said in a statement to Recode.
According to the office, among the 127 people who currently work there, only 25 are OSTP employees. The remaining are a mix of temporary appointees from other federal agencies, as well as people from universities, science organizations, or fellowships that may be funded by philanthropy.”
“Both OSTP and Schmidt Futures maintain that their connection has been misconstrued as nefarious; they say this sort of partnership is par for the course.
In a statement, Schmidt Futures highlighted how the OSTP has been “chronically underfunded,” and said that it was proud to be among the “leading organizations” providing funding to OSTP. In other words, Schmidt Futures makes clear that it isn’t the only private organization to charitably provide much-needed monetary support to government agencies.”
““Outsiders are not subject to government ethics rules or the government’s transparency requirements,” Shaub continued. “They may put their own interests before the American people, and we have no way of knowing how that changes outcomes.”
It’s one thing for the public and private sectors to coordinate on and contribute to a project — it’s another when a government office accepts money from philanthropy that creates potential ethical conflicts. That signals a systematic underfunding of the public sector that all but guarantees some dependence on private interests, and accepting such money creates a problematic trade-off.
Speculating on the true motive behind Schmidt’s involvement in OSTP is almost beside the point. It seems inevitable that the money quietly flowing from him and his foundation to the office would apply pressure that favors Schmidt’s personal and business interests.”
“Government is expected to be fairly transparent and accountable to the public, while the philanthropy world is often opaque and subject to the whims of private, ultra-wealthy individuals”
“Among other priorities, the plan includes funding for: creating vaccine candidates for each of the 26 families of viruses known to infect humans; developing antiviral medications that can work against a broad spectrum of viruses; building out manufacturing capacity for vaccines, antivirals, tests, and other countermeasures; deploying genomic sequencing as a way to track outbreaks; developing broadly useful diagnostic technologies and better regulatory processes for approving and disseminating plentiful rapid tests; and improving security in laboratories dealing with dangerous viruses.
The White House, to its credit, has already proposed funding around this level. Most recently, in its 2023 budget proposal, the Biden administration asked for $88.2 billion in funding over five years on pandemic preparedness. That includes $40 billion for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services to “invest in advanced development and manufacturing of countermeasures for high priority threats and viral families, including vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and personal protective equipment (PPE),” as well as $12.1 billion in research funding for the National Institutes of Health for vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostics development.
Bumb notes that the Biden proposal actually drew on the original Apollo plan put out by the bipartisan commission. That’s part of why the new commission report is so notable: This is a group that’s capable of driving policymaking at high levels.
That said, Congress has yet to appropriate money at the commission’s desired level to prevent the next pandemic. It’s barely interested in further funding response to the current, ongoing pandemic, which is still killing hundreds of Americans a day. A group of senators recently cut a deal for $10 billion to fund Covid-19 response, after slashing funding the White House wanted to help fight the pandemic abroad — only to have Republicans block the deal on the Senate floor over separate immigration concerns. Even if the funding eventually passes, it’ll have to wait until after the Easter recess ends on April 22.”
“Way back in May 2020, three researchers at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) published an op-ed in Nature arguing that with respect to developing universal coronavirus vaccines “the time to start is now.” As it turns out, the time to start for the NIAID was 15 months later when the agency got around to awarding three academic institutions a little over $36 million to research pan-coronavirus vaccines in September 2021.
The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed could serve as a much better model for incentivizing pharmaceutical companies to greatly speed up the development and deployment of the candidate pan-coronavirus vaccines on which some are currently working. In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, two immunologists point out that the global cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is an estimated $16 trillion, compared to the cost of developing a typical vaccine at $1 billion. They note that even a $10 billion vaccine is minuscule compared with the pandemic’s toll.
Among the promising pan-coronavirus candidate vaccines are the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s spike ferritin nanoparticle COVID-19 vaccine; Osivax’s nucleocapsid vaccine targeting a protein widely prevalent among coronaviruses that is unlikely to mutate; and Inovio’s DNA vaccine encoding variant sequences of the spike proteins the virus uses to invade cells.”
“The big idea behind Europe’s Global Gateway strategy is to mobilize up to €300 billion in public and private funds by 2027 to finance EU infrastructure projects abroad. That means building next-generation infrastructure such as fiber optic cables, 5G networks and green energy plants in the developing world, while also trying to compete with China on transport facilities, such as highways and airports.
It’s a long-shot as far as games of catch-up go.
Even if private investors join in, the EU’s spending plan languishes way beneath what it is estimated China is coughing up, and Beijing has bought its way to influence with first-mover advantage in countries from Greece to Sri Lanka. The EU boasts its main selling point is more transparency and higher environmental standards than China, although that doesn’t always go down well in many of the potential partners, which prefer opaque Chinese deals.”