Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reduce the Risk of Zoonotic Disease Transmission, Support Conservation

April 8, 2022 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2022 (S.4074), with U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Tom Carper (D-DE) to allow the U.S. to help countries take proactive steps to reduce the risk of zoonotic spillover – the transmission of disease from animals to humans – through the commercial trade in live wildlife and the closure of associated wildlife markets. 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical nexus between a supporting a healthy environment and promoting our public health. The Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2022 authorizes the U.S. to work in partnership with countries around the world — who voluntarily seek to work with the U.S. — to develop “Global Health Security Zoonoses Plans.” These plans outline actions to address new zoonotic pathogens that have pandemic potential; identify incentives and strengthen policies to strengthen biosecurity and hygienic standards across the wildlife trade; and, provide technical support to policymakers, civil society, law enforcement, and other stakeholders. 

In particular, this legislation emphasizes the United States’ role in promoting a One Health approach, which includes collaboration with the private sector and all levels of government, as well as strengthening conservation practices to support resilient ecosystems and reduce the threat of zoonotic disease transmission.

“This legislation takes a balanced approach that will allow the U.S. to provide technical assistance and support to countries to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease transmission through the wildlife trade and within live wildlife markets,” said Senator Portman, co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus.  “Conservation is found at the core of a healthy planet, and this legislation strengthens the tools the United States has to promote conservation and public health around the world. I urge my colleagues to join us in getting this common sense legislation across the finish line.” 

“We may want to be done with this pandemic, but COVID-19 and subsequent pandemics aren’t done with us. 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 and ending the trade of live wildlife to reduce unnatural contact between humans and wildlife where dangerous diseases can be transmitted. Doing so will set the United States up as a leader for preventing future pandemics around the world, and that’s why we need to pass this bipartisan legislation,” said Senator Coons, co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus.

“Conservation International applauds Senators Booker, Cornyn, Coons, Portman, Carper, and Graham for their bipartisan leadership to address the root cause of pandemics. The Preventing Future Pandemics Act recognizes that pandemics start when viruses jump from animals into humans.  Deforestation, unsafe wildlife markets, and poor infection control during animal husbandry drive pathogen spillover that leads to pandemics. USAID programs designed to prevent pathogen spillover at the source are far more cost effective than attempting to contain an outbreak.”  James Roth, Senior Vice President of Global Policy and Government Affairs, Conservation International

“The continuing ecological destruction of wild places and exploitation of wildlife is increasing the risk of diseases to spillover from animals to people. WCS experts on wildlife and health, who have been working on the frontlines of this growing crisis, fear that the next zoonotic disease could be far worse – with impacts that could shake society to its very core. The time for this legislation is right here, right now. We appreciate the work of Senators Cornyn, Booker, Coons, Portman, Carper, and Graham to draft and introduce this legislation and look forward to its swift passage for the sake of our planet.” John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs

“Taking up these key elements of the Preventing Future Pandemics Act demonstrates yet again the sheer severity and scope of zoonotic disease impacts on our country. These live wildlife markets are not simply an affront to animal welfare but a genuine pandemic threat, and this bill’s commitment to work with international partners in shutting them down throughout the world is a triumph of foresight, dedication and bipartisanship by Senators Booker, Cornyn, Coons, Portman, Carper, and Graham.” Sara Amundson, president of Humane Society Legislative Fund

“The bipartisan Preventing Future Pandemics Act represents a groundbreaking approach to protecting people both here in the US and around the globe against future pandemics. This bill shatters the outdated framework that focused solely on containing illnesses already sweeping through communities, and in its place, adopts a proactive ‘One Health’ strategy that will not only combat existing disease, but will help to keep people from getting sick in the first place. IFAW commends Sens. Cornyn, Booker, Portman, Coons, Carper, and Graham for their leadership, and urges Congress to act swiftly to pass this critical legislation.” Kate Wall, Senior Legislative Manager at IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare

“The current COVID-19 crisis was knowable, predictable, and preventable.  And unless we learn these lessons and take steps to reduce related risks, the same will be true of the next pandemic, and the next. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and its members are grateful to Senators Cornyn, Booker, Portman, Coons, Carper and Graham for their leadership to reduce the risk of future pandemics. We strongly urge Congress to act quickly to pass the Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2022.” Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“Virtually every new infectious disease in the last century traces its origin to high-risk interactions between people and wildlife. And the main driver behind those high-risk interactions is our broken relationship with nature. When unsustainable development encroaches into wild places, it creates risky interactions between people, livestock, and wildlife, as do unsafe practices in wildlife markets and commercial trade in high-risk wildlife species. All of these provide fertile ground for the spillover of new infectious diseases. This legislation aims to prevent the next pandemic. It does so through commonsense steps rooted in the conservation of nature. And it would do so while ensuring that the rights, needs, and cultural practices of Indigenous Peoples and local communities are respected and protected. WWF is proud to have supported the bipartisan effort by the Senators introducing this bill. Similar bipartisan legislation has already passed the House, and we urge the Senate to now do the same.” – Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)