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Overcoming Plasmid DNA Limitations in Advanced Therapy Manufacturing

In this GEN webinar, sponsored by Touchlight, our distinguished presenters Dr. Tommy Duncan and Dr. Jill Makin, will address industry challenges and discuss an alternative to plasmid DNA—a synthetic, antibiotic-free DNA vector called dbDNA™ (doggybone…

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Broadcast Date: December 6, 2021
Time: 8:00 am PT, 11:00 am ET, 1700 CET

The genetic medicine revolution is truly underway. The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed mRNA and DNA-based vaccines to show their true potential, but the industry has ongoing challenges to overcome. Almost all of today’s genetic medicines (mRNA, DNA vaccines, viral vectors) are dependent on plasmid DNA as either a critical starting material or API, which presents challenges in advanced therapy manufacturing. Although plasmid DNA has proven its worth, enabling the production and availability of vaccines, there is also a bottleneck in the industry with contract manufacturers who offer GMP quality plasmid DNA, resulting in a substantial supply restriction. The inability to provide quality DNA within tight timelines is a threat to the rapid progress of R&D pipelines. Moreover, antibiotic resistance genes in plasmid DNA are becoming a crucial global issue and a topic of increasing regulatory scrutiny.

In this GEN webinar, our distinguished presenters Dr. Tommy Duncan and Dr. Jill Makin, will address these industry challenges and discuss an alternative to plasmid DNA—a synthetic, antibiotic-free DNA vector called dbDNA (doggybone DNA). Additionally, we will learn how dbDNA can address the issues of traditional fermentation while achieving a significantly faster turnaround for GMP production and superior safety due to the elimination of bacterial sequences. With supportive case studies, this webinar will also explain how dbDNA is uniquely positioned to enable the rapid, global-scale DNA production that is so urgently required.

A live Q&A session will follow the presentation, offering you a chance to pose questions to our expert panelists.

Tommy Duncan, PhD
Chief Business Officer
Touchlight
Jill Makin, PhD
Jill Makin, PhD
Chief Development Officer
Touchlight

Touchlight logo

The post Overcoming Plasmid DNA Limitations in Advanced Therapy Manufacturing appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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How China combined authoritarianism with capitalism to create a new communism

What does communism 2.0 mean for democracy?

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After the 1989 fall of communism in the Soviet bloc, five self-declared communist states remain today: China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam. Belarus and Venezuela can also be added to the mix as they fulfil the criteria of a communist state – even though they do not officially invoke the ideology. So, at present, the number stands at seven. The question is, now that capitalism is the engine of China’s economy, what is communism today? And if the number of communist states is poised to grow in the near future, as some predict, what does this prospect mean for democracy?

My interest in communism goes beyond my work as a historian – it’s personal. I was born and raised in communist Poland in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a grey country where people seemed to have lost all hope. All essentials, including shoes and coffee, were rationed. But rationing cards did not mean you would get what you wanted, or even needed. Queuing for hours (sometimes even days) to buy anything that had just been delivered to a shop was a regular occurrence.

I have no doubt that my upbringing shaped my life and inspired my career. My research has examined modern central and eastern Europe, nationalism and the politics of language – particularly in the region’s totalitarian and authoritarian regimes during the past two centuries.

During my youth in the 1980s, bartering became more common, while scarce goods could only be bought with US dollars. You could exchange a summer dress two sizes too large for a T-bone steak (kotlet), or a record player that you did not need for a large can of baby formula. Only vinegar seemed to be in constant supply on the near-empty shop shelves – perhaps accounting for the sour faces and almost permanent lack of smiles. Western scholars came up with an apt term to describe this existence. They called it the “economy of scarcity” – the impact of central planning on production and the population.

And it wasn’t just a lack of food. Freedom was scarce, too. Poland, like all Soviet bloc countries, was kept under a “double lock” – meaning it was even difficult to travel to another socialist country, be it neighbouring Czechoslovakia or East Germany. You needed to apply for a particular kind of passport to travel to the “people’s democracies” (that is, Soviet bloc countries) in Europe. And after coming back home from your travels, this precious document had to be returned to a local militia headquarters (the police was then known by this militarised sobriquet).

If you wanted to visit a European capitalist country, like West Germany, you needed a another kind of passport. But only a single member of any family would be allowed to go to the “rotten capitalist west” (as it was often referred to). So the rest of your family remained as the state’s hostages to ensure you wouldn’t dare to defect. I never once saw the passport that permitted travel to all the countries of the world, which allowed the lucky few to travel to the US or Australia.


This story is part of Conversation Insights
The Insights team generates long-form journalism and is working with academics from different backgrounds who have been engaged in projects to tackle societal and scientific challenges.


To me, and many others, my home country felt like one big prison. Stringent censorship of publications, films and television aimed to convince us that life in Poland and the Soviet bloc was much better than in New York or Paris. But few believed the propaganda. People clandestinely listened to Radio Free Europe and Voice of America (despite the state attempting to jam them). And during the 1980s, it became easier to buy banned books in the form of samizdat (uncensored, underground publications).

Among the youth, the dream was to escape this prison and enjoy a “normal life” in a “normal country”. In a place with no rationing cards and well-stocked supermarkets, where working a single job you would be able to afford a decent standard of living, an apartment and summer holidays in the Canaries. The slang Polish name for this Spanish archipelago, “Kanary”, became colloquial shorthand for the unattainable.

Pie in the sky, our parents warned us. Their advice was to be quiet, to do what we were told by teachers or overseers – and to never say what we thought. After all, refusing to toe the Communist Party’s line, not praising Poland’s socialism – let alone opposing the system – might cost you a coveted place at a university, the loss of an apartment, or land you in prison. In the 1950s, at the height of Stalinism, people were even executed for such ideological misdemeanours.

For people who did succeed to escape the regime, the journey was fraught with complications.

But, unexpectedly, the cold war between the western democracies and the communist Soviet bloc came to an end in 1989, followed, two years later, by the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. This communist superpower simply and peacefully (at least in Europe) vanished into thin air, causing communism as a political and economic system to disappear from much of the world.

We were free. The last General Secretary of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev was the good fairy, who made our heartfelt dream come true. The Soviet leader decided that starving his own people in order to keep up with the west in the arms race was no way forward. The subsequent systemic transition, in the span of a decade and a half, enabled former Soviet bloc states, from Poland and Hungary to Romania and Bulgaria, to accede to NATO and the European Union.

With my newfound freedom, I continued my education in South Africa and the Czech Republic. I researched in Italy, the US and Japan, before finding university positions in Ireland and Scotland.

But in the case of the 15 countries that emerged from the defunct Soviet Union, only the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became truly western and democratic. Most, Russia included, became autocracies – even if they stuck to the pretence of parliamentary elections.

Georgia, Moldova and especially Ukraine are tantalisingly close to becoming genuine democracies with the prospect of EU and NATO membership. Yet, Turkmenistan is almost as oppressive as North Korea, while Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan are seen as textbook examples of repressive and kleptokratic dictatorships.

But at present, not a single post-communist or post-Soviet state declares itself to be communist.

China leads the autocracies

With the economic and political demise of Soviet-style communism, most of the communist regimes supported by the Soviet Union across the world, like Ethiopia, Afghanistan and South Yemen also collapsed. Communist Cuba is a lone exception to this trend. The Caribbean island has been a permanent thorn in the side of the US since 1961.

Present-day communism, then, is led by China – the world’s second largest economy. Beijing has been proudly communist since 1949 and is now taking on the US, which still leads – though falteringly – the globe’s shrinking camp of democracies. Since 2010, an increasing number of states have parted with democracy.

Over the past decade, democracy has been quickly reversed in post-genocide Rwanda. The same also happened in Ethiopia after the civil war in Tigray (2020-present day), while the Arab Spring’s democratic gains have been squashed across the Middle East. As in Putin’s Russia, electoral autocracies were installed in Bulgaria (2009), Hungary (2010), Serbia (2014), Turkey (2015), Poland (2016) and Slovenia (2020).

On July 1, 2019, China’s Communist Party celebrated its 100th birthday. From www.alamy.com

China’s population of 1.4 billion means that a fifth of all humankind lives under its communist regime. The other three self-declared communist states – Laos, North Korea and Vietnam – all border China. A new communist – and Sinic (Chinese influenced) – bloc, indeed.

So, after the two decades of decline in the wake of the 1989 collapse of the Soviet bloc, is the turbocharged Chinese-style communism 2.0 – which embraces capitalism – going to take over?

The rise and fall of democracy

The looser post-cold war definition of communism marries capitalism with socialism, as understood in the former Soviet Union. The overarching principle of socialism (seen as communism in the west) says: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution.” In practice, this unorthodox mix of Soviet-style socialism and capitalism means an authoritarian, or even totalitarian, regime under a single party’s full and (these days) AI-enhanced control. This control extends over the now capitalist-style economy, too. Through this mono-party, the invariably male leader single-handedly rules.

Often a cult of personality is developed for him and the deal is sweetened with a modicum of a welfare state. In most cases these states advertise themselves as being communist. Others, like Belarus and Venezuela may not actually call it “communism” and a different name may be given to this ideology.

For example Bolivarianism in Venezuela, national unity in Belarus or Juche in North Korea. The mono-party political system makes the Communist Party into the state and its leader into the de-facto dictator. Unchecked collectivism, or the ruling dictator’s self-serving and populist rhetoric of prioritising masses (referred to as “nation or people”) over individuals, “justifies” his rule and the system. In places like Belarus and China, this has led to dissenters being repressed and concentration camps being built to remove them from “healthy society”.

Like the pre-1989 communist states, all these countries’ ruling regimes are anti-western in their official rhetoric, and often in their actions too. This anti-western aggression was another important defining feature of the communist states of the 20th century.

But will this number rise or fall in the 21st century? During the two decades following the fall of communism in Europe, democracy as the doctrine of human and political rights steadily spread across the world. Dictators felt pressured to keep up at least the appearance of working electoral democracy in their countries. Amnesty International and Freedom House successfully shamed autocrats into mending their notorious ways and freeing political prisoners.

But after 2010, this trend was incrementally reversed. Symbolically, in this year the Chinese writer and pro-democracy dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Beijing felt offended by the west and took steps to suppress Liu, his family and friends. The authorities denied Liu cancer treatment and he died prematurely seven years later.

Liu’s ashes were scattered in the sea to prevent the establishment of a grave for a person many saw as a democratic hero and martyr. That would have been a focal point for China’s democrats, who might have gone on pilgrimages to pay respect to Liu’s unwavering loyalty to liberty and democracy.

Then, in 2020, the pandemic created an ideal opportunity for Beijing to dismantle democracy in Hong Kong, and a place that was once a beacon of political and economic freedom fell. Autocrats of all stripes took note.

‘To get rich is glorious’

But isn’t the whole idea of capitalism and profit anathema to the central tenets of communism? And if so, how did these two opposites attract? In the wake of then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s 1978 reforms, a great discovery of applied politics was made in China: that you can have capitalism without democracy. Spotting a gap in the market of ideas, Deng decreed that “to get rich is glorious”, meaning that capitalism was ideologically neutral and could serve the needs of a communist regime.

The current marriage of capitalism and communism is a lesson for democrats not to trust in their wishful thinking. Instead, the often touted hypothesis about capitalism’s democratising effects must be put to the test. It is clear that capitalism does not make authoritarian or totalitarian Belarus, China, Laos or Vietnam any less authoritarian or more pro-democratic or pro-western. Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela ditched capitalism once before, when they became communist, in 1948 and 1959 and 1999 respectively, and they are reluctant to re-embrace it. But China’s enthusiasm for undemocratic capitalism since 2004 – known as the Beijing consensus in the west – may compel them to follow suit soon.

China’s economic success, if it lasts for several generations, may lead to the fortification of nascent communism 2.0, with capitalism as an integral part of this ideology. Communist-capitalism is not an oxymoron any more, as long as the ruling communist party keeps entrepreneurs subservient to its ideology and governance.

So what are the specific characteristics of the new communist 2.0 state? Perhaps, the self-declaration of being a communist state is the most obvious and that this features in the constitution. Even if some states give it a different name.

Civic and human rights are seriously limited and often denounced as a “western ploy”. For instance, no individual right to vote exists in China, while the state actually owns citizens’ bodies to do with them as it pleases.

A similar level of abuse is observed in North Korea and Vietnam. And growing repression has also been observed in Belarus and Cuba.

Recently, the west woke up to the dangers that its liberal and democratic values may face and the fact that capitalism alone cannot guarantee freedom and human rights. The fear that the age of communist China’s imperialism has already arrived motivated Australia, the UK and the US, for example, to form a new military pact. Imperfectly – and probably to Beijing’s delight – AUKUS agreement excludes the EU.

Technological totalitarianism

In China, the traditional features of totalitarianism have become irretrievably combined with the system’s appetite for hi-tech conditioning and surveillance. For example, the total control of Xinjiang’s Muslims is made possible through the region’s mass database of the population’s DNA and irises.

Technology and AI are communism 2.0’s largely bloodless methods for extending total control over the population, making sure that every individual toes the party’s line. This compliance is also enabled by the emerging military surveillance industrial complex, which is going to be at the core of successful communist-capitalism.

More control means more job openings in this complex, directly translating into economic growth, that in turn will go back into financing that control – totalitarianism’s perfect feedback loop, with no way out. And so repression becomes recognised as the engine of the economy; a guarantee of prosperity for most (though not all).

The seismic shift from Soviet-style communism 1.0, based on heavy industry, to China’s AI-supported communism 2.0 can be observed to different degrees across those seven communist states. North Korea remains an outlier and a squarely communism 1.0 state. To this day, Pyongyang refuses to follow the communism 2.0 path, despite Beijing’s quiet nudges in that direction (although there are signs that could be changing). Cuba and Venezuela, meanwhile, are also closer to communism 1.0, still making non-pragmatic choices informed by idealism and ideology. At the other end of the spectrum, Belarus, Laos and Vietnam are using whatever works economically (as long as the ruling party controls production and profits). They are China’s conscientious pupils, bent on implementing communism 2.0.

Democratic alternatives

Unless the world’s democracies come up with attractive and effective solutions to socioeconomic ills such as unemployment, falling living standards and income, and inaccessible medical care, then I am afraid that communism 2.0 is going to win hands down. In this scenario, the number of communist states is bound to grow and individual and political freedoms will diminish.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is exactly the type of ambitious project that the world’s democracies acutely lack at this moment in time. The plan is to link and build a coordinated network of railway, road and maritime corridors to span all of Africa, Asia and Europe for the seamless export of products from China and the easy import of raw materials to this communist powerhouse.

Not only does the BRI already facilitate China’s exploitation of Eurasia and Africa, but it also functions as the main conveyor belt for spreading communism 2.0 globally.

Adoptions of the Chinese model’s signature mix of welfare state policies with growing authoritarian tendencies and a single party’s aspiration to seize all power have been observed in present-day Europe since 2015, be it in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland or Serbia. Unsurprisingly, these countries’ pro-authoritarian leaders are enamoured with Chinese economic and political success. They hope to establish privileged links and collaboration with the communist superpower and they may not be the last western states to fall under its spell.

To curry favour with Beijing, Europe’s aspiring autocracies are busy dismantling democracy and putting curbs on political rights and freedoms at home. Since 2015, Poland has repeatedly been risking tens of billions of Euros in developmental aid from the EU by rejecting the basic principle of EU legal primacy. Facing growing censure, in 2017, incredulously, the Polish prime minister said that it did not matter, because in such a case China would offer Poland more money than Brussels.

I fear that, after my childhood in communist Poland, I may have to live out my old age under a communist 2.0 regime of renewed oppression. However colourful and hi-tech its façade may be, the enforcement of the ruling party’s line in this possible future will be swifter and more totalitarian than in the Soviet bloc’s pre-cyberspace past.

Vast databases of citizens’ DNA and irises will make personal identifications impossible to fake, while ubiquitous online, mobile and CCTV monitoring will liquidate privacy and any possibility of organised dissent.

In the state’s gaze, each person will stand naked with no choice but to do the autocrat’s bidding or be vanished and die, forgotten by all, out of sight in a “black jail” or in an officially non-existent concentration camp.

Even the memory of such an ideological miscreant will be erased from people’s minds, thanks to the rise of the state-controlled “sovereign internet”. As George Orwell predicted in 1984: “Who controls the past, controls the future.”


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Tomasz Kamusella does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Type of ultraviolet light most effective at killing coronavirus is also the safest to use around people

UV lights come in a variety of different wavelengths, but not all are equally effective at disinfection. Researchers tested a number of commercially available lights to find the best.

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UV light at most wavelengths can kill COVID–19. andriano_cz/iStock via Getty Images

Scientists have long known that ultraviolet light can kill pathogens on surfaces and in air and water. UV robots are used to disinfect empty hospital rooms, buses and trains; UV bulbs in HVAC systems eliminate pathogens in building air; and UV lamps kill bugs in drinking water.

Perhaps you have seen UV wands, UV LEDs and UV air purifiers advertised as silver bullets to protect against the coronavirus. While decades of research have looked at the ability of UV light to kill many pathogens, there are no set standards for UV disinfection products with regard to the coronavirus. These products may work to kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but they also may not.

I am an environmental engineer and expert in UV disinfection. In May 2021, my colleagues and I set out to accurately test various UV systems and see which was the most effective at killing off – or inactivating – SARS-CoV-2.

A diagram showing UV light breaking down a strand of DNA.
When UV light enters a cell, it breaks the bonds that hold DNA or RNA together. NASA/David Herring via WikimediaCommons

How does UV light kill a virus?

Light is categorized by wavelength – the distance between peaks of a wave of light – and is measured in nanometers. UV wavelengths range from 100 to 400 nanometers – shorter in wavelength than the violet hues in visible light – and are invisible to the human eye. As wavelength shortens, photons of light contain higher amounts of energy.

Different wavelengths of UV light work better than others for inactivating viruses, and this depends on how well the wavelengths are absorbed by the virus’s DNA or RNA. When UV light gets absorbed, the photons of light transfer their energy to and damage the chemical bonds of the genetic material. The virus is then unable to replicate or cause an infection. Researchers have also shown the proteins that viruses use to attach to a host cell and initiate infection – like the spike proteins on a coronavirus – are also vulnerable to UV light.

The dose of light matters too. Light can vary in intensity – bright light is more intense, and there is more energy in it than in dim light. Being exposed to a bright light for a short time can produce the same UV dose as being exposed to a dim light for a longer period. You need to know the right dose that can kill coronavirus particles at each UV wavelength.

A man with sunburned shoulders sitting on a beach.
Sunburns are caused by UV light damaging skin cells. Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Making ultraviolet lights safe for people

Traditional UV systems use wavelengths at or around 254 nanometers. At these wavelengths the light is dangerous to human skin and eyes, even at low doses. Sunlight includes UV light near these wavelengths; anyone who has ever gotten a bad sunburn knows just how dangerous UV light can be.

However, recent research has shown that at certain UV wavelengths – specifically below 230 nanometers – the high-energy photons are absorbed by the top layers of dead skin cells and don’t penetrate into the active skin layers where damage can occur. Similarly, the tear layer around eyes also blocks out these germicidal UV rays.

This means that at wavelengths of UV light below 230 nanometers, people can move around more freely while the air around them is being disinfected in real time.

A diagram showing a lamp above a sample of water containing the coronavirus.
Researchers used this setup to test multiple different UV lights at various doses to see what it took to kill SARS-CoV-2. Karl Linden, CC BY-ND

Testing different wavelengths

My colleagues and I tested five commonly used UV wavelengths to see which work best to inactivate SARS-CoV-2. Specifically, we tested how large a dose is needed to kill 90% to 99.9% of the viral particles present.

We ran these tests in a biosafety level three facility at the University of Arizona that is built to handle lethal pathogens. There we tested numerous lights across the UV spectrum, including UV LEDs that emit light at 270 and 282 nanometers, traditional UV tube lamps at 254 nanometers and a newer technology called an excited dimer, or excimer, UV source at 222 nanometers.

To test each device we spiked a sample of water with millions of SARS-CoV-2 viruses and coated a petri dish with a thin layer of this mixture. We then shined UV light on the petri dish until we achieved a specific dose. Finally we examined the viral particles to see if they could still infect human cells in culture. If the viruses could infect the cells, the dose was not high enough. If the viruses did not cause an infection, the UV source at that dose had successfully killed the pathogen. We carefully repeated this process for a range of UV doses using the five different UV devices.

While all of the wavelengths we tested can inactivate SARS-CoV-2 at very low doses, the ones that required the lowest dose were the systems that emit UV light at a wavelength of 222 nanometers. In our experiment, it took a dose of less than 2 millijoules of energy per square centimeter to kill 99.9% of viral particles. This translates to needing about 20 seconds to disinfect a space receiving a low intensity of short wavelength UV light, similar to that used in our test.

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These 222-nanometer systems are almost twice as effective as conventional UV tube lamps, which are often used in ultraviolet disinfecting systems. But importantly, the winning lamp also happens to be the safest for humans, too. At the same UV light intensity it takes to kill 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 in 20 seconds, a person could be safely exposed to 222-nanometer light for up to one hour and 20 minutes.

What this means is that widely available types of UV lamp lights can be used to safely knock down levels of the coronavirus with people present.

Better use of existing tech

Many places or organizations – ranging from the U.S. Air Force to the Space Needle in Seattle to Boeing – are already using or investigating ways to use UV light in the 222 nanometer range to protect public health.

I believe that our findings are important because they quantify the exact doses needed to achieve various levels of SARS-CoV-2 control, whether that be killing 90% or 99.9% of viral particles.

Imagine coffee shops, grocery stores, school classrooms, restaurants and concert venues now made safe by this technology. And this is not a solution for just SARS-CoV-2. These technologies could help protect human health in public spaces in future times of crisis, but also during times of relative normalcy, by reducing exposure to everyday viral and bacterial threats.

Karl Linden advises various companies promoting the use of UV light for disinfection. He receives funding from federal agencies and industry to conduct research in his role as a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is affiliated with the International Ultraviolet Association.

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The pandemic has made it even harder for one in three Americans to obtain healthy, affordable food

A recent survey finds that the pandemic made it harder for many US households to put food on the table. It also changed the ways in which people buy and store food.

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Free bagged lunches are ready for distribution at a public school in Fayette, Miss., on March 3, 2021. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
The Conversation, CC BY-ND

COVID-19 has made food access more challenging for many communities. In Michigan State University’s Fall 2021 Food Literacy and Engagement Poll, 31% of the people we talked to said the pandemic had affected their household’s ability to obtain food. This included 28% of households earning less than $25,000, and 38% of those earning more than $75,000 annually.

We surveyed 2,002 representative Americans between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1, 2021, to explore how the pandemic influenced the food landscape and shaped people’s food resources, choices and diet.

Millions of Americans left the workforce during the pandemic, so it may not be surprising that 53% of those with limited food access reported having fewer financial resources than they did before then. To make matters worse, food and gasoline prices surged during the same period. This made decisions about where and how to spend fewer dollars even more challenging for families already struggling to make ends meet.

Rising food insecurity

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as having limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Households with low food security have trouble affording enough food and eating balanced diets.

In 2018, the department estimated that over 37 million Americans were food insecure. By December 2020 that figure had risen to 38.3 million people, or 10.5% of U.S. households.

Among the subset of our survey respondents who reported that financial constraints limited their food access, 74% said they chose different brands of food in response. Nearly half (47%) consumed less food, and 31% received support from government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). One in 6 (17%) reported visiting food banks more often.

Money wasn’t the only factor. Among respondents who experienced limited food access, 37% said they did not feel comfortable shopping at the grocery store, and 32% reported not having reliable transportation. It is likely that the risk of illness led many people to avoid public transportation or ride sharing to limit their chance of exposure to disease.

Regardless of financial constraints, 50% of respondents said the pandemic has changed the way they purchase and store food. Among that group, 51% now look for food with a long shelf life, 50% are storing more food at home and 48% are taking fewer trips to the grocery store. Aside from concerns about the virus itself, these trends may be associated with uncertainty, speculation and highly publicized supply chain disruptions.

More food awareness

The pandemic has also led some Americans to focus more on what does not get eaten. One in 4 of our respondents (27%) said they were paying more attention to food waste. Given that food waste globally accounts for 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that the U.S. wastes between 30% and 40% of its food supply while 6.1 million U.S. children currently live in food-insecure households, reducing food waste has the potential to address multiple challenges at the same time.

At the time of our survey, 69% of respondents had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine. Among those vaccinated, 67% reported visiting the grocery more often after receiving their first shot. Similarly, 33% spent more time in the grocery store after getting vaccinated, and 29% reported that they could more easily transport and access groceries. Only 15% of vaccinated respondents had stopped wearing masks where they were not required.

Our poll results demonstrate how the pandemic has transformed many Americans’ lives and behaviors in complex and interconnected ways. While these changes may not be permanent, we can predict that Americans’ food access and choices will undoubtedly continue to shift, along with the state of the pandemic.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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