The US Debt Ceiling Debate and its Effect on Science

If the U.S. debt ceiling is not raised by Tuesday, August 2nd, the U.S. Treasury has warned that the country will not be able to pay all its obligations [1]. The debt ceiling is the amount that the country may legally borrow. Congressional Republicans have demanded budget cuts as a condition to raising the debt ceiling and avoiding a default.

Proposals from both Democrats and Republicans amount to a budget reduction of more than $1 trillion in spending over the next ten years; that’s approximately $100 billion per year. Defense spending cuts are off the table, and it’s likely that social security, Medicare and Medicaid programs will also be left untouched. Cuts are expected to be made to the roughly $600-billion domestic discretionary budget.

Science and the debt ceiling debate

Combating Foodborne Illness: The Food Safety Modernization Act

Approximately one in four Americans get sick by foodborne illness each year [1]. Of those 76 million people, an estimated 325,000 are hopitalized and 5,000 die. Indeed, foodborne disease outbreaks reported to the CDC alone through the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Survelliance System recorded 1,247 outbreaks in 2006 [2].


The vast majority of known foodborne illnesses are associated with products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to Jeff Levi, Ph.D., Executive Director of Trust for America’s Health, a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to make disease prevention a national priority [3]:

Our food safety system is plagued with problems, and it’s leading to millions of Americans becoming needlessly sick each year. The system is outdated and unable to effectively deal with today’s threats. Its current structure actually prevents the kind of coordinated, focused effort that Americans need more than ever and have a right to expect.

ScienceCures: Today’s Science, Tomorrow’s Cures

Last month, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) launched a new website,, a voter education initiative aimed at raising the profile of federal funding for biomedical research among the presidential candidates and the general public in the U.S.. provides a number of interactive resources to learn how NIH-funded scientists are working for cures in your state, what the American people think about supporting research, and how basic research leads to medical advancement.