Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Agriculture research needs more money that would be spent more competitively, Obama advisers say

"A blue-ribbon panel of scientific and technology advisers to President Obama warns that the nation risks losing its longstanding supremacy in food production because research in agriculture has not kept up with new challenges like climate change, depleted land and water resources and emerging pests, pathogens and invasive plants," Stephanie Strom of The New York Times reports.

Two of the president's advisers urged a commitment of $700 million in additional money for new agriculture research that would be spent in very different ways than what is currently sanctioned for research: competitively, instead of doling out money in a formula to land-grant universities, which use much of the money for salaries of faculty who do research.

The report says the U.S. agricultural research enterprise isn't prepared to meet seven 21st Century challenges: competition for water, impacts of climate change, impacts of biofuel productions on food yields, new pests and pathogens, environmental impacts, health and nutritional concerns, and international food security.

The panel found that federal funding for agriculture research has remained about the same for the past 30 years, while financing for research in other areas of science and technology has increased. Because federal agriculture research funding isn't given competitively, it isn't spurring innovation and is often duplicating research conducted by private companies, the report says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the largest funder of agriculture research, but about 66 percent of its money goes to its own research units.

Some of USDA's research funding to land-grant universities is used for faculty salaries, but the bulk of the money is spent on corn and soybeans, "for which private companies enlist battalions of highly educated plant breeders, geneticists, laboratory technicians and other skilled workers in research and development," Strom writes. (Read more)

No comments: