Investment in ag research needs to double in next 10 years

Investment in ag research needs to double in next 10 years

Chicago Council on Global Affairs report says ag needs more research to reach global food demands of the future

Investment in agriculture research will need to double in the next 10 years to meet the growing demand for global food output, a Chicago-based global issues think tank said in a new report released this week.

Related: Panel: U.S. Agriculture Research Falling Behind

The report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs said innovation will be "essential" to meeting future food needs as temperatures rise and resources become more scarce.  

The report, Leveraging Innovation to Feed the Future, calls for increased U.S. investments in agricultural research, puts forward essential innovation priorities and urges decision-makers to fund research with a long time horizon in mind.

Research Biologist Heidi Windler takes tissue samples from genetically modified corn plants inside a climate chamber housed in Monsanto agribusiness headquarters in St Louis, Missouri. (Photograph by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.)

The paper draws from the findings of previous Chicago Council reports that document trends in agricultural research and offer recommendations on how research can advance global food security and overcome challenges posed by climate change, undernutrition and the rising tide of chronic disease.

One of those recent reports was released at last month's Global Food Security Symposium, where USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was a featured speaker. That report suggested that making global nutrition a priority could drive economic growth in poor countries and increase the incomes of 2.5 billion small-scale farmers.

In the latest report, which also touches on nutrition, the group's vice president for global agriculture and food, Lisa Moon, said public investments in agricultural research have not kept pace with changes and increase in food demand.

"With our world-class university system and research institutes, our long experience partnering with scientists in other countries and our tremendous intellectual capital, the United States is uniquely positioned to generate and leverage food system innovations to match this century's challenges," Moon says.

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Specifically, the report calls for the United States to:
• Forge a new science of agriculture to increase productivity "sustainably, nutritiously and economically."
• Build research capacity through support for university and research institutions in developing countries
• Bolster research on climate change, focusing on building resilience and addressing climate threats
• Expand nutrition-sensitive agricultural research. Nutrition should be a key priority of research to combat chronic malnutrition.
• Reduce food waste, which is vital to help offset the production needed to meet increased demand.

U.S. investments in public agricultural research have declined more than 20% from their peak in 1994, the group says. Similarly, agricultural productivity growth is also slowing from 2% in the decades before 1990 to 1% in the years that followed.

Related: NIFA grants will support efforts to improve food security

Research breakthroughs and wider dissemination of innovations will be essential to increasing net food availability by a needed 60% by 2050 while taking into account sustainability and nutrition concerns, the report says.

Source: Chicago Council

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