outbreaks), stakeholder input, and collaboration with other federal food safety agencies.

Other NIFA competitive grant programs that provide extramural grant funding for food safety include the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, and the Water Quality Program. Food safety program priorities for all NIFA grant programs are developed with stakeholder input from USDA’s sister federal food safety agencies, university, and industry partners and stakeholders.

The major advantage here is that when it comes to food safety there is great deal of consensus that cuts across institutional and international borders as well as public—private interests.

Collectively, USDA agencies, such as FSIS, APHIS Veterinary Services, ARS, and NIFA, are working with industry partners to ensure that hazards are identified and controlled throughout various stages of food production.

But despite the value our research brings to food safety, the continued success and growth of that system is currently being challenged on two fronts.

In 2006, the total domestic food and agriculture R&D performed was just over $11 billion, with $5 billion from the public sector and $6 billion from the private sector. The public sector tends to do the more fundamental, precompetitive, public good research that does not provide an immediate “return on investment,” while the private sector picks up the public-sector research and does the development that leads to new products and new technologies.

We know that other countries, most notably China, are ramping up their investments in agriculture research just as the United States is cutting back. Historically, over much of the life of our 150-year-old public research system, the United States has been the leader in agriculture research, which has driven the evolution of science and technology. Recently that dedication has fallen off.

This trend doesn’t bode well for our country, its health, the health of our economy, or our food safety research leadership. There is no country other than ours that holds the leadership position or the trust of the rest of the world to do this crucial research.

Our research has a proven track record of success—now more than ever, policy needs to be as scientific as our science: evidence and performance based.

Part of the issue here is that the USDA science agencies are suffering from a funding gap when compared to other U.S. government science agencies.

As many of you know, much of USDA’s capacity for doing cutting-edge research depends on both the authorizing and appropriating cycles, and in the past several weeks we’ve seen a lot of activity on both fronts. On November 17, Congress approved the annual spending bill for USDA and it was signed into law the next day. While the final version emerging from Congress was not as damaging as the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee’s proposal earlier this year, this 2012 agriculture appropriations legislation continues the steady stream of cuts to agricultural science that started with the 2011 spending bill.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement