By STEPHANIE STROM
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.
The president’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, chaired by John P. Holdren, director of the White House office of science and technology policy, and Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, urged a commitment of $700 million in additional money for new agricultural research — but deployed in very different ways than the money that is currently doled out.
“Our most important conclusion is that our nation’s agricultural research enterprise is not prepared to meet the challenges that U.S. agriculture faces in the 21st century,” the panel states in its report, which was issued on Friday.
The report lays out seven challenges ranging from competition for water to the impacts of climate change and biofuels production on food yields. “The need to deal with these growing challenges in agriculture, including new pests and pathogens, controlling agriculture’s environmental impact, health and nutritional concerns and international food security underscores the importance of agricultural research to the health, prosperity and security of the nation,” they wrote.
But the panel found that federal money for agricultural research has, in real dollars, remained roughly the same for the last 30 years, according to the report, while financing for research in other areas of science and technology has risen strikingly.