IFT: food research "chronically underfunded"

12 Feb 2020

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has published a white paper about the state of funding for food research, concluding that food research in the United States is chronically underfunded.

As a result, it says, there is potential to perpetuate risk in public health, food safety, and food security while eroding the U.S talent pipeline and global competitiveness. With these risks in mind, IFT proposes prioritizing federal and private research funding efforts for food with a focus on food science.

IFT: food research chronically underfunded

The white paper presents the case for prioritizing funding in food research by examining trends in public and private investment in research as well as the contributions of food to the U.S. economy. It also includes IFT-led survey data regarding research priorities in food science and the impact of insufficient funding.

In 2018, U.S. agriculture and food (AgriFood) contributed $5.08 trillion or 24.8% of combined GDP, accounted for 22.8 million jobs (14.2%), with food contributing 20.7 million jobs and $137 billion (5.4%) in exports and $146.5 billion (4.7%) in imports.

At the same time, public funding in AgriFood research in the U.S. has drastically declined since 2008, IFT notes. In contrast, developing countries such as China and India steadily increased their funding from 1990-2013, and since 2010, China’s funding has surpassed all countries.

In 2018, private investment, including venture capital, in U.S. AgriFood was $21.6 billion, of which food accounted for $9.9 billion. This is significantly higher than public investment at $0.1 billion in food and $0.9 billion in agriculture. In comparison, in 2018, public investment in pharmaceutical as a%age of GDP was higher (4.9%) than AgriFood R&D (4.2%) and food R&D (1%), despite the lower contribution to the U.S. economy.

IFT’s survey identified research priorities in food science that could help address major current challenges: public health, food safety and quality, and food security and sustainability. The decline in public funding for food is of great concern and cannot be substituted by private funding. There is an urgency for policymakers to recognize the significant contributions of the food sector to the U.S. economy and the risks associated with chronically underfunded research. It is vital to economic, national, and societal interests that the global food system ensures safe, nutritious, affordable, accessible, and environmentally sustainable food supply for the growing population.

To continue to create value and maintain global competitiveness, advancements in food science and technology and pursuit of innovation are critical. Investment in food research will help to ensure a secure food supply, reduce foodborne disease outbreaks, and assist with efforts to protect the environment and national security.

In response, IFT proposes the following three calls to action:

+ Increasing and prioritizing USDA’s funding for AgriFood research, with a primary focus on food

+ Authorizing additional federal agencies to fund interdisciplinary research in food

+ Enhancing public-private partnerships for AgriFood research, with a focus on research in food

IFT say it strongly advocates for a paradigm shift to drive innovation, feed the talent pipeline, and maintain global competitiveness.

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