Read Emily Waltz' interview with Roger Beachy, the new director for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the new research funding arm of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
What does Beachy's appoinment mean for researchers, farmers and consumers?
Larger, longer grants with more money for education or extension, so the knowledge can reach from the lab to the food to the fork; a stonger focus on sustinable approaches; and a regulatory stucture that is science based
We need to build enhanced capacity in the US to address urgent agricultural challenges such as sustainable food production and nutrition, readiness for climate aberrations that will impact productivity and developing renewable options like biofuels and industrial and pharmaceutical materials. To address these challenges, Beachy will create sub-institutional structures within NIFA. One of the institutes would address biofuels, climate and environment; another would address food safety and nutrition; a third would address food production and sustainability; and a fourth institute would focus on youth, families and communities.
In terms of biotech crops, Bechy says, "I think it's important that we stop talking only about risks and talk more about risk-benefit analyses."
Nice - I wish it wasnt quite as wishy washy on the risk aspect - although it is nice to see risk-benefit analysis being mentioned rather than just the risk, or just the benefit (although given the infinitesimally small risk of current GM crops, doing this may pose an issue)
It would be nice in upcoming years if regulatory costs could come down, and even possibly if the big biotech companies, as some sort of outreach/PR type move, could assist with the regulatory process to some extent (although this risks tainting the product with a bad image for being related to big biotech, which may put some people off) - Monsanto at least are very vocal about wanting to increase food production by whatever means possible - have to wonder if maybe part of this could be helping products through the regulatory process after they have been proven efficacious - the costs could even be ameliorated if for instance, Syngenta, Monsanto, and DuPont were to work together to assist with regulatory approval of not-for profit GM lines.
"Monsanto at least are very vocal about wanting to increase food production by whatever means possible"
No doubt. But there is already plenty of food being produced. The problem is distribution. Why aren't we fixing that, rather than calling always for more?