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October 12, 09

NEWS / U.S. Officials Announce New Food and Agriculture Research Agency

Will build on scientific advances in food and agriculture

By Kathryn McConnell
Staff Writer

Washington — A new government agency plans to bring together government and private scientists to improve research in food and agriculture.

The establishment of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture was announced October 8 by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Science Advisor John Holdren.

The institute will build on recent scientific discoveries like advances in sequencing plant and animal genomes, biotechnology, nanotechnology and large-scale computer simulations, Vilsack said at a press briefing in Washington.

“These discoveries and tools come not a moment too soon,” Vilsack said. He said the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that food production will need to double by 2050 to meet demand. “And this has to happen in an environment where our production system already is under threat,” by global warming and water shortages in some regions.

Climate change “already is disrupting farming and grazing patterns” in the United States and globally, he said.

The institute also will concentrate on improving food safety by identifying and eliminating causes of microbial contamination, and by developing safe food-processing technologies. It will work to improve the amount and quality of plant-based feedstocks used to produce biofuels, and to develop new bio-based industrial products.

The institute also will focus on improving the nutrition of food.

Heading the institute, part of the Agriculture Department, is noted plant scientist Roger Beachy.

Congress authorized the creation of the institute in 2008.The institute will involve U.S. and international scientists.




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