Nobember 6, 1997 - Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is the largest single life science society in the world representing over 43,000 members employed in academe, industry, and government. ASM members are involved in many different areas of microbiological research, including research related to foodborne diseases, new and emerging plant and animal diseases, soil erosion and soil biology, agricultural biotechnology, and the development of new agricultural products and processes. The ASM urges your support for the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems in the Research, Extension and Education Reauthorization Bill (S. 1150) sponsored by Senator Lugar and approved by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

The Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems creates a new mandatory spending account that provides $780 million over five years for research funding. The initiative would receive $100 million in fiscal year (FY) 1998, and in FY 1999 to 2002 $170 million is provided each year. Funding will be awarded on a competitive basis of scientific peer review or merit review.

The Initiative will address critical emerging agricultural issues of primary importance to future food production, environmental protection and farm income. During the first year, priority mission areas to be addressed include the food genome, food safety, food technology and human nutrition, new and alternative uses and production of agricultural commodities and products, agricultural biotechnology, and natural resource management.

Research in the area of biotechnology will lead to effective new approaches in the protection of food and in reaching necessary gains in crop production. The impressive advances made possible through genetic engineering are key to achieving crop quality and production gains needed to meet increased world food demands. A stable world food supply preserved through increased crop production is vital to U.S. national interests.

Support for microbial genome research with the food genome initiative will give scientists tools to develop higher yielding crops and value-added crops. Research conducted on smaller and simpler plant genomes that are related to major crops with much larger genomes may help scientists understand more about major crop genomes sooner.

Research like the examples offered above will be addressed in the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. The ASM strongly urges you to support the Initiative and seek its inclusion in the final legislation.