What is in this article?:
- Two billion more mouths to feed by 2040.
- With shrinking budgets, where should agricultural research focus be?
- Public sector scientists say biotechnology promises are too often overblown leading to underfunding of conventional agricultural research.
What about complaints that the U.S. government presents too many obstacles for agricultural research and there is need for regulatory reform?
“There is room to improve the regulatory process,” agrees Cassman. “That doesn’t mean diluting the goals of ensuring that any product that comes to market is environmentally friendly and safe in terms of health and nutrition. We can make the system more efficient and effective without losing the benefit of regulation to make those assurances.”
Biotech proponents have “a significant point to make there. For instance, the major emphasis placed on products like Bt crops or Roundup Ready crops and their impact on nutrition. Clearly, there is no effect. Yet, it seems every time a similar product comes to market (there is pushback), especially overseas.
“Globally, we need a much more efficient, effective regulatory system that can look at risk and benefits in ways that are much more effective and science-based. That way we can continue to make improvements genetically by any means.”
It may surprise the biotech industry that Cassman doesn’t believe there is a “need to disinvest in biotechnology. Rather, we need to increase investment in agricultural research, in general, and get to a better balance. There needs to be at least as much investment, perhaps more, going to the nuts-and-bolts research that has been so successful in improving productivity in the past. That includes things like nutrient management, water management, and disease and pest management.
“I think the future lies with more ‘responsive agriculture,’ that can react to real time conditions during a growing season. That will allow producers to make decisions quickly with regard to management of pests, nutrients and water. We need fine-tuning to push yields towards genetic potentials.”