|| In its service role to regulatory
and action agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal
government in general, the Agricultural
Research Service faces many issues that extend beyond U.S. borders. Some of
the more noteworthy include:
These challenges have taken on greater emphasis at USDA and ARS. So,
globalization of selected strategic areas of work is a natural evolution of our
Several of ARS' major programs now have global implications. Food safety is
one. We're insisting that our trade partners establish and adhere to certain
quality standards because more of the American diet comes from sources outside
the United States.
Germplasm collection and enhancement is another. As the genetic base of many
crops shrinks and wild species are displaced by a burgeoning human population,
the need increases to locate and exchange genetic resources around the globe.
Feeding this population will increasingly rest on genomics and genetic
improvementa third global issue. Knowing the location of desirable genes
and how best to manipulate them dramatically reduces the time it takes to
tailor crops and animals so they produce more edibles with fewer inputs.
- the ability of developing countries to feed themselves
- the threat of foreign diseases to our crops and livestock
- the need to ensure that U.S. crops don't harbor diseases or pests
that might restrict their trade
- a responsibility to lead in developing scientific and intellectual capacity
Production agriculture is a fourth issue. As the population continues to grow,
so does the need for large-scale, mechanized farming to provide enough food.
And lastly, environmental protection has become an international issue during
the last decade. Countries participating in the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) must strive to meet high air and water quality standards.
These new challenges face not only ARS. They call for entirely new partnerships
and multinational alliances involving nongovernmental organizations and the
commercial sectoralong with our traditional government counterparts.
In October 1999, we formed ARS' Office of International Research Programs,
recognizing the need for international programs and program
leadershipalong with our national programsin order to best serve
even our domestic constituencies (see story on p. 4).
While not every international project we participate in needs to confer a
direct return on our investment, the projects overall either provide a tangible
benefit to U.S. consumers or support countries that are important to the future
of our own.
For instance, we have had a long-standing research program with Israel under
the Binational Agricultural Research and Development fund (BARD). Since its
inception in 1977, BARD has financially supported more than 850 research
projects of mutual benefit to both countries.
Our germplasm system is such that we can bring global resources to bear in
solving food insecurity in parts of Africa. And our biotechnology skills can be
used to support a more productive agricultural sector in many parts of the
developing world. Under a memorandum of understanding with the Consultative
Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), ARS is partnering with
CGIAR-member centers throughout the world to develop stress-tolerant germplasm
through innovative biotechnological approaches.
Our search for new agricultural products can do more than just sustain the
viability of farm enterprises. It may also create cures for diseases, uncover
unique phytonutrients, or introduce entirely new views on what constitutes good
nutrition. And our research on bio-based energy may produce new fuels that are
both more efficient and environmentally benign.
Superimposed on all of this is the need to promote science education and
capacity. ARS can play a global role in promoting science and technology. In
fact, our scientists are helping all over the world to train a new generation
of researchers to meet the needs of the new millennium.
To adequately serve U.S. agriculture, a research presence in strategically
chosen regions of the world is essential.
Floyd P. Horn
- We cooperate with Latin American countries to advance research in graduate
education through the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education
Center (CATIE) and various U.S.-based universities.
- We cooperate with ministries of agriculture in Africa to ensure advanced
training of scientists who will work towards food security for the peoples of
- We collaborate with scientists from the former Soviet Union to enable them
to make the transition from developing biological weapons to working on modern,
- We also enhance scientific exchange worldwide through the National
Agricultural Library, through our germplasm and genomics databases, and through
the newly established Wallace Memorial Conferences, which will focus on
agricultural issues in the Western Hemisphere.