Forum—A Global Harvest of Knowledge
| 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:
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.
"Forum" was published in the April 2001 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.