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ARS Research Improves Food Availability,
Safety By Kim
November 10, 2003
Food is safer, more affordable and more abundant than ever for
Americans, thanks in part to the work of the Agricultural Research Service,
which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief
in-house scientific research agency.
Since the agency was created in 1953, food costs have dropped
from about 20 percent of the average U.S. income to less than 10 percent today.
One reason is that ARS research has helped make agricultural production more
efficient; a single U.S. farmer in 1950 was able to produce enough to feed 19
people, but today that number is 129.
Take beef production, for example. There has been a 50- to
70-pound-per-carcass increase in production efficiency during just the past 20
years, in large measure because of ARS research. Some advances are due to
better breeding, others to more effective management techniques that ARS has
ARS has also developed many new varieties of crops--from corn to
watermelons--with traits such as higher yields, more disease and pest
resistance, greater temperature tolerance, enhanced nutrient content, new
flavors and longer shelf life.
More than half the rice grown in the United States today comes
from ARS-developed varieties. The Roma tomato was released by ARS in 1955, and
it is still the main variety used for tomato paste. Most of the sweet red
grapefruit now sold are Flame grapefruit developed by ARS.
But ARS' contributions extend far beyond improved agricultural
production. The agency's research has led to a wide array of food safety
improvements, such as a new handheld device that is revolutionizing meat
inspectors' ability to detect bacterial contamination.
ARS's mission also includes developing a better understanding of
what constitutes optimum diet and nutrition for people. ARS research has made
many important discoveries about how nutritional requirements vary by age,
gender, race, body type, life-style and other factors.
information about how ARS research has enhanced our food supply, see the
November issue of Agricultural Research magazine.