Continual Underfunding of Food Research Puts the Food System at Risk, Says IFT

The Institute of Food Technology (IFT) published a white paper about the underfunding of food safety and its consequences. Food research in the US is Food research in the United States is continuously underfunded. Following years of stagnant public funding, Food Science research faces a growing and urgent challenges. 


 This white paper explains that relative to its economic contribution, the funding is disproportionately small. Agriculture and food (AgriFood) is the 3rd most significant contributor to the US gross domestic product (GDP). In 2018, US AgriFood contributed $5.08 trillion (24.8%) of Combined GDP. It also accounted for 22.8 million jobs (14.2%), with food contributing 20.7 million, and it delivered $137 billion (5.4%) in exports and $146.5 B (4.7%) in imports.

Historically, publicly and privately funded R&D has produced tremendous benefits. Relative to its contribution to the economy, the investment in AgriFood Research & Development (R&D)—both public (federal) and private- has been low. As a percentage of the US GDP, public investment in 2018 in AgriFood R&D was (4.2%) and Food R&D (1%).


To maintain global competitiveness and continue to create value and advancements in food science and technology and pursuit of innovation are critical. Investment in Food research will not only help to ensure a secure food supply but also reduce foodborne disease outbreaks and assist with efforts to protect the environment.


In a member survey conducted by IFT in 2019, the three main priorities for food research were:

  1. Improvement of the nutritional quality, palatability, and accessibility of food.
  2. Improve food safety and quality to protect the integrity of globalized food supply and digitize food safety and traceability to prevent, manage, and rapidly address critical issues.
  3. To increase the quantity and quality of food available, drawing on technology breakthroughs, while reducing food loss and waste.

Continuation of underfunding of research will likely results in a risk public health, food safety, food security, and erodes the US talent pipeline and global competitiveness. Providing more food to feed the growing world population — will require a combination of innovation, research, and social awareness, IFT says


The IFT report calls policymakers to take action:


  • Increase and prioritize USDA’s funding for AgriFood research, with a primary focus on food
  • Authorize additional federal agencies to fund interdisciplinary research in food
  • Enhance public-private partnerships for food and agriculture research, with a focus on research in food


It is vital to the economy that the global food system ensures safe, nutritious, affordable, accessible, and environmentally sustainable food supply for the growing population, health, and the environment.  A substantial and sustained increase in research investment behind AgriFood, and most importantly, food, is urgent to address these complex challenges at national and global levels.

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