The Association of Public Land-Grant Universities has just released a report titled “Challenge of Change” about how the USDA can do a better job of funding research to solve important problems in food and agriculture.
Traditionally, the effort to achieve food security has been largely focused on the need to increase yields in order to produce more food. There is now broad recognition that production alone will not solve the grand challenge. All aspects of our food systems must be considered: nutrition, food safety, food loss, economic costs, individual behaviors, incentive structures, and societal factors affect not only production, but also access and utilization. There is also now an understanding that production increases must be achieved in the context of water availability, energy limitations, and environmental impact.
The report concludes that universities will need to change, so as to:
- Elevate Food and Nutrition Security to a Top Priority
- Align University Resources and Structures for Transdisciplinary Approaches
- Enhance and Build University-Community Partnerships
- Educate a New Generation of Students to be Transdisciplinary Problem Solvers
To achieve food security, food and agriculture will need to change to:
- Broaden the Focus Beyond Yields
- Change the Food System’s Incentive Structure
- Develop the Capacity of Universities in Low-Income Countries
- Leverage Technology, Big Data, and Information Science Information
This is an important report because it comes from land-grant universities . These are currently responsible for supporting industrial agricultural systems and virtually ignoring—or firmly opposing—sustainable agricultural production methods.
A challenge for change indeed. I hope land-grant universities listen hard.