The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has published a white paper [pdf] about the state of funding for food research, finding that food research in the United States is chronically underfunded. As a result, IFT concluded that there is potential to perpetuate risk in public health, food safety, and food security while eroding the U.S. talent pipeline and global competitiveness. With these risks in mind, IFT has proposed prioritizing federal and private research funding efforts for food with a focus on food science.

The white paper examines trends in public and private investment in research as well as the contributions of food to the U.S. economy. It also includes IFT-led survey data regarding research priorities in food science and the impact of insufficient funding.

In 2018, U.S. agriculture and food (agri-food) contributed $5.08 trillion or 24.8% of combined gross domestic product (GDP) and accounted for 22.8 million jobs (14.2%), with food contributing 20.7 million jobs. Despite its large contribution to the GDP, public funding in agri-food research in the United States has drastically declined since 2008. In contrast, developing countries such as China and India steadily increased their funding from 1990 to 2013. Since 2010, China’s funding has surpassed all countries.

In 2018, private investment, including venture capital, in U.S. agri-food was $21.6 billion, of which food accounted for $9.9 billion. This is significantly higher than the public investment of $100 million in food and $900 million in agriculture. In comparison, in 2018, public investment in pharmaceutical R&D as a percentage of GDP was higher (4.9%) than agri-food R&D (4.2%) and food R&D (1%), despite the lower contribution to the U.S. economy.

“Currently, the decline in public funding for food, most pronounced since 2008, is of great concern and cannot be substituted by private funding,” wrote the authors in the IFT white paper. “Public and private funding, however, can be complementary. This ‘call to action’ includes a paradigm change in public, private, and public–private investments for research in food to unlock scientific and technology solutions, build a robust talent pipeline, and maintain our global competitiveness.”

Food Research: Call to Action on Funding and Priorities (pdf)

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