Published: August 8, 2020

Category: Organic News, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter

For nearly 40 years, conventional agribusiness has steered research activities at ag universities, incentivizing development of new crop varieties through offers of royalties for resulting patents. That has left organic agricultural research dependent on meager USDA handouts—in 2019, $20 million out of the $2.9 billion research budget went to organic.

As pesticides and synthetic fertilizers cause increasing environmental and health damage, and a more resilient food system becomes essential, organic research needs a boost. Only 1% of U.S. cropland has organic certification, despite representing 5% of total food intake.

“We’re importing a lot of our organic food, which is a missed opportunity for our domestic farmers who are struggling in the commodities markets,” said Diana Martin of Rodale Institute.

Clif Bar is spearheading funding of universities to research organic; “[We’re trying] to develop a new generation of ag professionals to serve the … organic sector,” said Clif Bar’s Matthew Dillon. Stephen Jones of Washington State University has created The Bread Lab, a multi-disciplinary research center for breeding organic wheat and barley, with help from a $1.5 million endowment from Clif Bar and King Arthur Flour. Clif Bar also gifted $500,000 to University of Wisconsin Madison (matched by Organic Valley) and to University of California to establish its first organic research institute.

Organic research can boost supply of high-quality and high-yielding seeds and varieties farmers need—especially breeds designed for organic practices and fertilizers.

USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) provides grants, but funds are short-term and limited. California State University (Chico) has had to draw from alternative USDA sources; “sustainable” proposals are more often funded than “regenerative” or “organic” ones.

Corporate endowments supporting “unhindered inquiry” into organics, preserving the public good and lasting into perpetuity, are critical at this time.

Source: Civil Eats

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