Corporate money doesn’t taint university ag research
Not doing the research would result in a void of well educated college graduates. “This research is done by graduate students and post docs who will be the next generation of graduates that these companies will hire. I’m struck by how little money actually goes into agricultural related research, and I think it’s largely because people think it should be a focus of the agricultural industry,” Below said.
Refusal to invest government, educational money into ag research seems to go hand in hand with demands that government spending be cut and decisions that available money be allocated to what taxpayers think are more important programs. Although ag research can result in higher gross domestic product and cheaper food, indications are that taxpayers see ag research as only helping the less than 2 percent directly involved in farming. Lack of funding puts universities between the rock and the hard place as one university dean of agriculture noted in talking to the AP reporter.
While Below called working with ag companies, such as large multi-nationals, partnerships, the Food and Water Watch is quoted as referring to them as alliances.
Scher Zagier wrote that Patty Lovara, Food and Water Watch's assistant director, contends that alliances result in universities handling their role far differently from land-grant universities' historic role in promoting public knowledge and freely sharing the fruits of their research. Lovara said the report notes that publicly funded university research led to the domestication of blueberries, early varieties of high-yield hybrid corn and common tools to fight soil erosion.
He quoted Lovara as saying, "There's a real sense in agriculture of what these schools used to be. There was much more trust in what they put out. This is not the same research system of decades ago, and we're acting like it is."
Times have changed, Below suggested. He said universities need resources to train about research but won’t be funded to the level the research and development divisions of major companies are today. “We don’t have the resources to do the same quality of research that some of the companies like BASF, but we do have innovative young minds that make serendipitous discoveries and are willing to put their life into it,” he said. “That training continues to be necessary. We need fellowships and targeted grants and programs to be able to train the next generation of agricultural scientists.”