WASHINGTON – Increased funding for agricultural research is essential to sustain the progress that has been made in enhancing food safety, said Betsy Booren, Ph.D., American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation director of scientific affairs, in oral comments given Jan. 7 during a meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

“Without additional funding for agricultural research, we will be unable to build on our progress and make our food supply even safer,” she said.

Booren said data suggest the meat and poultry industry’s research and education efforts have contributed to the food-safety progress reflected in government data. Pathogenic bacteria on fresh and ready-to-eat products are down dramatically and so, too, are foodborne illnesses caused by pathogens associated with some meat and poultry products.

“We have demonstrated this approach to research is a wise investment and believe it is a formula to create real change and real progress,” Booren said.

The AMI Foundation research program has directly sponsored more than 85 food safety research projects at leading universities and research labs since 1999. However, it has seen firsthand the funding for agriculture research drastically decline over the last two decades with departments removing critical agriculture disciplines.

“This is disappointing as the need for agricultural research has never been greater,” Booren said. “It is absolutely critical to have science-based research that will help meet the challenges that lay ahead in the future for the health of Americans.”

Administered by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), PCAST is an advisory group of the country’s leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President on science and technology issues.