(Posted Wed. Nov 23rd, 2011)

Nov. 23: The National Corn Growers Association is moving along plans to develop a National Agricultural Genotyping Center that will translate scientific discoveries, such as the information from the maize genome project, into solutions for production agriculture, food safety, functional foods, bioenergy and national security. The center, being formed through a partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, will benefit growers through the development of improved varieties and livestock and new traits, while NCGA’s leadership in the project provides farmers with input into the agricultural applications of the newest technologies.


“We are extremely pleased with the progress toward the center that our partnership is making,” said NCGA Research and Business Development Action Team Chair DeVonna Zeug. “When realized, the center will truly benefit all growers by furthering the sorts of applied research that fuel change.”


NCGA, Los Alamos and the Danforth Center jointly hosted a meeting recently that invited key industry stakeholders from the biotechnology industry and national agriculture associations to discuss the shape that this project will take moving forward. Attendees were further familiarized with the founding group’s vision for the center and then given the opportunity to discuss ways to maximize its potential benefits.


The need for the genotyping center was also highlighted. It will make the technology needed to perform agricultural research available to those who, if forced to rely upon public funding, would otherwise be unable to continue their work. As public funding for agricultural research continues to decline, private and public partnerships based upon this model play an increasingly significant role in the continuation of valuable research.


According to a 2011 report, the U.S. Department of National Agricultural Research, Education and Economics Advisory Board concluded that, with a lag time of 25 years from research to commercialization, the U.S. is now paying for our lack of investment in agricultural research. Funding for production agricultural research must be dramatically increased to keep American farmers competitive in future international markets and to continue being a net exporter of agricultural products.


This lack of funding continues despite USDA reports that "unprecedented growth in agricultural productivity over the past century can be largely attributed to investments in production agricultural research and technology development."


Because returns are so high, investment in agricultural research and technology is the most effective means for generating economic welfare. The National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research reports that the U.S. agriculture and food industry adds $1 trillion to our economy and accounts for 13 percent of U.S. gross national product.


The National Agricultural Genotyping Center partnership brings together Los Alamos National Laboratory, the premier research institution in the world with a proven track record in developing high-throughput genotyping technology, The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a not-for-profit research institute that strives to enhance the nutritional content of plants, increase agricultural production and to create a sustainable food supply and the National Corn Growers Association, an organization representing more than 36,000 farmer members.