Friday, 15 April 2011

As ye Sow ...

Film-maker Mirjam von Arx talking about her film Seed Warriors: “Financially it’s almost ridiculous how little money you would need to get going, but it’s just incredibly difficult, from what we’re told, to raise it and to get governments to give money.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m not so sure we can trust in humans to do the right thing, but I think there is a possible solution. If we’re doomed, it’s because we’re too stupid – not because it can’t be done.” SwissInfo.

Annals of Botany Blog tells us that 87% of Economist online readers believe the world needs to spend more on agricultural research, while in the comments, Jeremy Cherfas wonders how well-founded the public’s grasp of the facts actually is. Not being too sure myself, when it comes down to cold numbers, I did what you do these days in that situation, and google.

According to the Science in Farming website “In the United States, there has long been a mixture of publicly funded and private research, but, until recent decades, publicly funded research was predominant … Public funds spent on agricultural research increased persistently, especially after World War I, reaching about $2.1 billion by the mid-1980's.”

By contrast however, as pointed out in Lee R Martin’s book “A Survey of Agricultural Economics Literature: Agriculture in economic development 1940s to 1990s” (1992) “developing countries usually under-invest in agricultural research." It's also demoralising to discover that vitally important research into agroforestry or institutes like the Centre for Forestry Research struggle along on tiny amounts; a few tens of $million a year on a global basis.

The problem, it seems to me, boils down to the fact that at one extreme, way too much money is splurged by the wealthy industrialised nations on research which is directed towards the capital and technological intensification of agriculture - very profitable for a minority, but with massive negative externalities for the environment, biodiversity, and us ‘little people’ at the bottom - whereas far too little is spent on the ecologically and socially beneficial research that we really need to create a secure and healthy farming sector that benefits us all, people and planet.

We will increasingly pay a heavy price for that imbalance.

Hat-tip to commenter Survivalist, and AgBioBlog.

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