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Agweek on the road: Interested in the future of food and agriculture?

ST. LOUIS -- Sonny Ramaswamy is an agricultural scientist and administrator. But he views himself as an evangelist. "I'm going to preach the gospel of food agricultural research," said Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agr...

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ST. LOUIS - Sonny Ramaswamy is an agricultural scientist and administrator. But he views himself as an evangelist.

 

“I’m going to preach the gospel of food agricultural research,” said Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

He spoke July 24 to 20 journalists from across the country during the National Press Foundation’s fellowship on the Future of Food and Agriculture in St. Louis. The event began July 24 and ends July 27.

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The program is funded by Monsanto, the Organic Trade Association, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Board.

 

The four-day event includes sessions on organic agriculture, food waste, antibiotics in agriculture and GMO labeling, and a trip to the main research facility of St. Louis-based Monsanto, the global agrochemical company.

 

Too many Americans don’t understand our food system, much less the importance of ag research, said Ramaswamy, who has a doctorate in entomology and is a world expert on insects.

 

“Ninety-nine percent of our population doesn’t know where our food comes from,” said Ramaswamy, who has a doctorate in entomology and is a world expert on insects.

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Nor do most Americans understand that ag research is vital in feeding the world’s growing population, he said.

 

“Tonight, globally, we’ll have about 800 million people who go to bed hungry,” a problem that will expand unless the global food supply expands sharply, he said.

 

Ag research also has a key role in addressing other concerns, such as obesity, he said.

 

“At the end of the day, we have to make sure we’re going to have the kinds of positive health outcomes” that coming from eating properly, he said.

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Ramaswamy said that while he’s concerned that federal funding for ag research is declining, he’s also optimistic that ag researchers will achieve strong success.

Read an expanded version of this article in the Aug. 1 issue of Agweek. And look for other stories from the National Press Foundation event in future editions of the magazine.

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