PULLMAN, Wash. — USDA NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy made many other points during his presentation at Washington State University, including:
• The Economic Research Service estimates at least 131 billion pounds of food are wasted per year. Developing countries lose roughly 30-40 percent of food before it hits the dinner table, he said. In developed countries, 30-40 percent of food is lost after it reaches the dinner table.
“We talk about doubling food production in the next 40 years, and yet we’re losing almost half today,” he said. “There’s a possibility we could cut (the loss) by half, if nothing else.”
• Humanity can survive and thrive on 50,000 species of edible plants, he said, and yet the world primarily eats about 50.
• “We are tantalizingly close to figuring out the possibilities of the green plant material that could indeed be replacing the fossil fuel-based economy we have,” he said. “How do we get the workforce ready to be able to participate in this bioeconomy?”
• NIFA will place an emphasis on the nexus between agriculture and health in the year 2016, including plant, animal and environmental health. NIFA’s budget is about $1.5 billion. Ramaswamy hopes to see “significant increases” for agriculture research, including animal and plant breeding, Extension and experiment stations.