Funding for international agricultural research

A long report in the New York Times details the precipitous decline in funds for international agricultural research. Money quote:

Adjusting for inflation and exchange rates, the wealthy countries, as a group, cut such donations roughly in half from 1980 to 2006, to $2.8 billion a year from $6 billion. The United States cut its support for agriculture in poor countries to $624 million from $2.3 billion in that period.

The story revolves around the brown plant hopper, a devastating pest of rice. Back in the 1980s, the International Rice Research Institute searched for, and found, resistance to the insect, which it bred into high-yielding varieties that were the basis of the Green Revolution. The hopper, of course, took this in its stride and evolved to defeat the resistance gene. It can now also withstand 100 times the dose of insecticide that used to kill it. IRRI says they have new sources of resistance, but cannot afford to breed those into new varieties.

One puzzle: the report says there are 14 centres supported by the CGIAR. There are 15. Or does the NYT know something we don’t?

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