Policy ForumResearch Priorities

Farm Animal Research in Crisis

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Science  24 Apr 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5926, pp. 468-469
DOI: 10.1126/science.1168521

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The annual economic value of livestock and poultry sales in the United States currently exceeds $132 billion (1), yet only about 0.04% ($32.15 million) (2) of the $88 billion Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget in fiscal year 2007 (3) was allocated to its competitive grants program for research that directly involves agriculturally important domestic animals. By contrast, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) apportioned 4.1% ($29.5 billion) of its $716 billion budget in fiscal year 2008 to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of which ∼80% supported extramural research (4). Whether this direct comparison between USDA and DHHS is appropriate may be debatable; still, it clearly illustrates the huge disparity in total budget available for research grants focused on animal agriculture, about 1/918th that for human health. The private sector does invest in agricultural research and development, but, understandably, such funds are highly focused on commercial interests and not on basic research of the kind we discuss.