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New USDA-Israel research agreement to focus on food security, sustainability

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 11-Aug-2010

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has signed an agreement with Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to collaborate on research to help meet the world’s food and agricultural needs.

The ARS said on Tuesday that the five-year agreement will focus on high-priority agricultural issues such as climate change, international food security, alternative energy production, precision agriculture, sustainable natural resources management, capacity building and rural development.

"As the world's population continues to grow, there is an urgent need to maximize the efficiency and environmental sustainability of agricultural production around the globe," said ARS administrator Edward B. Knipling. "This agreement will facilitate partnerships between scientists in the United States and Israel and further our shared efforts in meeting current and future agricultural challenges with the development of innovative management practices and technologies."

Deputy director of the USDA’s Office of International Research Programs Eileen Herrera told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the USDA had previously had a five-year memorandum of understanding with the government of Israel. The new agreement renews and refocuses the direction for cooperative research between the USDA and MOARD (the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development).

“These agreements tend to be broad and really non-specific, but open doors for different research organizations,” she said. “…They just indicate topics or areas where we can cooperate and then we can pinpoint specific projects.”

Herrera added that the language of the agreement had shifted to reflect current top-priority concerns like food security, and efficient use of natural resources.

The agreement was signed in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, and is intended to complement current research activities that are underpinned by funding from the United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD).

“This goes beyond that,” Herrera said.

She said that although the agreement does not include any funding, its purpose is to allow researchers to work together more easily, to co-publish and compare notes.

“Collaboration could take place without the MOU but it opens doors, lays out the framework or the direction this could take,” she said.

According to the ARS, some of the most important areas for research collaboration include developing technologies for efficient water use, sustainable agriculture, and plant and animal health.

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