U.S. Agriculture Department awards U $1.5 million in research grants

by Andy Johnson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the University about $1.5 million for research in genome sequencing and farm efficiency.
The funding was part of 86 comprehensive research grants, totalling $113 million, given to a wide-range of American universities and research institutes two weeks ago, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The grants will be used in fields such as genomics, biotechnology and natural-resource management.
The first University grant was given for microbial genomes to fund whole-genome sequencing. The $997,962 grant will be distributed over a three-year period.
The University of Nebraska will help with the grant as a subcontractor.
The second grant, in farm efficiency and profitability, will fund market planning, with $500,000 allotted for two years of research.
USDA spokeswoman Maria Bynum said the grants represent part of an overall initiative to research and solve potential food systems problems.
She said she hoped the grants would serve as a nationwide partnership with other educational institutions.
A large amount of the new grant money was given for research on genetic engineering. Bynum has reservations about corporate control, echoing others’ concerns about the possibility of biotechnology companies creating a monopolized market for produce.
The USDA is also concerned that some countries do not approve of biotech products.
With those two concerns in mind, the USDA is interested in seeing the potential benefits of agri-genetic engineering.
The biggest public concern surrounding biotech food is basic food safety.
While claims that biotechnology is a threat to the environment have received minimal attention in the United States, a few red flags have been thrown up because of perceived potential hazards to people who consume insect-resistant and other gene-altered crops.
For example, last week Kraft Foods recalled all Taco Bell brand taco shells after finding they were made with genetically engineered corn not approved for human consumption.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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