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Challenges for Agricultural Research

image of Challenges for Agricultural Research

As the world has changed during the past 50 years, so has agriculture. And so has agricultural research, which continues to confront new challenges, from food security to ecological concerns to land use issues. Indeed, as Guy Paillotin, the former president of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has noted, agricultural research “has reached new heights in biology and is exploring other disciplines. It is forever changing, as are the needs of the society”.

The changing challenges faced by agricultural research were examined in depth at a conference organised by the OECD’s Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, together with the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Agriculture. Participants came from all agricultural sectors and included farmers, industry, scientists and decision makers, as well as other stake holders.

This publication presents the twenty papers delivered at the conference. They highlight recent major progress in agricultural research outcomes and address the challenges that lie ahead.

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Altering Foods Derived from Animals for the Future?

Breeding and feeding of food-producing farm animals has long been mainly oriented to maximising production efficiency. High-yielding dairy cattle and layers produce nowadays cheap milk and eggs respectively, and fast-growing pigs, broilers and beef cattle provide us with lean meat. However, the transition from a producer-driven to a consumer-oriented market forces the animal industry to pay more attention to the sensory and technological properties and the health value of their products. The immense ongoing research on improving the fatty acid composition of animal products mainly through altered feeding strategies is a good example thereof. In monogastric animals, the potential of nutrition for steering the fatty acid composition of raw meats and eggs is now relatively well established, whereas in ruminants the fatty acid metabolism is more complex as a result of the rumen processes. The potential of animal genetics for modifying the fat content and the fatty acid composition of animal products should also be further explored. Animal products are also safe carriers of essential trace elements and other nutrients, and more research for upgrading the value of animal products in this respect is warranted. The effects of altering the composition and properties of raw animal products on the sensory quality and the health value of the end products should be better established. In particular, human intervention studies are required to evaluate the impact on human health of consuming animal products. Overall, a cost-benefit evaluation of the potential contribution of altering raw animal products to improving the health of consumers should be made. It is evident that this requires a fork-to-farm chain approach, taking into account the needs of the animals, the farmers, the food processing industry and the end consumer.

English

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