Improving Health Through Research for Better
Medical Care and a Safe and Abundant Food Supply
"Our strategy for continuing to improve America's health, safety, and food emphasizes investing in the fundamental research necessary to assure our future well-being, promoting prevention in the areas of both health care and environmental protection, and educating Americans so they can improve their own health and safety decisions."
--President Bill Clinton
Improving the health of our nation's citizens continues to be a major goal of our Federal investment in science and technology. Starting in 1862 with the financial support for our Land Grant institutions and State Agricultural Experiment Stations (SAESs), and through the establishment in 1887 of the laboratory that became the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States has developed a system of intra- and extramural support for health-related research that is the envy of the world. Clearly, Federal support for biomedical and agricultural research has resulted in enormous improvements in the overall health and well-being of our nation's citizens. Today, average life expectancy of 76 years is 60 percent greater than the typical life expectancy of 47 years nearly a century ago. Much of that increase is due to better food, better sanitation, and medical advances including vaccinations to reduce or eliminate many childhood diseases.
Federal funding for biomedical and agricultural research is multifaceted. Although the primary performers are university and Federal scientists supported by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), other Federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Departments of Energy (DOE), Defense (DOD), Veterans Affairs (VA) and Commerce, sponsor research programs that contribute greatly to improving the health and food security of all Americans.
In addition to improved health, this Federal investment contributes to an economically robust agriculture and health care industry. The production of food and fiber is the nation's largest industry, accounting for about 15 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and approximately 16 percent of all civilian jobs in the U.S. economy. Our nation's agricultural exports contribute over $100 billion in business activity with a positive trade balance of approximately $20 billion. Likewise, health care and related activities are estimated to account for up to one trillion dollars in annual expenditures in the United States, with 7.4 percent of the U.S. workforce making its living in the health care industry.
Even though our past investment strategy has been enormously successful, the economic, scientific, and social context for future science and technology investments in health has changed dramatically in the last decade. With these changes, it is imperative that we reassess our Federal investments and make changes to reflect new realities.
In February 1996, President Clinton released a report of the National Science and Technology Council entitled, Meeting the Challenge: A Research Agenda for America's Health, Safety, and Food. This report takes into account the numerous changes that we are experiencing in both health care and agriculture. It offers research strategies to contain health care costs while preserving access to high quality health care services, to develop sustainable agriculture and environmental management, and to contribute to our national security by enhancing international disease surveillance and access to food.
THE ADMINISTRATION'S COMMITMENT
TO BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH
This Administration has strongly backed biomedical research investments. Since 1993, the NIH budget has been increased by $2.4 billion (23 percent), representing significant new investment in biomedical research, in an era of constrained budgets. This commitment recognizes the need for stability to protect our long-term investment in the biomedical sciences. Living cultures or animal strains must continue to be fed, patients enrolled in clinical trials must be cared for, and the search must be continued for better methods for preventing, diagnosing, and treating disease. The Administration continues to sustain this critical investment in order to reap the benefits of better health and quality of life.
NEW APPROACHES TO
UNDERSTANDING DISEASE PROCESSES
Scientific and technological breakthroughs are providing new approaches to solving many of the long-standing mysteries of life and its damaging diseases. We now have very powerful tools, developed through advances in computing, instrumentation, and recombinant DNA techniques, to help us understand what happens when normal biological processes go awry. We are beginning to apply this knowledge to developing ambitious strategies to bolster our natural protection systems and speed recovery. These tools have myriad applications that may lead to new disease treatments and new methods of disease prevention. Learning how healthy cells, organs, and organ systems operate when they are fully functional allows us to attempt to replicate, or add back defective pieces when necessary. For example, radiation or the sun's rays can damage DNA within the cell's nucleus, sometimes leading to skin and other cancers. If we can recreate DNA repair mechanisms, perhaps we may be able to prevent such damage in the future.
Using tools emerging from the Human Genome Project, an international team tracked the gene for hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer to a region of chromosome 2. Gene-based therapies may be designed to augment the immune system's response to cancer or to boost the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic agents.
Although disease has always been part of life, certain behaviors and activities associated with the modern world present numerous new health challenges. For example, greater use of modern transportation can rapidly spread infectious disease, unhealthy diets can led to osteoporosis and other diet-related diseases, and smoking can result in cancer and heart disease. A greater understanding of the behavioral factors and related activities underlying many conditions may lead to more effective methods of intervention and prevention.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is now the leading cause of death among Americans aged 25-44. As of June 1995, more than 500,000 cases of AIDS had been reported in the United States. It is estimated that over 20 million people world wide might be infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Researchers must answer some very basic questions about how the virus behaves within the context of the human immune system before they can hope to design effective therapeutic and protective measures.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) already affects four million Americans and that number will increase dramatically as the baby boomers reach the age of highest risk. NIH scientists have identified four genes that play a role in this devastating illness. Defects in either of two of these genes, PS1 and PS2, may be responsible for up to 80 percent of a subtype of AD that strikes before age 65. Recent progress in the field of protein structural biology is being applied to better understand neurodegeneration and other diseases of the aging nervous system, including AD. Sophisticated imaging technologies are being used to develop structural maps and to visualize molecular interactions in the aging brain. Understanding the functional consequences of changes in the 3-D structure of brain proteins has the potential to identify new treatments for AD and other neurodegenerative disorders.
NEW PREVENTIVE STRATEGIES
AGAINST DISEASE AND STABILITY
It is obvious that preventing disease is preferable to treating it after it occurs. Disease and disability prevention offer the patient and the community-at-large better quality of life and the economic benefits attendant to higher productivity. Ideally, prevention measures also incur lower health care costs, as in the case of vaccines. Some prevention measures, such as education, may be more costly or involve greater effort, but the scales are tipped in their favor in terms of societal benefits. For these reasons, prevention research is a high priority and spans the full range of biomedical and behavioral research. The latest technologies, such as protein engineering and recombinant vaccine development as well as social and behavioral sciences, are being put to good use in erecting effective barriers against disease and disability.
EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES
To ward off pathogenic microbes, we are critically dependent on research to identify infectious diseases and to provide improved drugs and new vaccines. Both basic and clinical research are key, as the speed with which we develop the new antibiotics, new
vaccines, and effective treatments will depend upon our understanding of the human immune system and the ever-growing number of pathogens that threaten human health. Research must also focus on the relationships and linkages among disease and climate, eco
logical change, population growth, and human behavior.
BETTER HEALTH THROUGH VACCINES
New recombinant DNA tools, advanced gene transfer techniques, and monoclonal antibody production are greatly improving public vaccination efforts. Vaccines now in development will provide greater protection for our nation's children against a wide range o
f infections and will lead to reduced disease and lower health care costs. For example, development of a vaccine against otitis media is under way. Such a vaccine would benefit millions of American children who suffer from this often chronic disease, whic
h is responsible for more than $3.5 billion worth of visits to doctors' offices, clinics, and emergency rooms annually.
Vaccines are our strongest form of preventive medicine. Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have develope
d new vaccines for pertussis, rotavirus, and Hemophilus influenzae type b. The latter vaccine provides the means to completely eliminate this disease from the United States in the next few years.
In response to a comprehensive evaluation of the NIH AIDS research program, NIH has established an AIDS Vaccine Research C ommittee, a highly distinguished group of outside advisors in immunology, virology, and vaccinology. The committee, chaired by Nobel Laureate David Baltimore, will address key scientific questions in vaccine development, including new vaccine designs, eff orts to understand the mechanisms of protection in animal models, and potential new targets for vaccines.
Pertussis Vaccine - Collaborations between NIH-supported scientists, vaccine manufacturers, and investigators around the world recently have resulted in a new class of vaccines for pertussis, or whooping cough, which each year claims 350,000 lives worldwide, primarily infants. The pertussis vaccine type that has been th
e "gold standard' for nearly 50 years is made from whole, killed pertussis-causing bacteria. It is extremely effective, but has been associated with adverse effects more frequently than any other vaccine in general use for infants. Many years of collabora
tion between NIH-supported basic scientists and the pharmaceutical industry have led to the development of so-called acellular pertussis vaccines that use only parts of pertussis bacteria instead of the whole organism. NIH-supported trials have demonstrat
ed that three new acellular pertussis vaccines markedly reduce the frequency of side effects without diminishing the vaccines' effectiveness.
Rotavirus Vaccine - NIH intramural scientists recently developed and patented the first vaccine against rotavirus, the cause of infections that annually result in an estimated 130 million cases of diarrhea in infants and children. Moderate to sever e dehydration occurs in 18 million of these episodes, and more than 870,000 children world-wide die as a consequence. In the United States alone, rotaviral infections incur costs of $500 million annually in doctor visits and hospitalizations. The new vacc ine protects against four different strains of human rotavirus. Clinical trials have shown the vaccine to safely achieve significant reductions in the incidence of rotavirus diarrhea. It is 80 percent protective against severe rotaviral disease and comple tely effective in preventing dehydrating illness. Routine childhood vaccination against rotavirus could quickly alleviate this major public health problem.
Hemophilus influenzae type b Vaccine - The vaccine against Hemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis provides t he means to completely eliminate this disease from the United States within the next few years. For years, this disease had devastated our children, affecting 15 to 20 thousand of them each year, almost as many as polio at its peak. Hib killed 10 percent a nd left one third deaf and another one third mentally retarded, making it this country's leading cause of acquired mental retardation. Fortunately, two NIH scientists were instrumental in developing a safe and effective vaccine which, together with three other licensed Hib vaccines, has reduced the incidence of Hib by 95 percent since their use began in 1988. With greater use across the country, we have the hope of completely eliminating Hib meningitis.
PREVENTING DISABILITY AMONG OLDER AMERICANS
Preventive health care for older Americans has a high payoff. More than $108 billion is spent annually on long-term care for the elderly in the United States. Researchers are studying risk factors for disability, improving screening processes to identify at-risk populations, and designing and evaluating interventions specifically targeted to at-risk individuals. The research is paying off:
Genetic medicine is the application of DNA technologies to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. It also includes analysis of complex diseases such as diabetes and assessment of genetic risk. The mapping and sequencing of entire genomes (hu
man, as well as yeast, worm, fruit fly, and mouse) are critical components of genetic medicine. The technological tools developed in recent years - mapping techniques, various methods for sequencing the genome, and others - have accelerated the discovery
of human disease genes and are now widely used by researchers. For example, obesity genes, genes for aging, neurological disease genes, and cancer genes, such as BRCA-1 and 2, are being identified and characterized. Once the consequences of altered genes
are understood, rational therapies may be able to be designed. Gene therapy to replace missing or defective genes, is one such approach that is under investigation. It has proven difficult to insert genes that operate properly and produce adequate protein
December 1996 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the war on cancer. Since 1971, scientists have discovered the causes of many cancers and have proven that cancer can be cured. Today, more than ten million of our family members, friends, neighbors and
coworkers owe their lives to cancer research. Cancer survivors are alive today and enjoy a better quality of life because the years of research in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment methods have given doctors better information and more accurate tools.
America's youth have received the greatest benefit from this country's investment in cancer research. For example, most cases of childhood leukemia are now curable. Death rates from children's cancers have declined by more than 62 percent. Cancer research
has also brought about dramatic improvements in the survival rates for adults. The death rate for testicular cancer, for example, has declined 66 percent and five-year survival is now 95 percent. Today, most Hodgkin's disease patients can be cured.
Breast Cancer - In 1995, in the United States alone, 182,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed. Forty-six thousand women died from the disease. Health ca re costs of breast cancer exceed $12 billion per year. In an extension of the exciting discovery in 1994 of a gene that confers susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer, NIH scientists and collaborators discovered a specific mutation in the BRCA-1 gene in nearly 1 percent of samples of blood from women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. This finding identifies a particular subgroup of the population that may benefit from genetic t esting for the BRCA-1 mutation. Epidemiologists have hypothesized that this mutation may account for as much as 16 percent of breast and 39 percent of ovarian cancers among Ashkenazi Jewish women age 50 and under. Studies of families with inherited altera tions of BRCA-1 suggest that more than half of the women who inherit mutations in BRCA-1 will be diagnosed with breast cancers by age 50, and more than 85 percent will have breast cancer by age 70.
In the United States, obesity is second only to tobacco as a risk factor for disease and accounts for about 300,000 deaths per year and an economic cost of $50-$100 billion. Obese individuals suffer increased risk for numerous chronic diseases, such as di
abetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, gallbladder disease, and certain cancers. Fortunately, opportunities to attack obesity at the molecular level have multiplied. NIH-supported scientists have made important new discoveries regarding th
e obese (ob) gene, its protein product (leptin), its receptors, and its interactions with other regulators of energy expenditure and food intake.
BIOLOGY OF BRAIN DISORDERS
As we are past the midway point in the Decade of the Brain, it is appropriate to highlight research and progress in the neurosciences. This discipline recently joined other areas in
reaping the benefits of modern biology by coming one step closer to deciphering the molecular basis of memory and behavior. Two NIH-funded groups, using different but related genetic techniques, reported advances in understanding how mice create a mental
map of a new environment. Using sophisticated monitoring equipment, researchers are able to detect activity in individual brain cells as the mice investigate their surroundings. From these data, a map of the cells responsible for forming memory about spac
e and time can be constructed. This work illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of neurobiology, marrying genetics with electronics to analyze cellular and biochemical processes as they occur in living organisms.
Stroke - Four out of five strokes suffered by a half million Americans each year are caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. With the brain starved for oxygen and other nutrients, damage follows quickly, often with devastating consequences. Researchers recently discovered that the clot-dissolving drug TPA is an effective emergency treatment for this type of stroke when given wi thin three hours of initial symptoms. Given the narrow window for administering the drug after a stroke, the challenge now is to alert physicians about this finding and, more critically, to educate the public about the symptoms of stroke and the importanc e of seeking emergency help.
ACADEMIC HEALTH CENTERS AND THE
Academic health centers (AHCs), medical schools, affiliated hospitals, and schools of allied health professions are the principal places in the United States for combining medical t
echnological development, basic and clinical biomedical research, and clinical education. In AHCs, education, research, and patient care are inextricably intertwined; patients are able to receive innovative medical care using the most modern techniques an
d can participate in research activities, and medical education is conducted. AHCs also provide a disproportionately large share of this country's care of the indigent and uninsured.
In November 1995, the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology wrote to the President relaying their con cerns about the future vitality of our AHCs. The research and educational capacity of our AHCs will continue to be a factor in the Administration's efforts to improve our health care system. It is important to continue to evaluate data to determine what i mpact recent changes in the health care system are having on AHCs.
FOOD AND HUMAN HEALTH
There is a direct link between our health and the food we eat. Poor diet is a significant underlying contributor to illnesses that lead to death. In addition to the critical relationship between diet and health, it is estimated that each year millions of individuals become ill and that thousands of people die from eating food contaminated with microbial pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. Research supported by the federal government in the area of diet and nutrition and foo d safety has greatly improved the overall health of our nation's citizens. However, additional research is needed to guide efforts to improve the diets of Americans and to ensure that our food supply is free from harmful pathogenic microorganisms.
Nutrition plays a pivotal role in optimizing health and productivity, while reducing the risk of diet-related diseases. The annual cost in the United States of treatment and care for individuals with diseases linked strongly to diet, such as cardiovascula
r disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and cataracts, exceeds $200 billion. Fortunately, over the last half of this century, we have witnessed remarkable improvements in the dietary patterns of the U.S. population and those of several other western industriali
zed nations. Most notably these changes have brought about a decline in deaths from coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. However, poor diet continues to be a leading contributing factor to numerous illnesses.
Fat Substitutes - The Federal government contributes to the development of a more healthful food supply - food that is more nutritious and low in fat. For example, Z-Trim, a new no-calorie, high-fiber fat replacement developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists, could soon find a place in foods such as cheese products, hamburger, and baked goods. Z-Trim is made from low-cost agricultural byprodu cts such as hulls of oats, soybeans, peas and rice, or bran from corn or wheat. The hulls or bran are processed into microscopic fragments and purified, then dried and milled into an easy-flowing powder. When the fragments absorb water they swell, forming a gel that provides foods with an enjoyable smooth texture like that of fat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as 6.5 million cases of food-borne illnesses occur annually in the United States, and that these illnesses contribute to appr
oximately 9,000 deaths. USDA's Economic Research Service estimates that the annual overall economic impact of food-borne illnesses in this country is $6 - 9 billion. The safety of the wide v
ariety of food we consume each day starts with its production on farms, ranches, ponds, lakes, and oceans, and ends at the table. Further research into food production, harvesting, and handling practices that will reduce human exposure to microbial pathog
ens, chemicals, and biotoxins - as well as into improved methods to detect and survey these hazards - can eliminate or significantly reduce an important cause of illness in the United States.
SUSTAINABLE FOOD AND
Agricultural productivity in the United States has grown dramatically at a rate of nearly 2 percent per year. Production has more than doubled since 1950 while total input use (use of energy, water, fertilizers, etc.) has actually fallen slightly over thi
s same period. However, due to the new economic, environmental, and health demands being placed on our food and fiber production systems, we need to reassess our science and technology investments in agricultural research. Maintaining and enhancing rates
of growth in food and fiber productivity in this new environment will be the major science and technology challenge for agricultural and natural resource scientists in the twenty first century.
INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT OF FARMS, RANGELANDS,
FORESTS, AND COASTAL WATERS
Our nation's farms, rangelands, forests, and coastal waters must be managed in a fashion that allows for their long-term, sustainable use for production purposes while preserving other vital functions, such as habitat for wildlife, watershed protection, a
nd recreation. To achieve sustainable production practices, we should view our farms and forests as integrated systems with a variety of inputs and outputs. Scientific knowledge, generated through research, has been and will continue to be the most import
ant factor in any sustainable production system. Greater scientific understanding of the inter-relatedness of the multiple components of our nation's food and fiber production systems, ranging from geochemical and biological to social and economic interac
tions, will help farmers and natural resource managers understand what is necessary to maintain or restore the economic, social, and natural attributes of the system.
Reducing negative impacts on the environment or even improving its overall health is now a major consideration for American food and fiber producers. This is a significant shift from our traditional approach to farming and forestry in past decades. Since the end of World War II, farming was geared toward optimizing production using chemical pesticides and fertilizers or through management techniques that may have solved one problem but often created other, more serious ones. Excessive tillage to control w eeds, for example, often led to unacceptable rates of erosion of valuable topsoil. Forestry was practiced in many cases with little regard for endangered species or the water quality of streams and rivers. Today we are investing in science and technology to produce more from our food and fiber production systems while protecting our environment.
Tillage and Global Change: Keeping organic matter tucked away in soil - where it is needed most for agricultural productivity - benefits the earth and the atmosphere. As organic matter is plowed up, carbon dioxide loss from the soil into the air dr amatically increases. Measurements of a range of soil types, tillage methods, and climatic conditions indicate that deep plowing results in a much greater loss of carbon dioxide than all other forms of tillage. Such information is vital in quantifying the effects of tillage on soil quality and productivity and provides data for validating agriculture's role in global warming. These findings offer agricultural producers a way to help counteract global change by altering their cultivation practices.
Water Quality - Water pollution from agricultural chemicals must also be prevented. Combining wetlands, ponds, and underground irrigation could result in water conservation and bigger yields for farmers. USDA scientists built such a system in Ohio to demonstrate the benefits of recycling runoff and drainage water from fields. It reduces sediment and agricultural chemical flow to streams, improves water quality, enhances wildlife habitat, increases wetland acreage, and improves crop yields. The wetl ands remove sediment and agricultural chemicals from field runoff. The water is then stored in a pond until it is needed to irrigate a field. Finally, it is pumped back through underground pipes to reduce water stress in crops. The overall result is that less pesticide and fertilizer runs off into surface waters.
Precision farming, such as site specific application of pesticides and fertilizers, holds considerable promise for the future. Using powerful tools such as the global positioning system, scientists are developing techniques to accurately place agricultural chemicals where they are needed most. Current methods of chemical application are more "broad brush," with chemicals being applied throughout an entire field. New precision farming techniques will reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary chemical application, and will protect the environment by reducing the amount of chemicals applied.
Protecting surface and ground water from contamination by agricultural activities requires knowledge of land use, soil proper
ties and hydrogeology as exemplified by the Mahantango Creek watershed near Klingerstown, Pennsylvania.
New biotechnology-derived crops also have the capability to improve management practices. For example, plants are being developed that require fewer applications of pesticides, that require less til lage (therefore reducing soil erosion), and that require less irrigation. While new genetic traits and the use of genetically engineered crops may be environmentally beneficial in many circumstances, a continuing strong research program is important to id entify and minimize any potential long-term negative impact this technology may have on the environment.
GLOBAL MARKETS AND TRADE
Recent trade agreements such as GATT and NAFTA are creating significant opportunities to ex
pand international markets for U.S. agricultural products. However, with the increased trade liberalization, U.S. agriculture faces a transition away from a system of commodity price supports to market-driven pricing. To succeed in this new environment, U
.S. farmers will have to rely on the latest information and newest technology. Economic research also is needed to support decision-making at multiple levels from what to plant on the family farm to negotiations of international trade agreements.
Animal diseases cost the United States billions of dollars each year, which is why the USDA supports research addressing the health concerns of important livestock, poultry, and aquatic species. Much of the research conducted by the biomedical programs of
the NIH, DOD, and VA is directly relevant to improving animal health. New vaccines, drugs, and other approaches to disease prevention need to be continuously added to the veterinarian's disease fighting arsenal.
PLANT HEALTH AND INTEGRATED
Farmers generally lose 10 to 30 percent of their crops to pests, costing them nearly a third of their production. In addition to existing pests, farmers are continually challenged by new pests such as the Karnal bunt fungus, new races of the fungus causin
g potato late blight, sweet potato whitefly with associated gemini viruses, and the brown citrus aphid with the associated citrus tristeza virus. These and other pests not only reduce profitability but often threaten export markets. The sweet potato white
fly has become a devastating pest of cotton, vegetables, melons and ornamentals in the United States, causing an estimated $500 million in crop losses annually in this country. In Imperial County, California, alone, crop losses to sweet potato whitefly ha
ve been estimated at $100 million. USDA scientists have teamed with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Texas A&M University, and private industry to develop an EPA-approve
d fungal pathogen that kills up to 90 percent of whiteflies in vegetables and melons. Large-scale cooperative field tests have begun to refine pest management strategies that use the pathogen in conjunction with other biological controls. The fungal patho
gen reduces producers' dependence on chemical pesticides and contributes to USDA's target of 75 percent of U.S. agricultural acreage being under integrated pest management (IPM) practice
s by the year 2000.
Using science and technology to control pests is one goal of the Department of Agriculture's integrated pest management research. The brown citrus aphid is just one example of a new pest that is threatening U.S. agricultural production.
The goal of USDA's IPM research is to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides by placing greater emphasis on natural controls, host resistance, cultural practices, biological controls, and biopestici
des. The aim is to produce high-quality food and agricultural products, while maintaining farmers' profitability and protecting human health and the environment. Research at Texas A&M University has saved the economy $1.5 billion per year and spared the e
nvironment from 17.3 million pounds of insecticides alone. At the same time, 20,000 new jobs in Texas are associated with IPM. One IPM program in the Rio Grande Valley for carrots destined for baby food, soup, and frozen foods reduced insecticide use by 6
6 percent while increasing individual farmer profits by $22,000.
IPM in Oregon has been proven to reduce greatly the amount of pesticides applied to crops. Twenty thousand acres of Oregon apples have gone from a maximum of three miticide applications per year to less than one under IPM. Each application costs gr owers $3 per acre. Determining the pest status on a regular basis of 6,000 acres of pears in southern Oregon has helped eliminate 18 pounds of active pesticide ingredient per acre for a savings of more than $600,000 per year. An Oregon mint IPM program ad ds $500,000 to the value of the crop, since processors will not buy peppermint oil with pesticide residues.
Over a century of genetics research and breeding has led to many successful improvements in plants and animals. Virtually every foodstuff and many forest species have benefited from such improvements. Recent developments in genetic manipulation and the ra
pid mapping of genes are opening new possibilities, from improved disease resistance, to better taste, to longer shelf life. Access to genetic resources, such as gene sequencing and mapping data, and genetic material, such as cloned genes, novel strains,
wild relatives and other plant, animal and microbial germplasm, are vital to the future health of American agriculture and forestry. The development of economically, environmentally, and nutritionally important traits will be possible only if the scientif
ic community has ready access to needed genetic resources.
In 1995, the National Plant Germplasm System, under the auspices of USDA's Agricultural Research Service, distributed approximately 120,000 samples of seed and clonal germplasm to both U.S. (85,000 samples) and foreign (35,000 samples) requestors.
Gene maps are powerful tools with which to genetically improve plants, livestock, and other beneficial organisms. Such maps and their associated DNA markers are useful for improving the accuracy of selection of desirable new genotypes, moving new genes in
to populations, and characterizing potentially valuable germplasm populations. USDA scientists, working in collaboration with researchers from State Agricultural Experiment Stations, have produced genetic maps of important animals (cattle, swine, sheep, a
nd poultry) and plants (corn, soybean, loblolly pine, wheat and others), which can be accessed electronically.
The livestock gene maps developed at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center Nebraska, have over 1,300 markers for cattle, 1,100 for swine, and 500 for sheep. The poultr y map developed in cooperation with Michigan State University has over 600 markers, and is being integrated with the United Kingdom's poultry map.
INVESTING IN A BALANCED
Agricultural research supported by the federal government requires a balanced science and technology portfolio that encompasses a broad range of activities from fundamental to applied and developmental research. Private sector research spending in agricul
ture has grown more rapidly than that of the public sector and now accounts for more than the combined level of federal and state funding. While private sector research spending has taken over an increasing share of the developmental research (that portio
n of research that promises adequate economic returns to investors), the opportunities for developmental research and continuing technology advances depend on advances in research funded by the Federal government and primarily conducted by the USDA's Agri
cultural Research Service and State Agricultural Experiment Stations.
SUPPORT FOR FUNDAMENTAL AGRICULTURAL
Increased support for fundamental research programs in molecular and cellular biology, physiology, and ecology has expanded our understanding of fundamental processes such as pathogenesis, genetic disorders, nutrition, photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, a nd evolution. Better understanding of these and other biological processes leads directly to a more secure and economically competitive food and fiber supply. In addition to basic research in the biological sciences, it is important to recognize the impor tant contributions that research in chemistry, physics, engineering, and social sciences make in agriculture through the development and adoption of new enabling technologies and instrumentation. There is a clear need to maintain our Federal investment in the full range of agriculture-related science and technology activities, but investments in fundamental research are expected to generate the highest yield. Therefore, the Administration will continue to provide strong support for the NRI and other progr ams supporting fundamental agriculture research.
SUPPORT FOR APPLIED AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH
Agricultural problems often are based on specific soil, climate, or production systems that are unique to a particular region of the country. Therefore, much applied agricultural research needs to be conducted at the local or regional level, and funding s
hould be based on priorities set regionally or locally. In addition to USDA's geographically dispersed intramural programs, support of applied research has been achieved primarily through state support and through various formula programs where Federal fu
nds are distributed directly to State Agricultural Experiment Stations. Although this system of Federal support for applied research has substantially leveraged Federal investments, it has come under growing stress because Federal formula funds have not g
rown as fast as research costs and because research funds have declined in some states.
Urea is widely applied as a nitrogen fertilizer because of its cost-effectiveness, ease in handling, and high nitrogen content. However, it is not efficiently used by plants. Most of what is applied to fields is degraded by soilborne microorganisms into volatile ammonia, which is often toxic to plants. USDA's National Research Initiative has supported research on the enzyme responsible for the degradation, urease, to determine how the enzyme works as well as its molecular structure. A better unders tanding of urease sets the stage for developing safe, effective inhibitors of the enzyme to improve the efficient use of urea by plants.
Ethylene is a chemically simple gas that acts as a plant hormone, regulating multiple plant processes ranging from stem elongation to root growth and fruit ripening. Work on the ethylene signal transduction pathway supported by the Department of En ergy's Division of Energy Bio-sciences has led to the first isolation of a plant hormone receptor. These studies show that plants sense this gaseous hormone throug h a combination of proteins that resemble signal transduction pathways previously described in bacteria and yeast. Genetic manipulation of these proteins will provide new tools for modifying plant growth and development for increased crop and biomass prod uctivity.
The Departments of Energy and Agriculture and the National Science Foundation have cooperated to fund the effort to sequence the entire genome of the flowering plant Arabi dopsisthaliana. When completed, this will be the first complete DNA sequence for any flowering plant. Arabidopsis is the leading model organism for the study of genetic traits that relate to plant growth and development and therefore to traits related to crop productivity. The goal is to complete the sequence by the year 2004.
Nearly 60 years after Dorothy left grey Kansas for the vibrant land of Oz, wizards of a different sort have concocted a powerful new way to visualize the full set of human chromosomes in a rainbow of colors. The new technique, called "spectral karyotypin
g," translates comptuer-gathered light waves into a full-color palette and assigns each chromosome its own distinct hue. With all 23 pairs of human chromosomes identified by a different color, scientists can more easily examine the entire set of chromoso
mes for changes that could lead to a disease, such as missing or extra pieces, or parts from different chromosomes that have swapped places. The technique could prove to be extremely valuable in diagnosis of disease based on chromosomal alterations.
The power of the current diagnostic techniques is limited in examining whole chromosome sets, called karyotypes, for changes, because the methods rely on chemical stains that reveal only shades of g
ray. Pieces moved from one chromosome to another -a process called "translocation" that is often associated with disease -cannot easily be detected. And in diseased cells containing several badly distorted chromosomes, tracking the multiplication or exc
hange of genetic material is often impossible with conventional black-and-white banding.
Ried and his coworkers applied spectral imaging, a technology used in remote sensing devices, to chromosomes isolated from cells. First, they applied different molecular "paints" to the chromosomes
. The wavelengths of light, or emission spectra, emitted by each painted chromosome provided a unique "thumbprint" for that chromosome. Although to the eye, the thumbprints are difficult to distinguish from one chromosome to the next, computers rapidly
detect differences in emission spectra and assign each chromosome its own easy-to-see color. In a spectral karyotype from a healthy cell, for example, computers translate the emission spectrum for chromosome 1 into yellow, chromosome 2 red, 3 gray, 4 tur
quoise, and so on.
Cancer patients may soon receive dramatically more effective radiation therapy as researchers refine and test a revolutionary new tool for analyzing and planning treatments. The program, known as Peregrine, draws on technologies originally developed by the national laboratories for military applications - and turns them to life-saving use.
Cancer patients may soon receive dramatically more effective treatment through Peregrine. This revolutionary new technique is used to target radiation on tumors more precisely than current methods, and raises the odds of survival of the hundreds of thousands of cancer patients treated every year, while reducing harmful side effects. In a planned lung tumor treatment using current techniques, the Peregrine calculation (right panel) shows that the intended dose misses much of the tumor. The Peregrine program will allow more precise planning of radia tion therapy.
In July 1996, President Clinton announced sweeping reform of the nation's food safety rules, for the first time bringing science to the task of meat and poultry inspection. The new sanitation standards and requirements for scientific tests are designed to
reveal the presence of deadly bacteria, and to maintain food safety from "farm to table." While previous methods for inspecting meat and poultry were based on how the food looks, feels, or smells, the new methods rely on technology to detect the bacteria
E. coli and Salmonella, which are invisible without a microscope. A similar program for seafood inspection was adopted a year earlier.
New scientific technology reforms meat and poultry inspection. Microbial testing will be implemented in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program that requires the development and implementation of rapid tests to detect microorganisms. The two light areas are a deadly strain of E. c
oli O157:H7 among colonies on non-pathogenic strains.
As the changes are phased in over the next few years, industry and scientists will continue to need additional, and more reliable, information, and faster, more accurate test results. Advances in biotechnology promise to provide earlier detection of conta
mination. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have trimmed the time required to detect disease-causing bacteria on meat from the typical 48 hours to just five minutes. They have
also developed tests specifically to detect hemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7 in less than eight hours, compared to the traditional three-day test.
IN BIOMEDICAL AND AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH
IN BIOMEDICAL AND AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH