Exceptional Item Request
- Use methodologies such as big data integration, evidence synthesis and evidence evaluation to support a world class Food System Evidence Center that offers authoritative, rigorous, nonbiased and credible information to inform the public and decision makers about the human health, environmental, social and economic outcomes related to agricultural and food policy.
- Develop and apply point-of-care, mobile phone integrated technologies that enable real time and continuous assessment of an individual’s dietary exposures and chronic disease progression. Social scientists will study the role of these devices in promoting positive health behaviors.
- Develop novel and differentiated food and feed from crops that have enhanced nutritional value, higher yield potential, and resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses for Texas’ producers and consumers. Advance the adoption of healthier crops and products for humans and feed for livestock such as the recently commercialized sorghum-based, high antioxidant, Onyx™ cereal, and an edible cottonseed to provide a new, revolutionary protein source for food and feed.
In the wake of a global pandemic, Texas A&M AgriLife Research is requesting state support from the 87th Legislature to modernize our food production system by producing the evidence-base that connects food and nutrition to health promotion to benefit both consumers and agriculture producers.
AgriLife Research recognizes the economic uncertainty thrust upon the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is sensitive to the significant budget challenges facing the state. However, Texas A&M AgriLife Research is poised to address the major societal issue of diet-related chronic disease.
Problem and Opportunity
For decades, the public has been taken for a “nutrition advice / good food-bad food ride” by advocates tied to certain special interests. One day a food is deemed by a report to be “good,” and a week later another headline says, “Are Eggs Really Heart-Healthy?”.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research is poised to be the epicenter of objective, evidence-informed scientific information on the food supply, with the only interest at hand being the health of our citizens and the positioning our agricultural producers to provide healthy foods. Given the extensive presence of agriculture across the state, and the world- class reputation of Texas A&M, Texas should lead in this endeavor.
Our nation’s food supply, and the way in which it is produced, is the key to substantially reduce diet related chronic diseases, which cost the US economy $1 trillion annually and affect 50 percent of adults. We are now seeing that health conditions caused by poor nutrition are equated with increased vulnerability in an infectious disease pandemic, with diabetics and cardiac patients seeing increased mortality from COVID-19.
Our country currently lacks the scientific evidence-base that connects foods and nutrient intakes to health promotion and chronic disease prevention across the lifespan. AgriLife Research is leading a multi-year, international effort to conduct the comprehensive research and insulated scientific reviews needed to establish updated nutrition recommendations. Dr. Patrick Stover, Vice Chancellor for Texas A&M AgriLife, and his colleagues have demonstrated that ‘precision nutrition’ can ameliorate disease and associated costs. This research and associated efforts in promoting folic acid food fortification and dietary supplementation have significantly reduced the incidence of neural tube birth defects. As another example of food as medicine, AgriLife Research scientists are working to develop edible SARS-CoV-2 vaccines grown in the nuts and leaves of peanut plants. A vaccine administered via peanuts would not require medical supplies such as needles and syringes and would not require cold storage.
Prepared to meet demands
Due to the State’s diverse ecosystems, Texas agricultural producers face many challenges in meeting the growing demand for a sustainable and nutritious food supply. Pests and pathogens, as well as drought and disease, can cripple food and feed crops throughout the state – a more than $3B industry. To be prolific, Texas plant varieties must be high yielding, sustainable in many environments, nourishing and flavorful to satisfy consumers. Federal and state support is being requested to develop guidance for the public and producers by bringing together nutrition scientists, agriculture scientists, stem cell biologists, system engineers, computational biologists, and social scientists. Texas will be a model for the world on how to lower health care costs through precision nutrition and responsive agriculture.
Leveraging opportunities and uniqueness of request
Connecting agriculture, food and health is an area of significant funding opportunity. As new dietary guidelines are crafted, scientific evidence relating to food and diet are of significant interest to federal agencies like NIH and USDA as well as the National Academy of Sciences.
State support for this initiative is vital to leveraging external finding, maintaining trust in outcomes, and providing new technologies and knowledge to underserved populations.
To date, no one in the state or nation has made significant progress in this arena. Existing expertise related to precision nutrition and big data in Texas is limited. World renowned experts who work in technical areas that interface with food, nutrition, and agriculture must be recruited.
Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D.
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research
Office of External Relations
Assistant Vice Chancellor for External Relations
814 Lavaca St. Austin, TX 78701