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A ricer farmer in Tao Than village, Laos, an area hard hit by climate change. Photo: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

By 2050, the world’s population will balloon from roughly 7.6 billion people to nearly 10 billion, which poses enormous challenges to securing an abundant and safe food supply.

Why it matters: Without effective research and development to increase crop yields, combat climate change's impact on agricultural output and increase global access to more nutritional diets, the world will experience more famines leading to forced migrations, political instability and human suffering.

Because farming techniques have improved and the agricultural industry has expanded to use nearly all the arable land in the world, the challenge of increasing yields must first be overcome in laboratories. Specifically, agricultural research must focus on ways to combat crop and animal disease, cope with increased climate variability (e.g., rainfall, droughts and heat), improve food nutritional quality and increase crop yields and resilience.

Reality check: For the first time, China now spends more on public agricultural research than the U.S., with Brazil close behind. If the U.S. fails to keep pace with these countries' funding programs, the losers will be farmers coping with climate change, smallholder farmers in the U.S. and developing world, and those in need of cures and treatments for animal, plant and human disease.

In addition to the moral and scientific arguments for the U.S. to increase its research funding, there's an equally strong one for national security: Regions that that have too little food or water, face famine or lack soil-rich nutrients are more likely to start or fall victim to conflicts, which can then easily spread.

The big picture: For years, the U.S. has led in agricultural research, development and technology — especially in the revolutionary innovation of genetic engineering. The world's food security, as well as the United States' national-security interests, are at risk if the U.S. falls behind on agricultural research.

Dan Glickman is the former Secretary of Agriculture, Congressman from Kansas and Founding Chair of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. 

Go deeper

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
4 hours ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.