WSU Safe Food Initiative

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Serious societal concerns continue regarding food safety and protection of both the environment and the natural resource base on which food production depends. Deaths and illness due to food-borne pathogens, pesticides in the environment, and emerging food-related pathogens stimulated a request from Washington State University to increase its research and educational capacity to address these concerns.

In 1999, the Washington State Legislature appropriated $4.25 million in funding for a Washington State University Agricultural Research Center and Cooperative Extension initiative approved as the Safe Food Initiative. Its purpose is to enhance the safety and market value of Washington state food products, while improving efficiency and reducing the environmental impacts of their production. Biennial funding for the initiative was made permanent at a level of $7.5 million. The appropriation funds a variety of research and education positions in WSU’s colleges of Agriculture and Home Economics, Veterinary Medicine, and Sciences. The funding also provides support for the Washington State Commission on Pesticide Registration to develop biological control and other alternatives to pesticide use.

The funding enhances research in three specific areas: Ensuring the safe, efficient production of food for consumers and the marketplace; improving controls of devastating pests, while minimizing environmental impacts; and protecting natural resources. The success of this research over time potentially will return as much as $200 million annually to the state’s economy.

Safe Food Initiative funding has directly enabled the University to attract $7.65 million (2001-2003) in outside grants to further enhance food safety research efforts.

This report provides a brief inventory of research underway and progress made through the first full biennium of funding against benchmarks established for the Safe Food Initiative.

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