The gap between federal funding for agricultural research at large public universities and private investment is growing, and critics fear it will jeopardize schools' independence.
A recent study by the Washington-based environmental group Food and Water Watch shows that nearly one-quarter of the money spent on agricultural research at land-grant universities comes from corporations, trade associations and foundations, an all-time high.
Financial support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture accounts for less than 15%, the lowest levels in nearly two decades.
The advocacy group says such arrangements can pose conflicts of interest and steer researchers away from scientific results that may contradict the goals of their financial backers.
Deans at several agricultural schools counter that corporate support is vital but unlikely to sway their research.