How French research works
Jean-Marc Jourdain is director of the Technical Institute Center for Fruits and Vegetables at the Lanxade Research Station near Bergerac, France.
France has well-coordinated, well-funded agricultural research programs that integrate basic and applied research and extension in partnership with industry organizations and other European countries. Agricultural research in France has four components, explained by Jean-Marc Jourdain, director of the Technical Institute Center for Fruits and Vegetables (CTIFL) at the Lanxade Research Station.
Basic research is conducted at universities under the National Center of Scientific Research, a government entity established in 1939.
High level, applied research is done by the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), a 60-year-old program that has become the largest agricultural research institute in Europe. INRA has 20 regional centers throughout the country and works with a budget of around 678 million euros or more than U.S.$1 billion. The agency, staffed with 8,600 researchers, engineers, technicians, and administrative employees, is comparable to the Cooperative Extension Service in the United States as it conducts applied research and works closely with industry.
The Technical Institute Center for Fruits and Vegetables is a national program that specializes in fruits and vegetables and is likened to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. Work done by CTIFL includes certification of tree fruit plant material, education, product and market development, economic studies, and publications. It has a budget of 23 million euros (U.S.$36.8 million), a national staff of about 300, and five research centers. Most of CTIFL's budget (65 percent) comes from a retail tax on French products and foreign imports. About 15 percent of the budget comes from the sale of publications, training courses, and industry services, such as plant material certification. Grants received from agricultural organizations, and regional and European Union authorities, comprise another 15 percent of CTIFL's budget.
The last component of France's agricultural research arm is the regional farm, Jourdain explained. Field trials are conducted at regional farms belonging to growers in different production regions.
"The goals of INRA are to sustain societal goals, such as consumer acceptance of fruit and consumer health," Jourdain said. "But the goals of CTIFL are to sustain the fruit and vegetable industry."
Although French growers are wary of sharing research with other countries, CTIFL researchers understand that it is a global community and they must share information with international scientists, Jourdain said.
"CTIFL is in the business of research on fruit and vegetables. The main protection that we have in the area of research sharing is that we are publishing papers, ideas, and concepts in French," he said with a smile. A few publications are printed in English and other languages, depending on the subject and collaborators.