Alan I. Leshner, the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in an editorial for the journal Science makes the following statement

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spending on R&D has declined by 26% (in constant dollars) over the past decade, while investments by China, India, and Brazil have increased dramatically. … In parallel (and even though a correlation cannot be taken to prove causality), agricultural productivity has grown markedly in those countries while remaining static in the United States.

The emphasis is mine. The point here is that Leshner wants to point out that there appears to be a relationship between R&D spending on agriculture and agricultural productivity, but is careful to point out that since R&D spending was not randomly allocated to countries, we cannot infer that more R&D spending is causing an increasing in agricultural productivity.

In fact, the countries mentioned (China, India, and Brazil) likey had low agricultural productivity and are just catching up to the US’s level of productivity. I do not know if this is true, it just seems plausible and is an example of regression to the mean.

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30 August 2013