Regular news updates on the group's activities and key developments in science and technology in agriculture.

2008 – Group News

Update – 18 December 2008

Prime Minister’s response to David Kidney on EU pesticide approval plans
3 December 2008

Update – 10 November 2008

David Kidney – Feeding the world needs the appliance of science
Farm Business, 7 November 2008

EU pesticide approval plans – David Kidney letter to the Prime Minister
6 November 2008

Update - 8 October 2008

Update - 3 July 2008

Update - 5 June 2008

Update - 21 May 2008

David Kidney - Talking Point
Farmers Weekly 25 April 2008

2008 Archive – Science & Technology News

UK farming facing shortage of agronomists
It is not just the average age of farmers that is increasing. Their agronomists, too, are getting older. The average age of AICC members is just under 50. It means the UK is facing a shortage of agronomists to replace those who are retiring. A decade of poor returns in arable farming in the mid 1990s to 2000s together with an often negative media image of farming has combined to make agronomy a less attractive career. More

Farmers Weekly, 22 December 2008

Bioenergy boost from waste ruling
Spent products from on-farm anaerobic digesters are no longer to be classified as waste, the Environment Agency has ruled in what could provide a major boost for the sector. Previously those operating digesters to produce energy had been forced to take out an environmental permit or waste management exemption if they wanted to spread the digestate on their land, which meant unnecessary administrative and cost burdens, seriously restricting take-up of on-farm energy generation. More

Farm Business, 22 December 2008

‘Kyoto-style deal needed’ on food
An agreement similar to the Kyoto deal on global warming is needed to protect world food supplies, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn will say. Mr Benn is to tell the Fabian Society that climate change, rising population and water and oil shortages create a "perfect storm" of problems. He has set up a UK Council of Food Policy Advisers to look at the issue. More

BBC News, 10 December 2008

Pesticide changes could damage agriculture and food production – Brown
PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has finally responded to proposed EU rules that could remove a quarter of crop protection products from the market place. Mr Brown has urged EU policymakers to investigate how their proposal could damage European food production before negotiations are concluded. His comments are in a written response to a letter from David Kidney MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, and will be welcomed by industry leaders. More

Farmers Guardian, 4 December 2008

See also:

Gordon Brown opposes EU anti-pesticide policy
Farmers Weekly, 4 December 2008

PM opposed to damaging EU pesticide proposals
Farm Business, 4 December 2008

New figures show increased use of British produce in public
sector food

Britain's hospital patients, civil servants, armed forces personnel and others eating in government establishments are being treated to menus that increasingly feature seasonal, home-grown food, Farming and Environment Minister Jane Kennedy said today. Ms Kennedy said that the latest figures on the amount of British food used by the public sector showed that the Government was taking the necessary action to create a level playing field for local food producers and suppliers. More

Defra News Release, 26 November 2008

China’s crops at risk from massive erosion
Over a third of China's land is being scoured by serious erosion that is putting its crops and water supply a risk, a three-year nationwide survey has found. Soil is being washed and blown away not only in remote rural areas, but near mines, factories and even in cities, the official Xinhua agency cited the country's bio-environment security research team saying. Each year some 4.5 billion tonnes of soil are lost, threatening the country's ability to feed itself. If the loss continues at this rate, harvests in China's northeastern breadbasket could fall 40 percent in 50 years, adding to erosion costs estimated at 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) in this decade alone. More

Reuters, 21 November 2008

Government to defy critics with secret GM crop trials
Ministers are drawing up plans for genetically-modified crops to be grown in secret and more secure locations to prevent trials being wrecked by saboteurs. They may ask the police to target opponents of GM crops in the way that they have cracked down on animal rights protesters. Another option is for the controversial crops to be grown at a secure government site such as Porton Down near Salisbury, which carries out military research and includes a science park where they could be securely developed away from the public. More

The Independent, Monday, 17 November 2008

Campaigner wins pesticides court battle
An environmental campaigner today won a landmark victory against the government in a long-running legal battle over the use of pesticides. The high court ruled that Georgina Downs, who runs the UK Pesticides Campaign, had produced "solid evidence" that people exposed to chemicals used to spray crops had suffered harm.

The court said the government had failed to comply with a European directive designed to protect rural communities from exposure to the toxins. It said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) must reassess its policy, and investigate the risks to people exposed. Defra had argued that its approach to the regulation and control of pesticides was "reasonable, logical and lawful". More

The Guardian, 14 November 2008

Government announces new council of food policy advisors
The establishment of a new team of advisers on food policy from the farm to the fork has been announced today by Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. The Council of Food Policy Advisers will include expertise from every sector of our food system – from production to retail, and from regulation and distribution to consumption.

It will advise government on food affordability, security of supply and the environmental impact of food production, and contribute to the drawing up of a policy for food security and supply which is expected to be published later this year. More

Defra News Release, 6 November 2008

Church leader calls for greater food self sufficiency
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has warned against over-reliance on importing food and put in a call for more self-sufficiency. Speaking to more than 300 farmers at the NFU's York East centenary dinner he said that while the UK had long been an importer of food, with our self-sufficiency ratio falling there was a growing sense of unease over the power of globally-sourcing supermarkets, the sharp decline in farm incomes and about public health concerns with food safety.

"There is growing awareness of environmental issues, the potential for short term interruptions to fuel supply and longer term concerns over energy security and climate change," said Dr Sentanu. "I believe self-sufficiency is an increasingly important part of any domestic food security strategy, in which government and wider society must play their part." More

Farmers Guardian, 4 November 2008

GM bean could help prevent heart attacks
The first genetically modified foods with direct benefits for human health should be available within four years after successful experiments in the United States. A GM soya bean that can help to prevent heart attacks has passed the first phase of trials, clearing the way for its use in foods such as spreads, yoghurts, cereal bars and salad dressings.

The research, at the University of South Dakota, has shown that oil from the GM soya can raise blood concentrations of long-chain omega 3 acids, which are found chiefly in oily fish such as salmon, trout and fresh tuna. They protect against cardiovascular diseases and diabetes and help the growth of brain cells in the young. More

The Times, 3 November 2008

Purple tomato 'may boost health'
Scientists have developed purple tomatoes which they hope may be able to keep cancer at bay. The fruit are rich in an antioxidant pigment called anthocyanin which is thought to have anti-cancer properties. A team from the John Innes Centre, Norwich, created the tomatoes by incorporating genes from the snapdragon flower, which is high in anthocyanin. The study, published in Nature Biotechnology, found mice who ate the tomatoes lived longer. More

BBC News, 27 October 2008

Soil health 'threatens farming'
Some areas of England may not be fit for productive agriculture in future because of deteriorating soil quality, a new report warns. The Royal Agricultural Society of England is worried that too much is being asked of the land in places.
The society said heavy machinery, drier summers and changing growing seasons are all taking their toll on the soil. It added that most research tends to focus on environmental issues, rather than growing food. More

BBC News, 23 October 2008

NFU launches 'Why Science Matters' campaign
THE Government must reverse its chronic under-investment in agricultural research and development if it is to increase production and tackle food security, the NFU has said. At the launch of their Why Science Matters campaign today (Tuesday, October 14), NFU president, Peter Kendall, said there had been a 45 per cent drop in funding research and development in agriculture and a stagnation of national productivity to one per cent per year. After decades of decline, he said food security and production must now move to the top of the Government’s list of priorities. More

Farmers Guardian, 14 October 2008

Pesticide proposals could devastate production, Dutch study warns
DUTCH researchers have added further weight to UK warnings that European food and horticulture production could be severely hit by the EU’s pesticide proposals. The report, commissioned by the Dutch Agriculture Ministry, revealed the European Parliament’s desire to apply strict cut-off criteria on pesticides could spell an end to the production of roses, chrysanthemum, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, seed onions, tulip bulbs and ornamental shrubs. More

Farmers Guardian, 10 October 2008

Drought resistant GM crops ready 'in four years'
Genetically modified crops that are drought resistant will be grown by farmers within four to five years, according to scientists developing the technology. Dr David Dennis, the chief executive of Performance Plants Incorporated in Kingston, Ontario, said varieties of drought-tolerant oilseed rape and maize were already being tested in field trials in the US. He claimed the new varieties can increase yield by 40% when the plants are most water-stressed. More

The Guardian, 8 October 2008

Research vital for future food needs
New chief executive of NIAB, Dr Tina Barsby, has backed calls for a reversal of Government cuts in research and development to give the industry a chance to respond to the demands of climate change and increased food production. Dr Barsby said world demand for food was now beginning to outstrip supply and in the world's richer nations, that meant higher food prices, while in poorer ones it meant hunger and malnutrition. More

Farm Business, 2 October 2008

Meat must be rationed to four portions a week, says report on climate change
People will have to be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one litre of milk a week if the world is to avoid run-away climate change, a major new report warns. The report, by the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Surrey, also says total food consumption should be reduced, especially "low nutritional value" treats such as alcohol, sweets and chocolates. More

The Guardian, 30 September 2008

More GM crops being grown across Europe
THE amount of genetically modified (GM) crops cultivated across the EU increased by 21 per cent in 2008. However, the overall acreage covered by biotech crops remains relatively small in Europe as a result of the 10 year moratorium on GM approvals.

Only one GM crop can be grown, a Bt maize approved in 1998 that can defend itself against the European corn borer, a pest present primarily in southern and middle Europe. In all, GM crops were grown on 107,719 hectares in just seven EU countries in 2008. There was a tenfold increase in Poland and Romania on 2007 and big increases in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. More

Farmers Guardian, 29 September 2008

European agriculture threatened: UK warns
A FIVE page dossier has been published by UK civil servants to warn Members of the European Parliament that their actions could inadvertently, but dramatically, reduce the production capacity of European agriculture. European Commission proposals to tighten rules on pesticide use were this week handed to the European Parliament for a second reading and experts fear that a repeat of their first reading amendments would be a disaster for European agriculture. More

Farmers Guardian 24 September, 2008

Demand for biofuels to keep grain prices volatile and at inflated levels
Grain prices are likely to remain volatile and at inflated prices as long as demand for biofuels continues, according to new research by two American economists. Should demand for biofuels continue – particularly in the United States – the recent rise in grain prices is likely to persist, yielding the first sustained increase for corn, wheat and soybean prices in more than three decades, according to the University of Illinois farm economists. More

Farm Business, 19 September 2008

Raise farm production to end food crisis – Diouf
The way out of the global food crisis, which has plunged at least 75 million more humans into hunger and poverty, lies in increased agricultural production, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told Italy's Parliament today. More

ReliefWeb, 17 September 2008

Rising prices tip another 75m to starvation: FAO
Global numbers afflicted by acute hunger rose from 850 million to 925 million by the start of this year because of rising prices, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Wednesday. More

DAWN, 17 September 2008

EU proposals could reduce first generation biofuel demand
EU politicians have voted in favour of plans that could put the brakes on the growth of first generation biofuels, such as those derived from cereals and oilseeds. In the Renewable Energy Directivemeeting on Thursday (11 September), the European Parliament's industry committee backed a target of obtaining 10% of the EU’s road transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020, but pared back the target for first generation biofuels from 5.75% by 2010 to 4% by 2015, due to sustainability concerns. More

Farmers Weekly Interactive, 13 September 2008

Wind of change on farms as cows help to save the Earth
Hundreds of cattle in Britain are being fed a new diet to reduce their burping and cut emissions of greenhouse gas.Chopped straw and hay are the vital ingredients to settle a cow's stomach and reduce emissions of methane by 20 per cent. This material is used as bedding for cattle and cows usually have little appetite for it. But just as children are coaxed to take their medicine by cloaking it in a syrup, cattle are being fed a blend of foods that makes it irresistible. More

The Times, 8 September 2008

Food crisis, silent famine to continue: World Bank
There is no end in sight to global food shortages and multiple crises from climate change and energy and water scarcity will soon intensify what is already a silent famine, the World Bank said on Wednesday. More

Reuters, 3 September 2008

UK 'should end biofuel subsidies'
The government should stop funding biofuels and use the money to halt the destruction of rainforests and peatland instead, a think tank has said. Policy Exchange said the switch would have a bigger impact on climate change because trees and peatland remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. More

BBC, 26 August 2008

GM drought-resistant wheat increases yield by 20%
SCIENTISTS in Australia think they have developed a genetically modified wheat variety to withstand severe droughts and increase yields by 20 per cent. More

Farmers Guardian, 26 August, 2008

Plan for anaerobic digesters in every town to recycle leftovers
Waste-disposal units designed to turn leftover food into electricity and fertiliser could be built around every town and city as part of a scheme being considered by ministers. More

THE TIMES, 19 August 2008

Prince Charles wrong on GM, says minister
A senior minister has accused Prince Charles of "ignoring" the needs of starving people in the developing world by attacking genetically modified crops. Phil Woolas, the environment minister, said it was "easy for those with plentiful food" to ignore Third World hunger. He told The Sunday Telegraph that the Government would press ahead with GM crop trials and look at moving to a more "liberal" regime in Britain, unless scientific evidence showed that the crops had done harm. More

SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, 17 August 2008

Prince Charles warns GM crops risk causing the biggest-ever environmental disaster
The mass development of genetically modified crops risks causing the world's worst environmental disaster, The Prince of Wales has warned. In his most outspoken intervention on the issue of GM food, the Prince said that multi-national companies were conducting an experiment with nature which had gone "seriously wrong". More

Daily Telegraph, 13 August 2008

Brussels flies into row over pesticides
The European Commission has been accused of meddling with UK farming after it introduced plans that would lead already cash-strapped consumers to face further food price increases. The proposals, agreed by EU farm ministers in June, will see 15pc of pesticides used by UK farmers phased out or banned across the continent. More

Daily Telegraph, 11 August 2008

Robot plane sweeps over UK fields
The first flights have been conducted of an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to monitor UK farmland. The robot plane flew over fields in England and Wales to map the nitrogen levels in soil, to determine whether fertiliser applications were needed. More

BBC News, 8 August 2008

Climate change: Prepare for global temperature rise of 4C, warns top scientist
The UK should take active steps to prepare for dangerous climate change of perhaps 4C according to one of the government's chief scientific advisers. In policy areas such as flood protection, agriculture and coastal erosion Professor Bob Watson said the country should plan for the effects of a 4C global average rise on pre-industrial levels. More

The Guardian, 7 August 2008

Support can secure the UK’s food supply chain
One of Britain’s most eminent food scientists has called for a far more co-ordinated approach to central government funding of technology transfer from academia to industry. He claims that this would enable the nation to ensure the security of its food supply chain in a rapidly changing world. More

Food Manufacture, 4 August 2008

UK scientists demand greater protection for GM field crop trials
Field trials of GM crops in the UK need better protection to allow researchers to assess the benefits of genetic modification technology, scientists said yesterday. More

Aberdeen Press & Journal, 29 July 2008

Government slaps £600m nitrates bill onto dairy industry
NEW government rules on slurry storage and closed periods for muck spreading will cost the dairy industry £600 million over the next ten years, according to research carried out by Dairy UK. More

Farmers Guardian, 23 July 2008

DEFRA is 'playing down the seriousness' of bovine TB, MPs say
The government is playing down the seriousness of bovine TB, a cross-party committee of MPs has said. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said it was "disappointed" with the government's response to its report on TB in cattle and badgers. More

Farmers Weekly Interactive, 23 July 2008

70% of England to be NVZ
ENGLAND will designate Nitrate Vulnerable Zones on 70 per cent of land, up from the current 55 per cent, according to the Government’s Nitrates Action Plan announced today (Monday, July 21). More

Farmers Guardian, 21 July 2008

Defra launches food security debate
HILARY Benn has launched a debate on how to ensure a secure and sustainable food supply in Britain. Publishing Defra’s latest discussion paper, ‘Ensuring the UK’s food security in a changing world’ Mr Benn stressed the importance of ensuring the resilience of the UK food supply chain. More

Farmers Guardian, 17 July 2008

Slowdown ordered on biofuels
The Government is to adopt a more cautious approach to the use of biofuels after a warning that they could lead to higher food prices and cause environmental damage. More

Daily Telegraph, 7 July 2008

DEFRA confirms badger cull will not go ahead
Defra secretary Hilary Benn has ignored calls for a badger cull for tackling bovine tuberculosis. In a widely-expected decision which was met with criticism from MPs, Mr Benn said he had “weighed the evidence with an open mind”, but could not sanction a cull. More

Farmers Weekly Interactive, 7 July 2008

EU looks to boost world food security
New crop varieties, improved cropping systems, more efficient use of water,
and greater resistance to diseases and environmental stress are amongst the
ways forward to put global agriculture on a sustainable footing. More

Farmers Weekly Interactive, 3 July 2008

Bird flu 'still a major threat'
The world is still at risk from a new pandemic strain of flu according to leading scientists. More

BBC News, 28 June 2008

Government warned over biosecurity
Security at British laboratories handling some of the world's most deadly diseases is being put at risk by poor maintenance and under-investment, MPs warned on Wednesday. More

Civil Service Network, 25 June 2008

Brazil signs deal to export sustainable ethanol
A group of Brazilian ethanol companies signed a deal to export certified sustainable ethanol to Sweden, in the world's first agreement of such a kind, they said on Wednesday. More

Reuters, 25 June 2008

GM trial destroyed by activists
A TRIAL to develop a genetically modified potato that could save the UK potato industry £50 million a year and benefit farmers worldwide has been destroyed by activists. More
Farmers Guardian, 25 June 2008

EU farm ministers agree new anti-pesticide rules
EU farm ministers have approved a new regulation aimed at limiting the range of pesticides available for use in agriculture. More
Farmers Weekly Interactive, 24 June 2008

GM crops needed in Britain, says minister
Ministers are preparing to open the way for genetically modified crops to be grown in Britain on the grounds they could help combat the global food crisis. More

The Independent, 19 June 2008

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