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

2009 – Group News

Update – 16 December 2009

Update – 17 November 2009

Press Release – 22 October 2009

Update – 13 October 2009

Update – 24 September 2009

Update – 16 July 2009

Update – 1 June 2009

Update – 22 April 2009

Update – 2 April 2009

Annual Report 2008/09

Update – 24 February 2009

Update – 21 January 2009

2008 Archive

2009 Archive - Science & Technology News

Farming central to climate change, UN told
Farming should be a key part of global legislation on climate change, industry leaders have told United Nations officials. US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said farmers should be rewarded for fighting global warming as part of that plan. "Farmers need incentives," said Mr Vilsack. "It will be important and necessary for the private sector to be fully and completely engaged in this. That's why it's important to create incentives, markets that function." He said a new UN climate deal had to include farming which accounted for 14% of global greenhouse gases but had been poorly recognised under the existing Kyoto climate change agreement. More

Farmers Weekly, 15 December 2009

'Cut meat and dairy to save the planet'
Consumers need to cut down on the meat and dairy products they eat to help tackle climate change and reduce diet-related diseases, a government-back report has claimed. In the first official recommendations for a healthy and environmentally-friendly diet, the Sustainable Development Commission - the government's independent advisory body on sustainability - said a radical overhaul of the nation's diet is needed.

While it recognised changes in diet would have economic impacts on the UK food industry, the report, titled Setting the Table, said reducing meat and dairy consumption was likely to have a "significant and immediate impact" on making diets more sustainable. More

Farmers Weekly, 14 December 2009

This decade 'warmest on record'
The first decade of this century is "by far" the warmest since instrumental records began, say the UK Met Office and World Meteorological Organization.

Their analyses also show that 2009 will almost certainly be the fifth warmest in the 160-year record.

Burgeoning El Nino conditions, adding to man-made greenhouse warming, have pushed 2009 into the "top 10" years.

BBC News, 8 December 2009

Alternative packaging made from farm waste
Two young American businessmen have developed a green alternative to polystyrene packaging, which is made from farm waste and mushrooms, uses one tenth of the energy to produce and biodegrades into a natural fertiliser. Called EcoCradle, the product can also be used as insulation and is grown, not manufactured, with no greenhouse gas emissions as a byproduct, said co-inventor Eben Bayer, 24. More

Daily Telegraph, 8 December 2009

Scientists grow pork meat in a laboratory
SCIENTISTS have grown meat in the laboratory for the first time. Experts in Holland used cells from a live pig to replicate growth in a petri dish. The advent of so-called “in-vitro” or cultured meat could reduce the billions of tons of greenhouse gases emitted each year by farm animals — if people are willing to eat it. More

The Times, 30 November 2009

BBSRC invites views on £1m farm research centre
THE Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is set to build a £1m farm-scale research facility in Devon. The facility at North Wyke Research, will act as a centre for studies into developing a more sustainable and productive industry.

The plans were put out for consultation yesterday (Thursday, November 26) and BBSRC is asking scientists and farmers to contribute their thoughts on how the facility should run including how it should be funded and where it should focus its research. More

Farmers Guardian, 27 November 2009

GM crop sceptics ‘emotional’, Government food watchdog report claims
Public opposition to genetically modified food is based on “emotion” rather than “reason”, a Food Standards Agency report which will help shape future Government policy claims.

The study published as the Government embarks on a major review of the current restrictions on GM crops, suggests opponents are motivated by “ideological” considerations while others take a “pragmatic” line. More

Daily Telegraph, 26 November 2009

'Green' grass in biofuel research
Scientists are working with farmers and fuel companies to produce a greener form of biofuel. The project is using sugar-rich varieties of perennial ryegrass as a raw material for producing bio-ethanol. It is being developed at Aberystwyth University's Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences.

Biofuels are hailed as a way to fight climate change, but they have been criticised for their potential impact on food stocks and prices. But so-called "second-generation" biofuels do not compete with food sources for land - unlike some current biofuels, which are made from the edible parts of crops such as corn or sugar cane.

BBC News, 25 November 2009

Warwick accused of 'scientific vandalism'
THE University of Warwick was accused of ‘scientific vandalism’ after it unveiled proposals to close down the 192-hectare Wellesbourne site of Warwick HRI, formerly Horticulture Research International. All research work will be transferred to a new School of Life Sciences on the Warwick main campus from 2012. WHRI currently employs about 35 academic staff and 175 research and support staff, plus PhD and MSc students. Thirty per cent of staff will be made redundant, according to the union, Prospect. More

Farmers Guardian, 19 November 2009

Alternative to GM breeding could help European growers
Herbicide-tolerant and disease-resistant crops could soon be grown in Europe following the discovery of a technique its developers claim should be classified as non-GMO. Developed by Cibus, in San Diego, the technique induces the plant to change the genetic code in its own DNA to produce new traits. Unlike genetically modified crops, it does not introduce new genes from outside the plant species.

A group of Belgian scientists reviewing the technology has already concluded that this crucial difference meant the technique could be considered outside the scope of the EU Directives on GMO crops, though they added that the final decision was "ultimately a matter of political and legal choices".

Farmers Weekly, 18 November 2009

Food seed banks need $250 million, experts warn
Seed banks need a further $250 million to preserve all varieties of food crops including those which may best survive future climate changes, the Global Crop Diversity Trust said Wednesday. The crop trust is the main supporter of a seed vault in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, intended as a global back-up for food crops, and says it needs more money to complete that project and support other, more accessible seed banks worldwide.

"The reality is that this is a resource which is still not protected, the wild relatives of our cultivated crops are still endangered in the field but are a potent resource for climate change adaptation," the executive director of the trust, Cary Fowler, told Reuters.

Reuters, 17 November 2009

AIC continues to invest in research
AGRICULTURAL Industries Confederation (AIC) members invest at least £15 million in research and development and £30 million in knowledge transfer per annum, said AIC chief executive, David Caffall at the organisation’s Agribusiness 2010 Conference.

Against a backdrop of declining funds from traditional sources, industry funded research is becoming increasingly important as agriculture faces the challenge of feeding and fuelling a growing world population, he said. But he stressed the importance of commercial research and development being fully recognised. More

Farmers Guardian, 16 November 2009

More practical research needed, argues respected scientist
A better balance is needed between basic, strategic research and more applied, practical investigations, Rothamsted Research's Stephen Moss told delegates at the British Crop Production Council congress. Research institutions and universities were much too geared towards fundamental research, he said. "And they're not too worried about who takes it up. The balance is hopelessly wrong."

Doubling food production in the next 40 years wouldn't happen if fundamental research wasn't turned into practical applications, he said. "There isn't enough practical understanding [by researchers] of the real issues. Knowledge without application is worthless. Doing research in itself is not good enough, it needs to deliver for farmers, and not just make fancy journal papers."

Farmers Weekly, 13 November 2009

Decline in farming R&D must be reversed
Two decades of government withdrawal from agricultural research and development must be reversed if UK farming is to compete in the global marketplace. Speaking at the Agricultural Industries Confederation conference in Peterborough this week (11 November), Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Conservative spokesman for environment, food and rural affairs, hinted at how a future Tory government might tackle the problem. More

Farmers Weekly, 12 November 2009

Key seed size gene identified
Scientists from the John Innes Centre in Norwich and the University of Freiburg have uncovered a gene responsible for controlling the size of seeds, which could lead to ways of improving crops to help ensure food security in the future. Increasing seed or grain size has been key in the domestication of the crops used in modern agriculture, and with a growing world population, further increasing the yield of crops is one goal of agricultural research. More

Farm Business, 10 November 2009

Low-carbon farms can raise food output, food agency says
Low-carbon farming can both curb climate change and boost food output in developing nations and so must be rewarded under a global climate deal due in December, the U.N.'s food agency said on Thursday. Steps to cut carbon emissions on farms in developing countries could also boost yields where food is shortest, the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report published on Thursday. More

Reuters, 5 November 2009

Science has provided the key to unlocking the potential of food
We live in extraordinary times, for food has, in effect, become free. At the end of the Second World War, it took the British working man about six hours of labour a day to feed a family of four; a figure which has now dropped by two thirds.

All this is evidence of a revolution in farming. It began in the States during the Thirties, when breeders found that to inter-cross different strains of maize vastly improved output, and has continued unabated ever since. Plant science, the forgotten hero of biology, has transformed economic – and physical – landscapes across the world.

Daily Telegraph, 2 November 2009

UK scientist seeks food security in climate deal
Agriculture has a critical role to play in a global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the British farm ministry's chief scientist said on Monday.

"The text has to recognize the critical role of agriculture in both mitigation and adaptation," Robert Watson told Reuters at a food security conference at London-based think tank Chatham House.

Reuters, 2 November 2009

Fears for the future of agricultural science
A LEADING research scientist has called on the Government to increase support for agricultural science, warning there are not enough students taking up careers in agricultural research. Professor Sandra Edwards, chair of Agriculture at Newcastle University, made a plea for increased investment as she collected the prestigious David Black Award at a ceremony in London this week. More

Farmers Guardian, 28 October 2009

Kennedy to chair all-party ag science group
Jane Kennedy MP, formerly the minister responsible for science at Defra, has been confirmed as the new chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science in Technology in Agriculture. The All-Party Group, which involves members from both Houses of Parliament, aims to promote debate among UK politicians and other stakeholders on the role of science and technology in meeting the challenges facing 21st century agriculture.

“Food security is our most basic human need, and continued advances in agricultural science and technology will be essential to feed a rapidly increasing world population in the face of climate change and limited natural resources such as land and water,” said Ms Kennedy.

Farm Business, 22 October 2009

UK urged to lead on future food
The UK should plough £2bn ($3.3bn) into crop research to help stave off world hunger, says the Royal Society. It says the world's growing population means food production will have to rise by about 50% in 40 years and the UK can lead the research needed.

Approaches it endorses include genetic modification, improved irrigation and systems of growing crops together that reduce the impact of diseases. It says that rising yields have brought "complacency" over food supplies.

BBC News, 21 October 2009

GM research is needed urgently to avoid food crisis, says Royal Society
Research to develop genetically modified crops must be stepped up as part of a £2bn "grand challenge" to avoid future food shortages, an influential panel of scientists said yesterday. In its report, the Royal Society said that GM techniques would be needed to boost yields and help crops survive harsher climates, as the global population rises and global warming worsens.

But the report said GM was not the only answer, and that measures to improve crop management, such as improved irrigation, were needed too. More

Guardian, 21 October 2009

Green investment promises healthy returns – Natural England
Investment in the natural environment can solve many of the problems facing society, the economy and the planet, a new report from Natural England claims. Schemes delivering environmental benefits through farming, it says, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by some 11%, and deliver carbon savings estimated at around £180m a year.

And improved management of lowland peat soils could help address an annual loss of carbon estimated to be worth as much as £150 million. “With agriculture currently accounting for nearly 7% of England’s total greenhouse gas emissions, the reductions are highly significant,” says the report.

“No Charge? Valuing the Natural Environment”,draws on leading research to show that the economic value of the natural environment now runs to billions of pounds in the UK alone and that there are major savings to be made through looking after it.

Farm Business, 16 October 2009

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Initiative aims to increase productivity
The Technology Strategy Board together with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is to bring the government, business and researchers together in a major initiative to stimulate the development of new technologies that will increase food productivity, while decreasing the environmental impact of the food and farming industries.

The new programme - called the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform - will see investment of up to £75 million over the next five years in innovative technological research and development in areas such as crop productivity, sustainable livestock production, waste reduction and management and greenhouse gas reduction.

Technology Strategy Board, 13 October 2009

Cash available for greener cropping ideas
Three Government agencies are to invest £13m in developing technology to boost crop production while reducing the impact on the environment. The Technology Strategy Board, DEFRA and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are asking for competitive tenders for grants to support work that will help the UK meet new and existing EU regulations which are likely to mean the loss of a number of herbicides and insecticides next year.

"We are looking for proposals that will develop novel technologies, products and services that can be deployed across the crop-growing supply chain," said Paul Mason, Technology Strategy Board head of development. More

Farm Business, 12 October 2009

Plan to create Scots science powerhouse is unveiled
TWO of Scotland's leading science institutes are to join forces to create Europe's foremost centre for research into food, land use and climate change, it was revealed yesterday. The merger of the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) in Invergowrie, near Dundee, and the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (MLRI) in Aberdeen is aimed at establishing the unified centre as a "powerhouse" for environmental research and the first institute of its kind in Europe. More

The Scotsman, 7 October 2009

Hunger for biofuels will gobble up wheat surplus
Britain’s self-sufficiency in wheat will end next year, because a giant new biofuel refinery needs so much of the staple crop that home-grown supplies will be exhausted feeding both the factory and the nation.

The £300 million plant at Wilton, on Teesside, which is due to open this autumn, will be the largest bioethanol refinery in Europe and will consume a tenth of the country’s annual harvest, more than the national surplus. More

The Times, 6 October 2009

New arable group formed to “revitalise crop R&D”
NIAB and The Arable Group (TAG) are teaming up to create a new force in the crop research market. The move is said to “bring together the resources needed to support the development of improved crop varieties and inputs, to evaluate their performance and - through applied agronomy research and farmer communication - to ensure the benefits are transferred effectively into practical agriculture”. More

Farm Business, 1 October 2009

Science holds key to feeding the world - UN agency
World governments will have to invest more in research and development if farming is to be able to increase production enough to feed an expanded global population, a new paper from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation concludes. Its headline finding is that producing more food will largely depend on increasing crop yields, not farming more land.

The paper has been prepared for presentation to a top-level conference on feeding the world in 2050, being held in Rome in October (12-13) which in turn is aimed at preparing the ground for the World Summit on Food Security from 16 to 18 November. More

Farm Business, 25 September 2009

New pesticide rules could wreck hopes of boosting food production
EU ministers have been accused of jeopardising efforts to raise food production in the face of a massively rising world population. The Crop Protection Association said today (Fri) that as UN leaders were calling for a 70% increase in agricultural productivity by 2050, the EU Council of Ministers was adopting new pesticide regulations which would seriously undermine European farmers' ability to respond.

The new Pesticide Authorisation Regulation, which has been the subject of intense lobbying by the industry over its impact on availability of plan protection products, will switch the approval of pesticides away from the current approach, based on assessment of risk, to the use of hazard-based 'cut-off' criteria.

Farm Business, 25 September 2009

DEFRA report targets soil protection
DEFRA has announced new guidelines for protecting and improving soils to meet rising demands for food and to combat climate change. The report, Safeguarding our Soil (SOS), outlined government plans to prevent further erosion of agricultural soils, reduce the rate of soil carbon loss and increase organic matter content. More

Farmers Weekly, 24 September 2009

Livestock vital in fight against climate change
A leading scientist has issued a robust rebuttal to those who claim livestock are the biggest contributors to climate change. Dr David Garwes, an independent livestock scientist, said grassland farmers made a considerable contribution to food security while continuing to reduce their environmental impact.

His report, released by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE), added livestock farmers made an important contribution in the fight against climate change. In his report, Reducing Emissions from Livestock, Dr Garwes also urged consumers not to abandon meat eating.

Dr Garwes said: “More than 60 per cent of British agricultural land is grassland and much of it, particularly the hills and uplands, is unsuitable for other crops. Semi-permanent rough grazing and improved grasslands play a vital role in locking up carbon dioxide and regulating the flow of rain into water courses. Without livestock farming, those natural resources would be abandoned and the landscape would soon change beyond recognition.” More

Farmers Guardian, 22 September 2009

Barroso pledges to create European Chief Scientist role
Europe is finally to get a Chief Scientist with a brief to provide advice across the Commission. José Manuel Barroso made the pledge to newly elected Members of the European Parliament in Strasburg on Tuesday, as they met to rubber-stamp the renewal of his presidency.

As he wooed MEPs with promises of a “transformational agenda for Europe” based on a “special partnership between the Parliament and the Commission,” Barroso also promised some concrete moves, including a “fundamental review” of the way European institutions access and use scientific advice.

“In the next Commission, I want to set up a chief scientific adviser who has the power to deliver proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery,” he said. Barroso added that this underlines “the central importance” that he attaches to research and innovation.

Science Business, 17 September 2009

GM engagement project chair announced
At today's Agency open Board meeting, Tim Smith, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency, announced that Professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde, is to chair the independent steering group that will advise the Agency on its forthcoming consumer engagement work on genetic modification (GM). Professor Curtice has considerable experience in conducting research into social and political attitudes.

The Agency has been asked by the Government to lead a dialogue project to explore the subject of GM with consumers. This project will provide an opportunity to discuss with consumers their understanding of GM and what they think it might bring in terms of risks and benefits. It will also explore how people can be helped to make informed choices about the food they eat.

Food Standards Agency, 16 September 2009

Benn’s food policy advisors target fruit and veg
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn’s team of food policy advisers have told him the country needs more home-grown fruit and vegetables. The fledgling Council of Food Policy Advisers, made up of industry leaders from across the food chain, also told Mr Benn to define a ‘sustainable diet’ and increase the Government’s food procurement programme.

In its first report to Mr Benn since its formation late last year, the Council, which is meant to advise Mr Benn on all aspects of food policy, said ‘a strategy for increasing consumption and domestic production of fruit and vegetables’ was a top priority. More

Farmers Guardian, 15 September 2009

Agriculture pioneer Borlaug dies
Norman Borlaug, the man known as the father of the Green Revolution in agriculture, has died in the US state of Texas aged 95. Prof Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for agricultural innovation and the development of high-yield crops.

The Green Revolution helped world food production more than double between 1960 and 1990 with Asia, Africa and Latin America in particular benefiting. The Nobel Institute said he had helped save hundreds of millions of lives.

BBC News, 13 September 2009

Wheat modified with selenium will make healthy bread, say scientists
Britain would be healthier if wheat farms were treated with an important mineral to produce more nutritious bread, scientists have claimed. Crops in Britain have never been altered for human health reasons in this manner, but Professor Steve McGrath, of Rothamsted Research, said that adding selenium to fertilisers would have a wide range of health benefits. More

The Times, 10 September 2009

Aphids to be targeted by pesticides based on genetic research
They ravage gardens and threaten some of the world’s leading food crops — but aphids could finally have met their match. Plans to sequence the insect’s genome will allow the creation of tailored pesticides that do not harm bees and other more welcome animals. Even organic farmers could eventually benefit as related research points to ways of warding off greenfly without the need to resort to pesticides, said Professor Lin Field of Rothamsted Research. More

The Times, 9 September 2009

Feed crisis looms unless GM rules are relaxed, EU told
Livestock farmers face a feed crisis unless the European Union relaxes strict import rules on genetically-modified crops, Europe's agricultural commissioner has warned. Mariann Fischer Boel said member states must stop blocking GMs to offer a lifeline to dairy and pig producers, who face high prices for non-GM feed. Speaking at the Farm Council, Mrs Fischer Boel said member states should speed up approvals of unauthorised GMs to avoid imports of soya being blocked. More

Farmers Weekly, 9 September 2009

Tesco monitors cow burps to cut greenhouse gases
A herd of 200 Holstein cows has been fitted with ‘burp microphones’ to assess levels of methane in cow’s diets. The Dairy Centre for Excellence in Merseyside, Liverpool, is conducting experiments to see whether different feeds can cut methane and gas emissions. The rumination collars, which are fitted with motion sensors, transfer information each hour by picking up stomach sounds and providing the farm’s computer with essential data on the cow’s digestion. More

Farmers Weekly, 8 September 2009

Pioneering research gives hope for food security
Cereals able to make their own nitrogen could become a reality after a scientific breakthrough in root nodule research. Cereal crop production could be revolutionised if a project to produce nitrogen-fixing non-legumes is successful. Scientists at the John Innes Centre, Norwich and Washington State University, USA, are researching the possibility of growing root nodules, a key element of the nitrogen fixing process, on non-legume crops such as wheat, rice and maize. If achieved, the technology could allow these crops to convert inert atmospheric nitrogen into organic compounds for growth, says Giles Oldroyd, research leader. More

Crops, 8 September 2009

Food talks focus on crop genetics
Understanding the impact of crop genetics on the environment is essential to future food security, delegates in Dundee will hear. Scientists from across the world are gathering in the city to discuss the challenges faced by producers as the climate changes. Among the issues raised will be the use of genetic modification to guard against potato crop diseases. More

BBC News, 2 September 2009

Leading article: We need an honest debate on GM
The news – which The Independent discloses today – that supermarkets fear they may run out of food free of genetic modification – is certain to alarm sections of the environmentalist movement. Opponents of GM food will suspect that the Government and the supermarket chains are teaming up to overturn the latter's decade-long ban on the sale of GM foods by claiming the ban has now become unsustainable.

It is no secret that some supermarket bosses want to see the ban ended and believe they caved in on the use of GM foods too quickly in response to public opposition. But the claims being advanced by the big grocers cannot be shrugged aside, above all their insistence that as sourcing GM-free foods becomes more difficult, the price of such foods has risen already by about 20 per cent. More

The Independent, 1 September 2009

Scientist warns over farm greenhouse emissions
Farmers must stop squabbling over whether organic or conventional agriculture is most environmentally friendly, a leading scientist has warned. Professor Ian Crute said it was vital to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all types of agriculture. "The notion that somehow or another this is a case of organic farming good, conventional farming bad, doesn't really get us anywhere," he said.

The former director of Rothamsted Research made the comments as he prepared to take on a new role as the first chief scientist at the Agricultural and Horticultural Development board. He starts in the post on 2 September.

Farmers Weekly, 28 August 2009

Food supplies at risk from price speculation, warns expert
The world food market is still “seriously exposed” to speculators artificially driving up prices and worsening the risks of malnutrition, according to one of the world’s leading agricultural researchers.

Linking the recent food and financial crises, Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), warned that the world was at risk of a new panic over grain unless commodity markets were more tightly regulated and production expanded. More

The Guardian, 20 August 2009

Animal feed supply danger if EU sticks to GM rules
A new report from DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency warns that if the EU continues with its policy of banning animal feed imports containing GM soya varieties not approved for use in the EU - or unless the approvals process is speeded up dramatically - there is a significant danger of a catastrophic feed shortage. That, says the report, could push up feed prices by up to 300% and make meat and milk production in the UK totally uneconomic.

The major sticking point with GMs in the EU is perceived consumer opposition which is being used by some member state governments as a reason to block any GM approvals wherever possible, resulting in long delays before the varieties are eventually rubber-stamped by the European Commission.

Farm Business, 19 August 2009

GM crop imports should be increased, say ministers and farmers
More genetically-modified crops used to feed pigs, poultry and dairy cattle could be imported into Britain to meet the demand for animal feed. Ministers are pressing the European Commission to speed up approval of GM crop varieties or risk a collapse in the market for home-produced chicken, eggs, pork and milk.

Farmers have warned that unless they can feed their pigs and poultry on GM soya and maize varieties being grown in North and South America — but which are currently unlicensed for use in Europe — they may be forced to leave the industry. More

The Times, 11 August 2009

UK food research 'needs a boost'
The world's food production needs to double by 2050 to feed the world's growing population. But over this period, climate change, reduced access to water and changing land use are likely to make growing crops harder rather than easier.

Scientists are trying to find new ways of using fewer resources to produce more food. Dr Chris Atkinson, head of science at East Malling Research in Kent, UK, said that in the next few years the UK would not be able to rely on imports of cheap food.

BBC News, 10 August 2009

Radical rethink of food production required
The UK will need to change the way food is produced and processed so that we continue to enjoy healthy affordable food in the decades ahead, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn said today as he published the country’s first food security assessment. The assessment shows that the UK is doing well in many areas which make up a secure and sustainable food system, such as a diverse food supply, which includes UK production, and a strong distribution system.

The challenges will be to ensure the sustainability of the UK’s food supply. In particular we will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to a changing climate here and overseas that will affect what food can be grown and where and how it can be grown.

Defra Press Release, 10 August 2009

Fertiliser use must be greener, farmers told
Fertiliser must be produced and applied in a more environmentally friendly way, according to the International Fertiliser Industry Association. In a white paper published this week (28 July), the IFIA studied the impact of fertiliser use on climate change and outlined a series of guidelines for sustainable production, transport and use.

According to the report, Fertilisers, Climate Change and Enhancing Productivity Sustainably, fertiliser production accounted for just 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while nitrogen fertilisers contributed to feeding about half the world's population.

Farmers Weekly, 29 July 2009

Organic ‘has no health benefits’
Organic food is no healthier than ordinary food, a large independent review has concluded. There is little difference in nutritional value and no evidence of any extra health benefits from eating organic produce, UK researchers found.

The Food Standards Agency who commissioned the report said the findings would help people make an "informed choice". But the Soil Association criticised the study and called for better research. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at all the evidence on nutrition and health benefits from the past 50 years.

BBC News, 29 July 2009

£100m Pirbright redevelopment to go ahead
A MAJOR redevelopment of the Pirbright laboratories will now go ahead, after the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills agreed to a £100 million funding package. The development plans for the site, shared by the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) and Merial Animal Health, appeared to be in doubt earlier this year after it emerged Defra would not be providing the funding.

But talks about the development continued between site owner Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and DBIS. This culminated in an announcement today (Monday, July 27), that the Department had approved the IAH redevelopment, which it said would provide ‘world class facilities for research into animal health’ at the Surrey site.

Farmers Guardian, 27 July 2009

Imported food could be greener than local, says DEFRA
Imported food from Brazil and New Zealand could have less impact on the environment than food produced in the UK, a DEFRA-funded study has claimed. Researchers from Cranfield University found Spanish strawberries and tomatoes and lamb from New Zealand could be more environmentally-friendly than the same food produced in the UK. The £161,000, two-year Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Food Commodities report suggests the "food miles" argument, which advocated locally-produced food over produce transported over great distances, is often flawed. More

Farmers Weekly, 27 July 2009

Invest £100m or risk food shortages, DEFRA told
DEFRA must invest £100m in agricultural research if the UK is going to meet its "moral obligation" to increase food production, according to an influential committee of MPs. In a report on food security, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said an "urgent increase" in spending on food and farming research was needed if the UK was to help secure global food supplies. Without it, the government risked spiralling food prices and shortages, it added. More

Farmers Weekly, 21 July 2009

Government has ‘moral obligation’ to support UK farming – MPs say
An influential committee of MPs has told the Government it has a ‘moral obligation’ to support food production in the UK. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee says the UK ‘can play a leading role’ in securing global food supplies up 2050, by when world food output will need to have doubled to meet demand.

In a report published on Tuesday, it calls for an ‘urgent increase’ of £100 million in spending on public sector food and farming research to tackle ‘existing weaknesses in the UK food system’. The committee urges the Government to ensure the UK to make the most of its temperate climate and the natural advantages this gives it for producing food.

Farmers Guardian, 21 July 2009

Global warming means continental crops could take root in
Britain by 2030
Olives, dates and figs could become common in Britain within 20 years as global warming improves growing conditions for subtropical crops. A report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), suggests there could be unexpected benefits to climate change with exotic fruits and vegetables thriving. But native species, such as potatoes could suffer as average temperatures rise by around 2C by 2030. More

Daily Telegraph, 20 July 2009

Renewable fuels strategy is opportunity for farming
The government's long-awaited Renewable Energy Strategy, published this week, provides significant opportunities and challenges for the agri-food sector. The document forms a key part of the Department for Energy and Climate Change's 228-page Low Carbon Transition Plan and sets out how the UK government proposes to meet its ambitious target to source 15% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020. More

Farmers Weekly, 18 July 2009

Government calls for voluntary plan to cut emissions in farming
THE Government has called for a six per cent cut in carbon emissions in agriculture as it published its landmark strategy to combat climate change. The Low Carbon Transition Plan sets out a series of ambitious targets across almost all sectors of the economy and calls for the development of a voluntary plan to cut emissions in farming.

It marks the latest move towards achieving its targets of reducing carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050. The strategy identifies agriculture as an area where some five per cent of its total carbon cuts can be achieved by 2020. More

Farmers Guardian, 16 July 2009

Pesticide ban appraisal "a wasted opportunity"
A factsheet for MPs detailing the impact of new EU pesticide controls on the industry concentrates too much on how other pest control methods will be able to fill the gap in growers armouries when key pesticides are lost. The factsheet, from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, concedes that the EU regulations are potentially damaging and the Crop protection Association has at least welcomed that. But it is concerned that the factsheet "over-emphasises the role of other pest control strategies in compensating for the loss of vital crop protection products".

"Crop rotation, cultivation, biological control and selection of resistant varieties are already widely used alongside crop protection products as part of an integrated approach to crop production," said CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer.

Farm Business, 13 July 2009

Vets call for badger culling to control TB
The government's control strategy for bovine tuberculosis is inadequate and badger culling must be introduced to tackle the disease, veterinary surgeons have agreed. The British Veterinary Association and British Cattle Veterinary Association announced that members of both bodies had agreed a revised policy at their council meeting on 8 July.

A statement from the council said that the BVA had updated its TB policy to more strongly state the case for humane, targeted and managed culling in specific areas where badgers are regarded as a significant contributor to the persistent presence of TB.

Farmers Weekly, 10 July 2009

Scottish barley research probes yield factors
The possibility of significantly increasing barley yields using the latest genetic technology is under investigation at the Scottish Crop Research Institute. Working with partners including the Scottish Agricultural College, the institute is using genome sequencing to identify genes which have the potential to boost yields by 0.6 tonnes/ha.

Director and chief executive at SCRI, Prof Peter Gregory said the institute's world-class research group on barley genetics had helped developed a genetics platform that allowed identification of genes that controlled many plant characteristics.

Farm Business, 9 July 2009

G8 countries shift from food aid to investing in agriculture
The G8 countries are shifting their focus from providing food aid to creating long-term investments in farming in the developed world, in an attempt to combat the growing global food crisis.

This week the group will announce more than $12bn for agricultural development over the next three years as part of a "food security initiative". Most of the money for the project will come from the US and Japan, who will spend $3bn-$4bn each with the rest coming from Europe and Canada. Officials said it would more than triple spending. More

Daily Telegraph, 7 July 2009

Judges back DEFRA pesticide appeal
DEFRA has succeeded in its appeal against a High Court judgement which backed the campaign against pesticide spraying mounted by Georgina Downs. The Court of Appeal today (Tue) unanimously ruled in favour of the department and also declared that Ms Downs will not be given the right of a further appeal to the House of Lords.

The case centred round the rights of farmers to spray near other people's property, with Ms Downs and her neighbours claming a catalogue of illnesses caused by crop spraying near their homes at Chichester, West Sussex.

Farm Business, 7 July 2009

EU scientific authority says GM maize is safe
The European Union's top scientific authority pushed aside doubts raised by several member states on Tuesday as it concluded that MON810, the only genetically modified maize cultivated in Europe, was as safe as traditional corn crops. The opinion, issued by the European Food Safety Authority, marked the culmination of a politically charged review that has laid bare divisions among EU member states and government bodies over genetically modified foods.

It should clear the way for the European Commission to re-authorise MON810, which is produced by Monsanto, the US agribusiness, and was first approved for use in Europe for a 10-year period in 1998. It could also undermine bans imposed on the product in six member states, including France and Germany, where governments cited possible health and environmental dangers. More

Financial Times, 1 July 2009

Announcement of plans for tight regulation of GM crops in Wales
Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has published today (30 June) proposed measures to protect farmers of traditional and conventional crops from the possible economic disadvantages of accidental contamination from GM crops.

The measures are published in the document “Consultation on Proposals for Managing the Coexistence of GM, Conventional and Organic Crops in Wales”. Views are being sought on proposals including the imposition of strict liability on GM crop growers, a statutory redress mechanism, GM-free zones and a prohibition on GM crop cultivation in National Parks and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Welsh Assembly Government, 30 June 2009

New research centre will harness DNA for agriculture
A research centre dedicated to decoding and harnessing the DNA of plants and animals used in agriculture will open in Norwich on Friday. Hoped-for breakthroughs that will be sought at the BBSRC centre will include drought tolerance in farm crops and disease resistance in livestock, including bluetongue.

The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) will also look at more sustainable biofuels and vegetables which express compounds which may reduce the incidence of some cancers.

Farm Business, 30 June 200

Cows that burp less methane to be bred
A cow that burps less is being bred by Canadian scientists in an attempt to reduce the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Cows are responsible for nearly three-quarters of total methane emissions, with most of the gases coming from burps which are 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Stephen Moore, a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, is examining the genes responsible for methane produced from a cow's four stomachs in order to breed more efficient, environmentally friendly cows. More

Daily Telegraph, 24 Jun 2009

1.02 billion people hungry
One sixth of humanity undernourished - more than ever before
World hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009 with 1 020 million people going hungry every day, according to new estimates published by FAO today. The most recent increase in hunger is not the consequence of poor global harvests but is caused by the world economic crisis that has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment. This has reduced access to food by the poor, the UN agency said.. More

FAO, 19 June 2009

Benn opens new state-of-the-art Defra research facility
A NEW state-of-the-art research facility intended to boost Defra’s food, farming and environmental research programme has been launched by Hilary Benn. The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) facility, located in Sand Hutton, near York, brings together several parts of Defra’s science programme. It combines the Department’s Central Science Laboratory, Plant Health Division, Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate and the Plant Variety Rights Office and Seeds Division and UK Government Decontamination Service into one agency.

Mr Benn, the Defra Secretary, said the new facility would ‘significantly strengthen’ Defra’s work in plant and crop protection, food chain safety, environmental risk assessment and crisis response. It would also promote better integration between policy development, scientific evidence and inspection services. More

Farmers Guardian, 16 June 2009

'Naked' barley could mean Welsh cereal opportunities
THE wet and windy climate of Wales has always posed extra challenges to growing cereal crops – but a ‘naked’ barley from Tibet could well provide some of the answers. Increased feed costs have generated more interest in growing cereals in Wales as input costs have risen sharply, grain markets become volatile and cash flow is under severe pressure in the tough economic climate.

Pesticide and water quality legislation could also restrict the use of several key plant protection chemicals and the effects of climate change could present yet more challenges. But despite the challenges, innovative research work at Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities is helping to realise the significant opportunities that cereals can provide for Wales. More

Farmers Guardian, 15 June 2009

Crop research funding gap must be plugged say plant breeders
Government must spend more to ensure the fruits of "blue skies" agricultural research into plants do not rot unused, warned the BSPB. At least £20m a year was needed to help those fruits ripen commercially, estimated chairman Thomas Joliffe. The reason was a serious imbalance between the funding of basic plant science and support for translating its findings into useful crops and varieties. Dr Joliffe warned that without extra investment much valuable research to help address politicians' new found but welcome concerns about food security risked never seeing the light of day other than in scientific papers. More

Farmers Weekly, 10 June 2009

Bumblebee rescue mission to help maintain food supplies
THE short-haired bumblebee is to be re-introduced to the British countryside a decade after it became extinct, Natural England has announced. A spokesman for Natural England said Bumblebee numbers had declined so significantly in recent years that drastic action was called for. Pollination is essential for the survival of many agricultural crops and it is estimated bees help contribute up to £200 million to the agricultural economy every year. More

Farmers Guardian, 4 June 2009

Food security in the research spotlight
The direction that agri-food research should take to tackle food security issues has been put up for industry consultation by main funding organisation the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. BBSRC says research will play a vital role in finding solutions to "the preventable food security crisis" being created by an inexorably growing population, global harvests threatened by climate change, the very real threat of exotic and endemic animal disease and the global economic downturn disrupting the flow of trade. More

Farm Business, 27 May 2009

Beef industry research sadly lacking
The UK beef industry is in danger of stagnating because of a long-term lack of funding for practical research and knowledge transfer, according to Richard Fuller, chairman of NBA's technical committee. "Too little has been spent on research in recent years and even less has been allocated for spending in the future, meaning the industry is failing to keep up with its counterparts worldwide." More

Farmers Weekly, 27 May 2009

Healthy eating alters landscape
More healthy eating habits would dramatically alter the face of the British landscape, research suggests. Health officials recommend eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. But the University of Reading study suggests if everyone did so, the UK would need 100,000 hectares of polytunnels to meet demand for fruit. And following advice to eat less red meat and dairy products would mean 1.5m fewer cattle were needed, which would lead to large areas not being grazed. More

BBC News, 20 May 2009

Growers in U.S., Canada, Australia back GMO wheat
Farm groups from the world's top wheat-exporting nations on Thursday said they had reached an agreement to support a "synchronized" commercialization of biotech traits in wheat. Though any market roll-out of a genetically altered wheat would be years away, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) said Thursday it had signed up grain growers in Canada and Australia in a deal that would align the nations against any international backlash if and when a biotech wheat was introduced. The united front also was intended as an invitation to biotech companies to push forward with biotech wheat development. More

Reuters, 14 May 200

Merger planned to create national crop centre
A merger between NIAB and The Arable Group which would create a national, independent centre for applied crop research, is on the cards. The two sides said today (Thur) that negotiations are at an advanced stage and both believed a merged operation, focused on the needs of progressive arable farmers, would provide "an unrivalled source of high quality, unbiased research and information, offering expertise and services along the length of the seed, variety and crop protection development pipelines". More

Farm Business, 14 May 2009

Food production is key to tackling climate change
Sustainable food production is vital if global challenges of population growth and climate change are going to be tackled effectively.

Speaking at a meeting between ministers from the devolved governments in Edinburgh on Monday (11 May), Defra food and farming minister Jane Kennedy said it was vital the governments worked together to find sustainable ways to produce food. More

Farmers Weekly, 12 May 2009

UK attacks European pesticide rules
New rules banning pesticides would seriously damage the UK’s agricultural output, the government said on Thursday in an outspoken attack on European plans. Hilary Benn, secretary of state for environment and rural affairs, told a committee of MPs that the pesticides ban, voted in by the European Parliament earlier this year, would be a “serious problem” for British farmers. He said: “These regulations could hit agricultural production in the UK for no recognisable benefit to human health.” The government estimates that agricultural yields could decline by up to 30 per cent as a result of the ban. More

Financial Times, 7 May 2009

Agricultural science key to feeding world
Intensive agriculture backed by science is the key to feeding a burgeoning world population. That is the view of Professor Quintin McKellar, dean of the Royal Veterinary College. Speaking at the Royal Society for Arts president's lecture, chaired by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prof McKellar said: "There will be 9.3bn people by 2050. We have to double output of meat and milk with the same environmental footprint." In his lecture titled "How can milk cost less than water?" Professor McKellar said he believed the "only way to do it is through intensification... by utilising science." More

Farmers Weekly, 6 May 2009

Science cash 'to beat food riots'
Food riots are a real threat in some developing and emerging countries unless funds for agricultural research are increased, says a UK scientist. Prof Douglas Kell says investment in the UK alone needs to be increased by £100m if farmers are to produce sufficient food to meet global demand.

"This is happening now," he told BBC News. "Last year, in Indonesia and Mexico, there were food riots." Prof Kell leads the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. He envisages further unrest if there is not a major effort to develop agricultural science.

BBC News, 27 April 2009

Scottish government refuses to 'take risks over GMs'
The Scottish government's anti-GM stance has been unequivocally re-affirmed by the country's new environment minister, Roseanna Cunningham. Ms Cunningham told an international conference in Switzerland that Scotland would "stand shoulder-to-shoulder" with other nations opposed to the technology and fight for what she believed the people wanted. More

Farmers Weekly, 27 April 2009

Global pigmeat imports tightened after swine flu outbreak
Governments across the world are considering tightening rules on pork imports after a deadly outbreak of swine flu killed at least 81 people in Mexico. Despite global health officials insisting pork is safe to eat, governments are reported to have increased screening of pigs and pork products being imported from the Americas. More

The Guardian, 20 April 2009

Summit agrees to study common food stocks, mainly cereals
G8 farm ministers urged on Monday that more food be grown to feed the world's hungry, but champions of the poor bemoaned a lack of concrete measures from the three-day meeting.

The ministers denounced protectionism in farming, stressed the importance of a rules-based international system for farm trade, pledged to look at price volatility in commodity markets and also requested a study into coordinated commodity stocks. More

The Guardian, 20 April 2009

New Study: Governments Prolonging Global Food Crisis
London – Agriculture ministers from the Group of Eight (G-8) and major developing nations will meet in Italy this weekend to offer government solutions to the world’s food crisis. But a new IPN study – “Feed the World” – written by agricultural economist Douglas Southgate shows that governments were the primary cause of the crisis, which began in 2007. Government policies have prolonged the crisis, particularly affecting the world’s poorest people.

Study author Professor Southgate, of Ohio State University, said that governments’ responses – such as bans on food exports in emerging economies, coddling of biofuels development and needless restrictions on agricultural biotechnology – have made the food crisis worse. He added: “Meddling by politicians makes food more expensive for millions of the world’s hungry. It is a wholly preventable tragedy. That is just unacceptable.” (The World Bank says that 28 countries still maintain export bans on agricultural goods.) More

International Policy Network, 17 April 2009

Scrapie cases down 40%
Scrapie control programmes have slashed the number of scrapie-infected sheep by 40% since 2003, according to new research. Data provided by the VLA for The Institute of Anumal Health found from clinical investigations of healthy animals over 18 months old slaughtered for human consumption and all animals over 18 months found dead on farm, the number of scrapie cases fell by about 40% between 2003 and 2007. More

Farmers Weekly, 14 April 2009

Germany to ban cultivation of GMO maize – Minister
Germany is to ban cultivation and sale of maize with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said on Tuesday. The ban affects MON 810 maize which may no longer be sown for this summer's harvest, Aigner told a news conference. More

Reuters, 14 April 2009

Impending skills shortage in agricultural science puts world food supply at risk
Low numbers of UK students and researchers working in the agricultural sciences mean that we may not have the resources needed to ensure sufficient food-crop production across the globe in the near future. The warning comes from the Royal Society which is conducting a major study exploring how science can enhance global food-crop production. More

Royal Society, 7 April 2009

World faces lasting food crisis and instability, warns G8 report
The world faces a permanent food crisis and global instability unless countries act now to feed a surging population by doubling agricultural output, a report drafted for ministers of the Group of Eight nations has warned. The policy document, prepared by the G8's Italian presidency for the group's first ministerial meeting on agriculture and seen by the Financial Times, says "immediate interventions" are needed. It warns that global agriculture production must double by 2050 for the world's fast-growing population to have enough to eat and to deal with the effects of climate change. Otherwise, the report says, the food crisis of the past two years in much of the world "will become structural in only a few decades". More

Financial Times, 7 April 2009

Royal Show to be last in its 160-year history
This year's Royal Show will be the last in its 160-year history as it succumbs to economic pressures, organisers announced yesterday. The Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) said the event was no longer economically viable and would not continue in its present form after this year. The annual agricultural show has been hit in recent years by the foot-and-mouth disaster in 2001, the wet summer and flooding in 2007 and the arrival of bluetongue disease in Britain. More

Daily Telegraph, 4 April 2009

Experts warn of major UK water shortage
FARMERS could soon be facing a major water shortage that could leave the country unable to grow enough food to feed a growing population, leading hydrologists have warned. With food security now high on the political agenda, experts have warned water shortages could become a major limiting factor in efforts to boost production. The stark warnings came as the Environment Agency (EA) published a new plan to tackle future water shortages, warning demand for water could increase by 25 per cent by 2020. More

Farmers Guardian, 31 March 2009

Fish oils reduce greenhouse emissions from 'flatulent cows'
Cattle produce large amounts of methane as they digest their food and then belch out most of it through their mouths. A herd of 200 cows can produce annual emissions of methane roughly equivalent in energy terms to driving a family car more than 100,000 miles (180,000km) on more than four gallons (21,400 litres) of petrol. Researchers from University College Dublin found however, by adding two per cent of fish oil to the animal's feed the amount of methane is reduced by around a fifth. More

Daily Telegraph, 30 March 2009

GM can safeguard the environment
Worldwide use of pest-resistant genetically modified crops (GM) has reduced pesticide use by nearly 300 million kg equivalent to the EU's entire yearly usage of sprays. Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture yesterday (Tuesday, March 24), agricultural economist Graham Brookes said after 11 years of widespread use, GM crops had done more to help protect the environment than any other single technology. More

Farmers Guardian, 25 March, 2009

'Stem rust' fungus threatens global wheat harvest
The world's leading crop scientists issued a stark warning that a deadly airborne fungus could devastate wheat harvests in poor countries and lead to famines and civil unrest over significant regions of central Asia and Africa. Ug99 — so called because it was first seen in Uganda in 1999 — is a new variety of an old crop disease called "stem rust", which has already spread on the wind from Africa to Iran. It is particularly alarming because it can infect crops in just a few hours and vast clouds of invisible spores can be carried by the wind for hundreds of miles. More

The Guardian, 20 March 2009

Global crisis 'to strike by 2030'
Growing world population will cause a "perfect storm" of food, energy and water shortages by 2030, the UK government chief scientist is warning. By 2030 the demand for resources will create a crisis with dire consequences, Prof John Beddington predicts. Demand for food and energy will jump 50% by 2030 and for fresh water by 30%, as the population tops 8.3 billion, he is due to tell a conference in London. More

BBC News, 19 March 2009

Government accused of failing to invest in agriculture
Liberal Democrat DEFRA spokesman Tim Farron has accused the department of neglecting the farming industry and undermining the hard work of farmers across the UK. He says he has unearthed figures which reveal a decline in the amount of Government funding allocated to improving the UK's food security.

They show, says Mr Farron, that the amount of funding allocated by DEFRA for research into sustainable farming and food has decreased by more than 25% in just four years, while over the same period of time, the amount of money given for research into animal health has declined by 10%. More

Farm Business, 17 March 2009

Lupins may be facing a bright future
A five-year project aimed at assessing whether lupins can become a viable source of home-grown protein for livestock feed, is almost complete and the first results are due to be announced. The LISA project involves researchers from both the livestock and arable sectors and if successful could avoid Britain importing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of soya each year. Feeding trials from a variety of sources have concluded that lupins can be used as a direct replacement for soya meal, thanks to high crude protein (CP) levels of 30-40%. More

Farm Business, 16 March 2009

Farm-scale biogas needs more support
More government support should be directed towards farm-scale biogas schemes, rather than large commercial projects, says the Renewable Energy Association

Just 15 biogas plants are currently operational in the UK. If the DEFRA target of 1000 by 2020 is to be met, the government must provide more incentive for smaller-scale farm systems, the REA's David Collins said. "The government is conscious of energy security and meeting energy targets and has been too concerned with megawatts. Most of the funding so far has gone to big plants."

Farmers Weekly, 10 March 2009

National bans on GM crops can stay, say EU ministers
National bans on two genetically modified maize varieties are to continue in Austria and Hungary, brining into question the effectiveness of the whole EU approvals process. Environment ministers from all 27 EU member states this week rejected an attempt by the EU Commission to force these two countries to lift their bans on Monsanto's Mon810 - the only GM maize currently approved for cultivation in the EU. The bans in Austria and Hungary were put in place in 2005, and the EU commission last year tabled proposals to overturn them, insisting that there were no human or environmental dangers to justify them. More

Farmers Weekly, 4 March 2009

Tesco slams Defra over research cuts
TESCO director Lucy Neville-Rolfe has criticised Defra for letting spending on research and development slide when food production needs to increase. Ms Neville-Rolfe made her comments to MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee yesterday (Wednesday, February 25) as they grilled her on how to secure food supplies up to 2050. “Public funding into research and development has fallen back by some 45 per cent over the last few decades – that is a pity because the challenge we have is to produce more food,” she said. More

Farmers Guardian, 26 February 2009

Tighter Wales GM rules unveiled
Plans to tighten up rules on the planting of genetically modified crops in Wales have been announced by Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones. She told AMs that "co-existence" regulations between GM, conventional and organic crops should be tougher in keeping with a "precautionary approach". The assembly government cannot ban the planting of approved GM crops but can make regulations to stop contamination. More

BBC News, 24 February 2009

Feed may be the route to cutting human heart disease
Changing the feeding regimes of dairy cows can do just as much good for human health as reducing consumption, new research suggests. University of Reading researchers in the Nutritional Sciences Research Unit have found that the saturated fat content of milk can be reduced by as much as 22% simply by manipulating diets. They say this would lead to a reduction in the amount of saturated fat in normal diets, and in turn lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. More

Farm Business, 23 February 2009

New plan for converting organic waste into energy
A task force to manage the setting up of a biogas network to provide heat and power for more than two million homes using organic waste has been announced by DEFRA. The group will aim to deliver a plan which will see excess manure and slurry from farms as well as 12 million tonnes of food waste put through digesters to produce biogas. More

Farm Business, 17 February 2009

Call for £6m fund to research bee deaths
Urgent research is needed to save bee colonies in the UK that are being devastated by mystery diseases, beekeepers said yesterday. Deaths of honey bees almost doubled last winter leading to the loss of one in three of the country's colonies.

Bees are responsible for pollinating up to one-third of the food grown in this country but their numbers are in such decline that 80% of the honey sold in the UK has to be imported from abroad. More

The Herald, 17 February 2009

Government Food and Farming study takes shape
A new project that will examine how the world can feed a rapidly expanding population was launched today by Foresight, the Government Future's think tank.

By 2050 we will need food for a world population of up to nine billion - significantly up from current levels of around six and a half billion. The project will ask how this many people can be fed healthily and sustainably as we adapt to a warming and less predictable climate.

DIUS Press release, 5 February 2009

U.K. Food Crisis Is ‘Not Unthinkable,’ Chatham House Says
A U.K. food crisis is “not unthinkable” in coming decades unless the government takes action to change consumption patterns and food-production methods, London-based research institute Chatham House said.

The global food system will come under pressure because of population growth, increased meat consumption, scarcity of energy, land, water and labour, as well as climate change, a group of researchers wrote in a report called “Food Futures: Rethinking U.K. Strategy,” published today.

Bloomberg, 2 February 2009

Warning of 'food crunch' with prices poised to rise
The world faces "the real risk of a food crunch" if governments do not take immediate action to address the agricultural impact of climate change and water scarcity, according to an authoritative report out today.Chatham House, the London-based think-tank, suggests the recent fall in food prices is only temporary and that they are set to resume an upward trend once the world emerges from the current downturn.

"There is therefore a real risk of a 'food crunch' at some point in the future, which would fall particularly hard on import-dependent countries and on poor people everywhere," the report states. "Food prices are poised to rise again."

The warning is made as agriculture ministers and United Nations officials gather from today in Madrid for a UN meeting on food security that is likely to conclude that last year's food crisis, with almost 1bn people hungry, is far from over.

Financial Times, 26 January 2009

Call for move to food self-sufficiency
Farmers should be encouraged to make the country 100 per cent self-sufficient in food production, according to one of Britain’s leading businessmen, who says it would create jobs and reduce carbon emissions. In a letter to the Financial Times on Thursday, Sir Anthony Bamford, chairman and owner of JCB, the excavator manufacturer, says ministers are complacent about the decline in food self-sufficiency from 68 to 61 per cent in the past 10 years. More

Financial Times, 22 January 2009

£4.3m to be spent protecting bees
An extra £4.3 million will go to protecting bees and conducting research into the threats they face, the Government announced today. Bee colonies in Britain have suffered significant losses in the last two years, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Bees play an important role in agriculture, with the value of commercial crops that benefit from bee pollination estimated at £100 million to £200 million a year. Honey is worth some £10 million to £30 million. More

The Independent, 21 January 2009

Farms to take heat out of warming
Farmers could help curb rising global temperatures by selecting crop varieties that reflect solar energy back into space, researchers say. Scientists at Bristol University calculate that switching crops in North America and Europe could reduce global temperatures by about 0.1degrees C. More

BBC News, 16 January 2009

MEPs express concern over food security
Fresh investment in agriculture and greater price stability are needed to ensure food security, both in the EU and in the rest of the world, according to a new report adopted this week by the European Parliament in Strasbourg. While much of the report focuses on initiatives to bolster food production in developing countries, it also calls for "immediate and continual action to ensure food security for EU citizens". More

Farmers Weekly, 13 January 2009

New Food and Environment Research Agency launched
A new national research centre for food and the environment will strengthen Defra’s ground-breaking food, farming and environmental research programme, Farming Minister Jane Kennedy announced today. The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) will bring together Defra’s Central Science Laboratory, Plant Health Division, Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate and the Plant Variety Rights Office and Seeds Division as one agency. This will significantly strengthen Defra’s work in plant and crop protection, food chain safety, environmental risk assessment and crises response and promote better integration between policy development, scientific evidence and inspection services. More

Defra News Release, 14 January 2009

EU parliament votes by sweeping majority to ban farm pesticides
The European parliament today voted by a sweeping majority to tighten the use of pesticides in agriculture and to ban 22 treatments, a decision that critics say could wipe out British carrots. The British government and the Conservatives are against the legislation, but the ban and restrictions were carried by a vote of 577 to 61, putting pressure on the 27 EU member states to support the decision. More

The Guardian, 13 January 2009

Blight fears spark call for GM potato
A genetically modified variety of spud may have to be produced in Irish laboratories because of the growing threat from blight.

The fungal disease that wiped out the potato crop in the mid-19th century, causing more than 1m deaths, is posing a renewed menace after a more aggressive strain arrived, according to a leading scientist. This has prompted experts to intensify work, including using GM technology, to find a blight-resistant variety. Dr Ewen Mullins, a research officer with Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, said the risk of blight has become more serious in the past two years. More

The Times, 4 January 2009

Farming pesticide ban 'too far too fast'
A ban on the use of key pesticides in European farming goes too far too fast, it was warned today. The proposal has already been condemned by the National Farmers Union as risking a doubling in the price of vegetables. Now, as the European Parliament prepares for a crucial vote on the issue, an MEP says practical alternatives to some vital chemicals currently in use have not yet been fully developed. More

The Independent, 2 January 2009

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