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

Group News

VIDEO: MP hails agri-tech project

VIDEO: George Freeman MP explains the significance of the Agri-Tech Strategy

UK Agri-Tech Strategy published

22 July 2013


APPGSTA Annual Report 2011/12

December 2012


Progressive agriculture can still be sustainable, Farm Business article, November 2012


George Freeman MP hails £250m bio-economy boost

24 May 2012


House of Lords Debate -

Innovation in EU Agriculture

February 2012


APPGSTA Annual Report 2010/11

December 2011



Support for agricultural R&D is essential to deliver sustainable increases in UK food production, November 2010


2012 Archive


2011 Archive

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2009 Archive

2008 Archive

Science & Technology News


Step forward in quest for second generation biofuels

Researchers from the Department of Chemistry at York have discovered a family of enzymes that can degrade hard-to-digest biomass into its constituent sugars.

The scientists said their research could unlock the potential for 'second generation' biofuels – those which are not produced from agricultural crops. Within the EU, debate is raging over support for first generation biofuels, which do come from agricultural feed-stocks. more

Farming Online, 30 December 2013 

Britain advised to ignore EU and reap GM benefits

Britain is missing out on the benefits of genetically modified crops because of Europe’s “medieval” attitude towards the technology, the Environment Minister has said.

Owen Paterson told a parliamentary meeting this week that Europe was becoming “the museum of world farming” because Austria and France were blocking the cultivation of GM crops on European soil.

Despite GM products being consistently ruled as safe by the European regulator, “product after product goes through this rigorous process and then gets stuck at the political level where witchcraft is re-imposed,” he told the All-Party Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture this week. “Decisions are made on pure emotion and the science is ignored.” more

The Times, 21 December 2013 

Dramatic decline in industrial agriculture could herald 'peak food'

Industrial agriculture could be hitting fundamental limits in its capacity to produce sufficient crops to feed an expanding global population according to new research published in Nature Communications.

The study by scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln argues that there have been abrupt declines or plateaus in the rate of production of major crops which undermine optimistic projections of constantly increasing crop yields.

As much as "31% of total global rice, wheat and maize production" has experienced "yield plateaus or abrupt decreases in yield gain, including rice in eastern Asia and wheat in northwest Europe." more

The Guardian, 19 December 2013 

Cattle are top global livestock emitters

Cattle are the biggest source of greenhouse gases, accounting for more than three-quarters of all emissions from global livestock, a survey shows.

The assessment, described as the most detailed of its kind, identified Europe and the Americas as the world's epicentres of beef production.

Annually, the world produces 586m tonnes of milk, 124m tonnes of poultry and 59m tonnes of beef. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. more

BBC News, 17 December 2013 

£1m R&D funding for Sainsbury’s farmers

Sainsbury’s has announced that £1 million will be made available to its farmers and growers to drive research and development. According to the supermarket, over 700 of its farmers and suppliers stand to benefit from the grant

The money has been allocated to 14 projects, designed to improve animal health and welfare, efficiencies and supply chain resilience at field level, with others focusing on developing new products or processes which help to improve quality, taste and freshness.

The grant money comes from Sainsbury's Agricultural Research and Development fund, which has entered its second year; the fund aims to encourage farmers and growers to adopt leading-edge technologies and make use of research and innovations in farming. more

Farming Online, 16 December 2013

Rabobank Report: Holistic farming key to sustainability

A holistic long-term approach may be the key to introducing sustainability into the food and agriculture (F&A) equation, according to a new report from Rabobank.

This new approach will require a shift in farmers' focus away from yield maximisation and towards input optimisation. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and technological innovations tailored towards the specific issues within a farming category are pivotal to improving best practices, and impact the way farm input companies view their business models. more

World Poultry, 13 December 2013 

Agricultural supply industry backs neonicotinoid legal action

The agricultural supply industry is backing legal actions taken by two agrochemical companies against the suspension of neonicotinoid seed treatments.

The decision to suspend the use of products in flowering plants due to concerns over bee health, which came into force at the start of this month, is being challenged in the European courts by Syngenta and Bayer.  

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) has announced it intends to back the companies. It has engaged lawyers and seeks to become an ‘intervener’ in the two actions. more

Farmers Guardian, 11 December 2013  

Scientists’ warning over animal health testing

Cuts to farm animal health surveillance could risk new diseases going undetected and jeopardise public health, the Royal College of Pathologists has warned.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ plan to downsize its network of laboratories and cut animal post-mortems “puts at risk” the health of livestock, and means new and re-merging infections could be missed, it said. It could also hit consumer confidence in a livestock industry worth over £10billion, it warned.

Diseases may be transmitted to humans so the health risks are shared by the public, it said. It claimed DEFRA’s plans are not based on sound evidence and lack detail. more

East Anglian Daily Times, 9 December 2013

European Commission planning to ban pesticides in EFAs

The farming and agrochemical industries have urged the European Commission and Defra to refrain from ‘unnecessary restrictions on pesticide use’ as the CAP reforms are implemented.

Under CAP greening rules, nitrogen fixing crops will count towards Ecological Focus Areas. However, the European Commission is ‘fully committed’ to prohibiting pesticide use in EFAs, according to the Crop Protection Association.

CPA chief executive Nick von Westenholz said this was ‘typical of the sort of inflexible and overly prescriptive view of pesticide use that is hampering European farmers’ and urged Defra to recognise the ‘positive role pesticides can play in sustainable production’ as it implements the reforms. more

Farmers Guardian, 5 December 2013 

Plugging the future food gap relies heavily on slashing waste

Tackling food waste successfully will be critical to meet the world's growing food needs as new research proposes that the planet will need 70% more food to feed a global population of 9.6 billion in 2050. 

The study Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future - jointly produced by a number of organisations including the World Resources Institute (WRI) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - states that it is possible to close the food gap in a sustainable way, but that it relies on surmounting several challenges. 

One of these is to reduce excessive consumption by minimising food loss and waste - with 25% of calories from food grown for human consumption currently lost or wasted, this figure would need to be halved by 2050 to close 20% of the food gap. more, 4 December 2013 

Rothamsted unveils octocopter crop-monitoring drone

Rothamsted Research is investing in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology to monitor crops and crop experiments as part of its genetic improvement projects.

The research centre, based in Hertfordshire, has obtained the high performance radio remote-controlled "Octocopter" drone equipped with four distinct cameras. 

The custom-built equipment will enable data collection from experimental crop plots at each of the institute’s UK sites as well as at trial sites by collaborating organisations. more

Farmers Weekly, 2 December 2013 

Bayer boss slams EU approach on agri-tech

The European Union must avoid “non-science, knee-jerk reactions” that will only continue to discourage investment in European agricultural research, says the head of Bayer CropScience. Andrew Orme, Bayer’s UK managing director, said EU regulation must be informed by science to promote innovation and growth in agriculture, rather than stifling it for “no good reason”.

Speaking at a European Liberal Democrat conference in London this week, Mr Orme said: “Europe must stop looking inwards. We are a global society; a society that, by and large, understands the problems amassing. “It really is time that the EU joined in and saw the political opportunities that arise from this, rather than closing our eyes and hoping that the problem will go away.” more

Farmers Weekly, 30 November 2013 

IBERS wins at the Times Higher Awards

Aberystwyth University's Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) has won the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology category award at the Times Higher Education Awards.

Aberystwyth University's winning entry focuses on the breeding and development of High Sugar Grasses (AberHSG) by scientists at IBERS. AberHSG have the potential to transform pastoral based livestock agriculture. Independent tests have demonstrated that AberHSG can increase the production of meat and milk by up to 24% and reduce methane emissions and nitrogenous pollutants by up to 20%.

ASDA and Sainsbury's promote the use of AberHSG on their farms, estimating a reduction of 186,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, whilst raising profit by more than £10m per annum. more

BBSRC, 29 November 2013 

New era for RASE as it unveils farm extension service plans

Agricultural societies in England and Wales will join forces to provide an enhanced network of information and support for farmers under ambitious new plans.

Spearheaded by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE), the aim of the farm extension service will be to use agricultural societies around the country as hubs for knowledge and technology transfer.

Described by RASE chief executive David Gardner as the future for the organisation in the post Royal Show era, he is adamant the initiative can bridge the gap between ‘basic science and applied science’. more

Farmers Guardian, 29 November 2013 

'Wildlife at risk' from incoming ban on pesticide linked to bee deaths

Wildlife could be at risk from an imminent ban on pesticides linked to bee deaths, farmers and beekeepers have warned.

On Sunday, a European Union-wide ban on three neonicotinoids will come into force, but the National Farmers Union (NFU) and British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) have said the restriction could fuel a rise in spray-based pesticides.They say such alternatives could harm bees, soil-dwelling insects and spiders, and lead to higher genetic resistance to pesticides among crop-eating insects.

The NFU has said there has not been a full assessment of the environmental effects of the ban, while the BBKA has called for a revision to guidelines on safe use of neonicotinoid alternatives. more

The Guardian, 28 November 2013 

Arming farmers with technology to 'transform' food production

Agri technologies have the potential to transform UK food production but the scientific community must be able to translate knowledge and data to farmers on the front line.

This transfer of knowledge and how best to do it was discussed by high level Government Ministers and leaders in science, farming and food at an event in London today (Wednesday, November 27).

Following on from the launch of the Government’s £160million investment in a new Agricultural-Technologies strategy, stakeholders debated how a £70m Government  ‘catalyst’ can be used by businesses and academics to develop innovative new technologies and bring them to the market, such as recent innovations of cancer-fighting broccoli or GPS guided tractors. more

Farmers Guardian, 27 November 2013 

Neonicotinoid restrictions shroud crop future in uncertainty, says NFU

With only days to go before restrictions on crop protection products begin, the NFU has described the lack of an EU impact assessment to determine the effect on pollinators and crop production as ‘alarming’.
The NFU believes that the decision to restrict the use of neonicotinoids, which comes into force from Sunday (December 1), is not justified by the available scientific evidence and could have serious consequences for farmers’ ability to grow produce sustainably.
Evidence published in the summer shows that since the neonicotinoids were introduced in the UK in the early 1990s, the rate of decline of bumblebees in Great Britain has slowed, and the biodiversity of other wild bees has increased. It is suggested that these biodiversity improvements during the last two decades are the result of agri-environmental measures put in place by farmers.

Farm Business, 26 November 2013 

Plant ageing gene key to food supply

Breakthrough science with the ability to control the life-cycle of plants could be the solution to increasing food production as population exceeds nine billion by 2050. Innovative work by researchers at the University of Münster and Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, Germany, could provide the answer to increasing food productivity and yields.

Their work has identified key regulatory genes in plants that ‘switch-off’ flowering and allow plants to live longer, grow faster and become bigger. The teams at Münster and Fraunhofer made the breakthrough after discovering a mutant tobacco plant which showed permanent vegetative growth, no aging, evergreen leaves and late or no flowering. more

Farming UK, 25 November 2013 

NFU backs Syngenta's EU neonic legal challenge

The NFU is to intervene in support of Syngenta’s legal bid to reverse a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides linked to a decline in bee health.

NFU president Peter Kendall confirmed: “We will support Syngenta’s legal challenge of the European Commission’s hasty restrictions on certain neonicotinoids, including thiamethoxam, distributed by Syngenta as Cruiser. We are planning direct intervention in the case.”

Restrictions on the use of four neonicotinoid seed treatments, including Syngenta’s thiamethoxam (Cruiser), will come into effect across the EU from 1 December, on bee-attractive crops, including oilseed rape, maize and sunflowers. more

Farmers Weekly, 21 November 2013 

Studies show neonics 'not linked to bee deaths'

Comprehensive field studies carried out by Syngenta have found no evidence linking neonicotinoid seed treatments to poor bee health.

Restrictions on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides on bee-attractive crops, including Syngenta’s thiamethoxam (Cruiser), will come into force across the EU from 1 December.

The European Commission pushed through a two-year ban on neonicotinoids despite a split among EU countries. The action was in response to the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) scientific opinion that these insecticides posed an unacceptable risk to bees. more

Farmers Weekly, 18 November 2013 

Food output ‘throttled by overzealous policy makers’

Overzealous policy makers are thwarting Britain’s ability to become more self-sufficient in food, industry leaders have been told.

The withdrawal of key farm inputs – banned in many cases without scientific justification – threatened to curtail farm output with devastating effect, said David Caffall, chief executive of the Agriculture Industries Confederation.

Farmers’ ability to innovate and increase food production was as hampered by single-issue policy makers as it was by single-issue pressure groups, Mr Caffall told the Agribusiness 2014 conference on Wednesday (13 November). more

Farmers Weekly, 13 November 2013 

Debate over free-range hen welfare

Welfare standards are on average higher in laying hens kept in cages than in free range flocks, according to a leading veterinary expert. Enriched cages, which have replaced battery cages, are not ideal but produce better conditions than some free-range farms, said Prof Christine Nicol of Bristol University. Not all free-range farms meet standards consumers expect, she added.

Other research contradicts this, said Humane Society International.

About 50% of UK hens are now housed in enriched cages. The cages, which contain more space for birds, including a perch and nest area, typically contain around 90 hens and are stacked on top of each other in tiers. more

BBC News, 13 November 2013 

Farmer - scientist conversation to address food production challenge

A pioneering event bringing farmers and scientific experts together to look at ways crop biotechnology can help farming meet global food challenges is to take place at NFU headquarters this week.

The farmer-scientist conversation, at Stoneleigh Park on Thursday, will see scientists from Rothamsted Research, The John Innes Centre, NIAB and Leeds University on hand to discuss the crop production problems farmers face, and the potential solutions the scientific community could offer.

NFU chief science adviser Dr Helen Ferrier, said that it would give farmers direct access to some of the top scientists in their field. more

Farm Business, 13 November 2013 


UK needs 'mega farms' to keep food prices down, say experts


Britain needs more "mega farms" housing hundreds or thousands of animals to keep food prices down and improve animal welfare, according to a group of influential farming experts.


Speaking at a conference organised by the Science Media Centre, Toby Mottram, professor at the Royal Agricultural University, said herds of more than 1,000 cows had "significant economies of scale". This could reduce costs while allowing yields to rise. "The industry is going to larger herds. Big may be better."


There are only a small number of mega farms in the UK at present where large animals are kept – only 17 of the UK's dairy herds have more than 1,000 cattle, for instance, though there are many more poultry farms where thousands of birds are kept together – but there are several controversial projects in planning. more


The Guardian, 12 November 2013

EU faces decision on GM crop cultivation: Commission

European governments must now decide once and for all if they are to block or permit the cultivation of genetically modified crops on the continent, the European Commission said Wednesday.

The EU executive said it is now handing over to ministers a final decision on the cultivation of TC1507 corn by Pioneer after a European Court ruling that the company's request for permission submitted in 2001 must be dealt with.

At the same time, the Commission is asking member states to accept or reject a proposal designed to end a three-year deadlock on the principle of GM cultivation, an issue that is unusually divisive in Europe. more

EU Business, 7 November 2013  

UN highlights role of farming in closing emissions gap

Changing farming practices could play an important role in averting dangerous climate change says the UN.

In their annual emissions report, they measure the difference between the pledges that countries have made to cut warming gases and the targets required to keep temperatures below 2C.

On present trends there is likely to be an annual excess of 8 to 12 gigatonnes of these gases by 2020.

Agriculture, they say, could make a significant difference to the gap. more

BBC News, 5 November 2013 

Productive agriculture benefits more than just food security

Productive agriculture delivers important benefits to Europe and the world - from increased food security and more efficient land use to climate change mitigation, biodiversity protection and economic and social stability - according to a landmark academic study released today.

The new report, "The social, economic and environmental value of agricultural productivity in the European Union", has been published by the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture, an international non-profit think tank based in Berlin. more

Farming Online, 4 November 2013 

Canadian scientists use bees to deliver pesticides

Canadian researchers are experimenting with novel ways to get honeybees to deliver pesticides to crops to kill pests, reports CBC News.

Using a new method, called “bee vectoring”, the bees drop off pest control agents as they fly from one flower to another.

As they exit their hives, the bees walk through a tray of organic pesticides that stick to their legs and hair. The natural pesticides are not harmful to bees or humans. more

Farmers Weekly, 29 October 2013 

England's chief vet has rejected accusations his advice to ministers on the badger cull risked bringing the veterinary profession into disrepute.

In official advice, Nigel Gibbens said extending the culling period would help to achieve the earliest and greatest possible impact on bovine TB.

But vets have questioned the grounds for the extension, saying it risked spreading TB to badgers and cattle. more

BBC News, 28 October 2013           

New agricultural research collaboration launched

A new Centre for Agriculture, Food and Environmental Management has been launched to drive research into animal and plant production in the context of the global food security challenge.

The research initiative represents a collaboration between the University of Hertfordshire, the Royal Veterinary College, and Rothamsted Research.

The new centre will combine the resources of the three institutions to undertake research in food production, food supply, environmental management and sustainability. more

Farmers Guardian, 27 October 2013 

EU farming organisations demand greater access to GM crops

A number of EU farming organisations have joined forces to demand changes to EU rules to make it easier for GM crops to be developed and grown in Europe.

The organisations representing farmers in the four countries of the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Romania have written an open letter to the European Commission expressing ‘deep concern’ about the effects of EU GM policies and regulations on ‘the potential of modern biotechnology to strengthen the sustainable production of food’. more

Farmers Guardian, 23 October 2013 

Opponents of third world GM crops are 'wicked', says Environment Secretary Owen Paterson 

Environmental groups fighting against the use of GM crops in Africa and Asia are “wicked” and potentially condemning millions of people to a premature death, the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, says today.

In the strongest attack yet on the anti-GM lobby Mr Paterson told The Independent that NGOs such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth that oppose GM technology were “casting a dark shadow over attempts to feed the world”.

And he backed an open letter signed by a group of eminent international scientists calling for the rapid rollout of vitamin A-enhanced rice to help prevent the cause of up to a third of the world’s child deaths. more

The Independent, 14 October 2013 

MP hails the potential impact of new scientific partnership

A historic new link between Norfolk and Cambridgeshire which will be launched today could help raise the profile of the region on the world stage and be a catalyst for new ways of raising cash for infrastructure, a Norfolk MP has said.

The new Norwich-Cambridge Agri-Tech Cluster will link the world-class research capabilities within the two cities with the land and food and farming sectors in the neighbouring rural areas.

But Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman, who co-ordinated the development of the UK Agri-tech Strategy in his previous role as life science advisor, said the partnership could unlock other opportunities. more

Eastern Daily Press, 11 October 2013 

Genetically modified yeast turns crop waste into liquid fuel

US researchers have used genetically modified yeast to enhance the production of biofuels from waste materials.

The new method solves some of the problems in using waste like straw to make bioethanol fuel.

The scientists involved say the development could help overcome reservations about using land for fuel production. more

BBC News, 11 October 2013 

Multi-million pound boost for innovation in agricultural technology

A new Agri-Tech Catalyst has been launched, to help businesses and researchers develop innovative solutions to global challenges in the agricultural technology (‘agri-tech') sector.  

Agricultural science and technology is one of the world's fastest-growing markets. It is driven by global changes: a rising population, climate change, the rapid development of emerging economies, and growing geopolitical instability around shortages of land, water and energy.

Breakthroughs in nutrition, informatics, satellite imaging, remote sensing, meteorology and precision farming mean that there are also many opportunities in this area. more

Technology Strategy Board, 9 October 2013 

Scientists identify genes in septoria defence front line

Prospects for controlling septoria tritici in the future have been boosted with the news researchers at Rothamsted Research have identified genes with the potential to prevent development of the disease in wheat.

Using modern biotechnology methods scientists have identified two wheat genes whose functions are to activate the wheat defence response. This finding can now pave the way to developing molecular approaches to combat the disease in the future, it is claimed. more

Farmers Guardian, 8 October 2013 

Stress linked to bee colony failure

Extended periods of stress can cause bee colony failures, according to new research published today in the journal Ecology Letters.

Scientists from Royal Holloway University have found that when bees are exposed to low levels of neonicotinoid pesticides – which do not directly kill bees – their behaviour changes and they stop working properly for their colonies. The results showed that exposure to pesticides at levels bees encounter in the field, has subtle impacts on individual bees, and can eventually make colonies fail.

This discovery provides an important breakthrough in identifying the reasons for the recent global decline of bees, a trend that has baffled many experts worldwide. more

BBSRC, 7 October 2013 

Genetic selection for TB resistance 'available in two years'

Scientists claim dairy farmers will be able to genetically select for bovine TB (bTB) resistance within two years thanks to a joint project underway in Scotland.

Over the next 18 months, a new trait will be developed which will rank bulls for their resistance to bTB.

The project is being funded by DairyCo and implemented by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute. more

Farmers Guardian, 6 October 2013 

Europe's farmers facing 'crop protection crunch'

The amount of money being spent on research into crop protection has nosedived due to Europe’s ‘hostile’ regulatory environment, experts have claimed.

A new study by agribusiness consultants Phillips McDougall found investment into research and development spend had fallen sharply from 33 per cent in the 1980s to just 16 per cent today.

As a result, the number of new active ingredients being developed and introduced in the EU is decreasing despite an increase in global expenditure on agricultural research and development. more

Farmers Guardian, 3 October 2013 

‘Aquaponic farms’ could enable cities to produce more food sustainably

A system of food production that combines fish breeding and vegetable growing without the use of soil could transform our urban roofspaces into highly productive sustainable farms and help address a looming global food crisis, according to scientists.

Researchers at Zurich University have developed an 'aquaponic farm’ on a rooftop in the city of Basel in Switzerland. The £500,000 project combines fish breeding and vegetable growing using 'hydroponics’, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.

The 260-square metre (m2) research farm is capable of producing 5000 kilogrammes (kg) of vegetables and 800 kg of fish every year. The farm has produced an assortment of vegetables, including peas, salad leaves, tomatoes and courgettes. more

GreenWise, 2 October 2013 

Major cuts of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock within reach

Greenhouse gas emissions by the livestock sector could be cut by as much as 30 percent through the wider use of existing best practices and technologies, according to a new study released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The National Farmers' Union said more investment and government support was needed for farmers in the UK providing 'part of the solution' to the growing threat of climate change with agriculture set to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2020.

Farming Online, 30 September 2013 

NFU calls for government to deliver on R&D promises after harvest results 

Farmers who battled against the elements to ensure the English wheat crop survived the torrid weather conditions of 2012 have seen high quality from their harvest but gathered a smaller crop despite the good harvesting conditions.
The NFU said that as a net importer of food, the UK must start to produce more itself and called on Government to deliver on its promises to improve long-neglected agricultural research and knowledge exchange to help weather-proof British crops.
“A reverse in the decline of spend for agricultural R&D is crucial if we are to increase production and impact less on the environment in years to come, particularly if extreme weather events become more frequent,” said NFU combinable crops board chairman Andrew Watts. more

Farm Business, 26 September 2013 

£4M of research funding announced to improve the health of livestock

£4M of funding for world-leading UK research to improve the health of farmed animals including sheep, pigs, cows and poultry has been awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's Animal Health Research Club (ARC).

The club funds research to improve our understanding of resistance in farmed animals to pests and disease, and the funded projects include work to combat costly livestock diseases, create safer vaccines, breed healthier livestock and investigate immune system interactions. more

 BBSRC, 25 September 2013

Labour confirms it would abandon badger cull policy

The Labour Party has already made up its mind to abandon the Government’s current badger cull policy and would replace it with more spending on developing an oral badger vaccine.

Shadow Farming Minister Huw Irranca-Davies told an NFU fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference that, even if the pilot culls achieved the predicted 16 per cent benefit in reducing cattle bovine GB, it would still ‘not be sufficient’ for the Party to continue with the policy. more

Farmers Guardian, 24 September 2013 

Report highlights radical change needed to tackle avoidable food waste

A report commissioned by the UK’s Global Food Security (GFS) programme has outlined the vital priorities for future research to address the growing problem of food waste.

‘Food Waste within Global Systems’  highlights research priorities that will help to decrease food waste and losses across the supply chain, from food production through to food processing, retail and consumption.

The report indicates that tackling waste is a major part of providing enough food to feed a growing population sustainably in the future.

Farm Business, 20 September 2013  

Barroso science adviser dismisses GM crops opposition as 'form of madness'

Opposition to the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops on alleged scientific grounds was yesterday dismissed as "a form of madness" by the chief scientific adviser to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

Prof Anne Glover, who holds the chair of molecular biology at Aberdeen University, was speaking after addressing a conference of top European soil scientists at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen.

Prof Glover said "not a single piece of scientific evidence" existed to support claims food produced from GM crops is unsafe. more

The Herald, 20 September 2013 

Syngenta launches seven-year food security plan

Syngenta has launched a new project to tackle global food security, which challenges farmers to increase crop productivity while reducing the use of fertiliser and pesticides.

The Good Growth Plan reflects Syngenta's belief that agricultural productivity must increase to feed a global population, which is growing by 200,000 people every day.

At the same time, farmland is being depleted through urbanisation and soil erosion while water resources are under mounting pressure. Meanwhile, rural communities - those responsible for growing food - are often trapped in poverty. more

Farmers Weekly, 19 September 2013 

Farmers ‘left behind’ by EU’s block on GM crops

The EU has put politics above science by refusing to open the door to genetically modified crops, leaving European farmers more than ten years behind their competitors, the biotechnology company Monsanto has said.

Executives at the company said that EU rules had made it impossible to pursue plans to launch GM products in the bloc, where most crops are grown using conventional means.

The criticism came after the US-based seed company  withdrew longstanding applications to grow new crops in the EU after failing to get approval. more

The Times, 16 September 2013 

UK fruit and veg self-sufficiency falls to 56 per cent

UK self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables has fallen to just 56 per cent on the back of the poor weather experienced by growers in 2012.

This represents a further fall from the average of 59 per cent for the previous five years. The poor weather not only affected production in 2012 but had the knock-on effect of reducing the volume of fruit, vegetables and potatoes planted last year.

The widening UK trade deficit in fruit and vegetables now stands in excess of an extraordinary £4.4 billion. more

Farmers Guardian, 11 September 2013 

Government rejects the science behind neonicotinoid ban

The government says it accepts the EU ban on the use of some pesticides linked to bee deaths, but it rejects the science behind the moratorium.

In a response to the Environmental Audit Committee, the government indicates it will not ban the use of these chemicals for gardeners.

The Committee says they are disappointed with this approach. But the National Farmers Union says the government view is "balanced and sensible". more

BBC News, 10 September 2013 

EU must recognise crucial role of food producers

Policy-makers across the EU must recognise Europe’s role in meeting the global food security challenge and ensure it plays its part in feeding a rapidly rising world population.

Speaking at the CIR AgChem Forum in Barcelona, Crop Protection Association (CPA) chief executive Nick von Westenholz , said the sector was capable of delivering hi-tech solutions to help farmers increase food production sustainably, but the impact of current EU policies in areas such as pesticides and GMOs runs a serious risk of stifling innovation, deterring research and development investment and damaging the competitiveness of European agriculture.  

“There is now widespread recognition of the scale of the global food security challenge. The world’s population is set to exceed 9 billion by 2050, and with farmland, water and energy resources in limited supply, we must find new ways to produce more food from less,” said Mr von Westenholz. more

Farmers Guardian, 6 September 2013 

Cattle TB vaccine trials to start next year

 Field trials of a cattle vaccine for bovine TB are due to get underway in England and Wales next year.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has developed a Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) cattle vaccine against bTB and an accompanying diagnostic test to Differentiate Infected from Vaccinated Animals (DIVA).

However, they are still a long way from being used commercially in UK cattle. The UK Government and European are working to a 10-year timetable, which includes official approval of both products and changes to EU legislation to allow vaccination in cattle, which is currently banned as it interferes with the TB skin test. more

Farmers Guardian, 4 September 2013 

Climate change ‘driving spread of crop pests’

Climate change is helping pests and diseases that attack crops to spread around the world, a study suggests. Researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford have found crop pests are moving at an average of two miles (3km) a year.

The team said they were heading towards the north and south poles, and were establishing in areas that were once too cold for them to live in. The research is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Currently, it is estimated that between 10% and 16% of the world's crops are lost to disease outbreaks. The researchers warn that rising global temperatures could make the problem worse. more

BBC News, 2 September 2013 

Genomic technology helps improve sheep sector

Genomic technologies are being developed for the UK sheep sector that will help produce more efficient and productive breeding stock.

A £1.3m research programme led by Innovis and supported by the UK's Technology Strategy Board (TSB) will help develop new genomic technologies that will enable animals to be selected for attributes such as maternal ability, health, carcass composition and eating quality. These are traits that cannot easily be assessed in the live animal.

The four-year project, which began last year, is recording more than five selected traits in about 6,300 animals. The information will be used to develop new Genomic Breeding Values (GBVs) to be used in conjunction with Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) to enable improved selection accuracy of breeding animals. more

Farmers Weekly, 28 August 2013 

Pilot badger cull gets underway

The pilot badger culls are underway, the NFU has confirmed.

The six-week culls will take place in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire to establish whether the policy can be rolled out nationally next year.

Culling will take place at night over areas of approximately, mainly through controlled shooting by trained marksmen in areas that have been pre-baited. Caged trapping and shooting will also be deployed in some places. more

Farmers Guardian, 27 August 2013  

Syngenta mounts legal challenge to EU neonicotinoid ban

Syngenta has submitted a legal challenge to the European Commission’s decision to suspend the use of on its neonicotinoid seed treatments on crops, like oilseed rape, that are attractive to bees.

The Commission pushed through restrictions on three products, including Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, in May after a vote by member states failed to reach the necessary qualified majority on April 29. The restrictions, which also cover the seed treatments clothianidin and imidacloprid, reflect concerns that neonicotinoid products are harmful to bees. They come into force on December 1.

Syngenta claims the Commission took the decision on the basis of a ‘flawed process, an inaccurate and incomplete assessment by the European Food Safety Authority and without the full support of EU Member States’. more

Farmers Guardian, 27 August 2013 

UK & USA scientists collaborate to design crops of the future

Three teams of UK and USA researchers will begin a programme of novel research to revolutionise current farming methods by giving crops the ability to thrive without using costly, polluting manufactured fertilisers.

The three highly innovative projects include: searching the planet for a lost bacterium with special, sought-after properties; using synthetic biology to create a new intracellular machine allowing plants to produce fertiliser themselves; and engineering beneficial relationships between plants and microbes.

$8.86M of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and US National Science Foundation (NSF) funding has been awarded following an 'Ideas Lab' to generate new approaches that address growing global food demand, which will need 190.4M tonnes of nitrogen-fertiliser by 2015. more

BBSRC, 22 August 2013 

Spanish GM maize area increases by 20%

The area of land growing genetically modified maize in Spain has increased by almost 20% to record levels. Spanish ministry of agriculture figures show 138,543.05ha of Monsanto's MON810 variety were drilled this year, up 19% on 2012.

The variety carries a gene from a toxin-producing bacterium that makes the plant resistant to the European corn borer. It was approved for cultivation in the EU in 1998 and is the only GM crop cultivated commercially in Europe.

It now accounts for nearly one-third of Spain's 424,491ha maize crop. more

Farmers Weekly, 16 August 2013 

Badger cull only effective over large areas, scientists agree

Badger culling would need to be conducted over very large geographical areas to have a major impact on controlling bovine TB disease, a group of scientists have concluded.

Ten experts in the field of badgers and bTB have published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society they say is a ‘restatement of the natural science evidence base relevant to the control of bovine tuberculosis in Great Britain’.

The scientists, which include former members of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on bTB say the findings are intended as a ‘succinct summary of the natural science’ on the subject and insist their findings are ‘as policy-neutral as possible’. more

Farmers Guardian, 12 August 2013 

‘Golden rice’ GM trial vandalised in the Philippines

A trial plot of genetically modified rice has been destroyed by local farmers in the Philippines.  

"Golden Rice" has been developed by scientists to combat vitamin A deficiency, which affects millions of children in the developing world. The crop was just weeks away from being submitted to the authorities for a safety evaluation.

But a group of around 400 protestors attacked the field trial in the Bicol region and uprooted all the GM plants.

BBC News, 9 August 2013 

Rothamsted GM wheat trials boss to step down

The man behind Rothamsted Research’s high profile GM wheat trials Maurice Moloney is to step down from his role to join the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.

Prof Moloney has worked as director and chief executive at Rothamsted in Harpenden for the past four years. He will leave the post in December. more

Farmers Guardian, 8 August 2013 

Engineering bodies 'disappointed' at agri-tech strategy

Several agricultural engineering bodies have hit out at the Government’s agri-tech strategy which was announced last week.

The Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) highlighted farm equipment was given only a ‘couple of small paragraphs’, and said this was ‘verging on insult’ for an industry with an annual turnover of almost £4 billion.

And the Institution of Agricultural Engineers said the strategy needed to do more to recognise the role of agricultural engineering. more

Farmers Guardian, 6 August 2013 

World’s first lab-grown burger is eaten in London

The world's first lab-grown burger was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London on Monday.

Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty.

Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat. more

BBC News, 5 August 2013 

World food security more vulnerable than ever to climate change

A new study, published today in Science, has called for a ‘climate-smart food system' to prevent climate change from slowing progress in eradicating global hunger.

The researchers carried out a review of key scientific papers on food security and climate change since 1990. It confirmed a robust and coherent global pattern of climate change impacts on crop productivity that could have consequences for food availability.

The review highlighted improvements in agricultural technologies, such as more productive and climate-resilient crop varieties, are important to counter this threat but are unlikely to be sufficient on their own. Wider changes in food trade and stocks, and nutrition and social policy options are also critical. more

Farming UK, 3 August 2013 

Desert ‘carbon farming’ to curb CO2

Scientists say that planting large numbers of jatropha trees in desert areas could be an effective way of curbing emissions of CO2.

Dubbed "carbon farming", researchers say the idea is economically competitive with high-tech carbon capture and storage projects.

But critics say the idea could be have unforeseen, negative impacts including driving up food prices. The research has been published in the journal Earth System Dynamics. more

BBC News, 1 August 2013 

Turning waste paper into biofuels

Researchers from the BBSRC-funded Institute of Food Research (IFR) have successfully produced bioethanol from waste paper, as part of efforts to turn waste into valuable products.

To increase the sustainability of biofuels, there is currently a drive to turn away from deriving them from food crops, such as corn and sugarcane. Bioethanol derived from the waste products of agriculture and the food chain is more attractive as this avoids competition with food crops, reduces food waste and lowers the carbon footprint.

Achieving this on a commercial scale needs to overcome a number of hurdles, which the Biorefinery Centre on the Norwich Research Park working on. more

Institute of Food Research, 31 July 2013 

Fungicides leading to bee deaths, study finds

A combination of pesticides and fungicides is contaminating the pollen bees collect to feed their hives making them unable to fend off a deadly parasite, according to a new study.

Scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture claim the contamination of pollen affects bees’ ability to fight Nosema ceranae - the disease which leads bees to starve to death.

Researchers collected pollen from bees pollinating blueberry, cranberry, cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, weeds and wildflowers and found 35 different pesticides as well as ‘high’ fungicide loads in the samples. more

Farmers Guardian, 31 July 2013 

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria could cut fertiliser bills

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria could cut nitrogen fertiliser bills at least in half and soon be seen be seen in commercial oilseed rape and wheat crops in two to three years.

Research work at Nottingham University has isolated the bacteria from sugar cane and put them into mainstream arable crops with encouraging results.

This N-Fix technology gives crops the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere rather than rely on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser applied to a growing crop, and does not use genetic modification.

The university's Edward Cocking introduced the bacteria into turf grass and was able to cut synthetic nitrogen needs by at least 50%, and is this season looking at wheat and oilseed rape. more

Farmers Weekly, 29 July 2013 

Rothamsted and Syngenta announce scientific partnership

Rothamsted Research and biotechnology firm Syngenta have announced a multi-million pound scientific partnership to develop high yielding, environmentally sustainable wheat.

The partnership aims to develop scientific knowledge into new technologies that will benefit farmers directly, support UK agriculture, contribute to UK economic growth and improve wheat yields worldwide.

The partnership will focus its research on Rothamsted’s 20:20 Wheat Programme, which aims to increase wheat productivity to yield 20 tonnes per hectare within 20 years.more

Farmers Guardian, 24 July 2013 

GM crops: Public fears over 'Frankenstein food' may be easing, Independent poll reveals

More people support rather than oppose the growing of genetically modified crops and more of them are prepared to buy and eat GM foods than not, according to a survey for The Independent.

As the Government launches a drive to persuade people to eat more GM foods, the ComRes poll suggests that public fears about so-called "Frankenstein food" may be easing.  Asked if they would support the growing of GM crops in the UK,  47 per cent agreed, while 42 per cent disagreed and 11 per cent replied don't know.  Men (57 per cent) were more likely than women (38 per cent) to support the idea.

Liberal Democrat supporters (59 per cent) were more likely to back the growing of GM crops than people who intend to vote for Labour (52 per cent), the Conservatives (50 per cent) or the UK Independence Party (46 per cent). more

The Independent, 23 July 2013  

Agri-Tech Strategy: Horticulture sector calls for re-balancing of R&D

The British Growers Association (BGA) has welcomed the publication of the UK Agricultural Technologies Strategy as the strongest recognition by Government for more than 30 years of the strategic importance of supporting a productive, resilient, hi-tech UK farming sector.

Highlighting the major opportunities within the horticulture sector to increase home-grown production, displace imports and boost economic activity, BGA chief executive James Hallett said it was time for the UK fresh produce sector to secure its fair share of public sector R&D investment. more

Farming UK, 23 July 2013

Major global analysis offers hope for saving the wild side of staple food crops 

Global efforts to adapt staple foods like rice, wheat and potato to climate change have been given a major boost today as new research shows the whereabouts of their wild cousins –which could hold beneficial qualities to help improve crops and make them more productive and resilient.
The analysis assesses 29 of the world’s most important food crops and reveals severe threats to just over half of their wild relatives as they are not adequately saved in genebanks and not available to researchers and plant breeders for crop improvement.

The initiative, led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) in partnership with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank and in collaboration with national and international agricultural research institutes, is the largest ever global effort to conserve crop wild relatives. more

Farm Business, 23 July 2013 

Government unveils £160m ‘agri-tech’ strategy

The government has unveiled a £160m strategy to boost farming technology - a move it says will turn the UK into a world leader in agricultural science. It aims to help farmers to deliver sustainable, healthy and affordable food for future generations.

The strategy includes a £160m government investment in developing cutting edge technologies and taking innovative products such as cancer-fighting broccoli from the field to the shopping aisle.

Industry is also expected to invest heavily in the project, with the aim to transform farming in the UK, using the latest technologies to produce more while affecting the environment less. more

Farmers Weekly, 22 July 2013 

£160 million technology boost for UK agricultural industries

The UK will become a world leader in agricultural science and technology following the launch of a new strategy to deliver sustainable, healthy and affordable food for future generations.

Breakthroughs in nutrition, informatics, satellite imaging, remote sensing, meteorology and precision farming mean the agriculture sector is one of the world’s fastest growing sectors.

Developed in partnership with industry, the Agricultural Technologies Strategy will ensure everyone from farmers and retailers, to cooks and shoppers share the benefits these exciting opportunities bring.

It includes a £160 million government investment in developing cutting edge technologies, and taking innovative products such as cancer-fighting broccoli from the field to the shopping aisle. more


Monsanto to drop applications to grow GM crops in EU

Monsanto, the US agribusiness, will withdraw applications to grow genetically modified crops in the EU in an acknowledgment that Europeans’ deep-seated resistance to such products is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

Jose Manuel Madero, Monsanto’s president for Europe, said that withdrawing the applications – which have languished for years – followed from the company’s decision four years ago to scale back GM activities in the EU and instead focus on the sale of conventional seeds.

The shift will also allow the company to focus its efforts on securing EU approval for increasing amounts of animal feed – imported from Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere – grown from GM seeds. more

Financial Times, 18 July 2013 

EU to ban second seed treatment over bee fears

Brussels has announced restrictions on the seed treatment fipronil, saying it poses an acute risk to Europe's honey bee populations. A ban on the use of fipronil as a seed treatment for maize and sunflowers will apply from 31 December, although seeds already treated can be sown until the end of February 2014.

The European Commission made the announcement on Tuesday (16 July). It follows a decision earlier this year to ban the use of neonicotinoid seed treatements on oilseed rape.

Fipronil manufacturer, BASF, expressed its disagreement with the commission's decision, saying it would limit growers' access to valuable and approved technologies. more

Farmers Weekly, 17 July 2013 

Science will prove if beef is really Scottish

A major initiative to authenticate the provenance of beef labelled as Scotch or Scottish is to be launched by the Food Standards Agency in Scotland.

The move comes in the wake of the horsemeat scandal and will use the latest scientific techniques to prove if beef sold in butchers’ shops and supermarkets has genuinely been produced in Scotland.

“There is no doubt that the horsemeat scandal has undermined the public’s confidence in food labelling and there is more interest in how food is produced and where it comes from,” said FSA Scotland director Charles Milne. more

The Scotsman, 16 July 2013

MPs express 'dismay' at lack of horsemeat prosecutions

An influential committee of MPs has expressed ‘dismay’ at the failure of the UK and Irish authorities to bring any prosecutions in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

In a report published on Tuesday, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also criticises the Food Standards Agency’s handling of the crisis, accusing it of a ‘lack of clarity’ in its response.

The report points to overwhelming evidence from retailers and food processors in the UK and Ireland suggesting a ‘complex, highly organised network of companies trading in and mislabelling frozen and processed meat or meat products’ It says this was clearly done in a way that ‘fails to meet specifications and is fraudulent and illegal.’ more

Farmers Guardian, 16 July 2013  

Droughts could hit food production in England in 2020s, report warns

Droughts could devastate food production in the England by the 2020s, according to a report from the government's official climate change advisers.

Without action, increasingly hot and dry summers may mean farmers will face shortfalls of 50% of the water they currently use to grow crops.

The report, from the climate change committee (CCC), also warns that current farming practices may be allowing the country's richest soils to be washed or blown away. more

The Guardian, 10 July 2013 

DEFRA unveils strategy to attract new entrants

Farming must promote itself as a highly-skilled, professional and exciting career to attract the best talent and secure the future of the industry, a new report has recommended.

Experts in farming, business and education published a six-month review on Tuesday (9 July) into the opportunities and barriers faced by people starting careers in UK agriculture.

DEFRA's Future of Farming Review group, launched by farm minister David Heath at the Oxford Farming Conference in January, has set out what actions they think are needed to attract new talent to careers in agriculture. more

Farmers Weekly, 9 July 2013 

£400,000 to build mutant potato ‘library’

BBSRC has agreed to fund a £382,000 project to study genetic mutation in potato; which could lead to improved varieties of one of the world's most important foods.

After wheat and rice, potato is the world's third most important food crop. By 2020 it is estimated that more than two billion people worldwide will depend on potato for food, feed, or income.

Despite this, the genetic study of potato has lagged behind many other plant crops. This three year project will develop the first 'library' of potato mutants which can be used as a resource for further genetics research and development of agriculturally valuable strains. more

BBSRC, 8 July 2013 

Gene discovery to aid weed control

BBSRC-funded scientists at the Universities of York and Durham have discovered a gene called AmGSTF1 that plays a key role in controlling multi-herbicide resistance (MHR) in black-grass and rye-grass. Chemicals that inhibit this gene can be used to make weed killers effective against resistant weeds.

Black-grass and rye-grass are both widespread and serious weed problems in cereal and oilseed rape rotations. Control using weed killers is becoming increasingly problematic, with an estimated 1.2 million ha of UK land now infested with black-grass. Both black-grass and rye-grass can acquire a single defence mechanism that confers resistance to all weed killers, whatever their mode of action (MHR). more

BBSRC, 8 July 2013 

Mine seed banks to feed tomorrow’s world

With fewer than a dozen flowering plants accounting for 80 percent of humanity’s caloric intake out of 300,000 species, people need to tap unused plants to feed the world in the near future, claims Cornell plant geneticist Susan McCouch in the Comment feature of the July 4 issue of Nature.

To keep pace with population growth and rising incomes around the world, researchers estimate that food availability must double in the next 25 years, according to the paper.

The biodiversity stored in plant gene banks coupled with advances in genetics and plant breeding may hold the keys for meeting the demands of more food in the face of climate change, soil degradation and water and land shortages, according to the paper.

“Gene banks hold hundreds of thousands of seeds and tissue culture materials collected from farmers’ fields and from wild, ancestral populations, providing the raw material that plant breeders need to create crops of the future,” said McCouch. more

Seedquest, 5 July 2013 

DEFRA plans to split UK into TB disease zones

A radical plan to tackle bovine TB will see England divided into three risk areas, as DEFRA ramps up the battle against the disease.

In what amounts to a comprehensive tranche of measures aimed at curtailing and eventually eliminating the disease, DEFRA proposals will see the country divided into high-risk, low-risk and edge areas – each with their own anti-TB strategy.

The ultimate aim is to secure official TB-free status – a process which the government itself acknowledges could take up to 25 years in the high-risk areas of south-west England and the West Midlands, where bovine TB is endemic. more

Farmers Weekly, 4 July 2013 

Defra insists meat from TB reactors is safe

DEFRA has insisted meat sold into the food chain from TB reactors is safe after reports suggested the practice poses a risk to human health.

The Department has accused the Sunday Times of ‘irresponsible scaremongering’, after it reported that meat from more than 20,000 cattle in England that have tested positive for bTB entered the food chain in 2012.

The report said the meat was being sold to caterers and food processors and was ending up in meat products sold in schools, hospitals and to the military, and as pet food. It said the meat was not labelled as being from TB reactors. more

Farmers Guardian, 1 July 2013 

'Bee Action Plan' To Tackle Insect Decline

The Government is launching an "urgent and comprehensive" review of why bees are declining and what is being done to help them. Environment Minister Lord de Mauley has told a 'bee summit' organised by Friends of the Earth that the work will lead to a "national pollinator strategy" aimed at helping the insects to thrive.

Many species of bee and other pollinating insects including butterflies, moths and hoverflies have experienced declines in recent decades, raising concerns about the impacts on food supplies, gardens and the countryside. Factors including use of pesticides, loss of habitat and more intensive agriculture are thought to be to blame. more

Sky News, 28 June 2013 

Scientists have engineered wheat that is resistant to stem rust, a fungal disease that has ruined crops in Africa, Yemen and Iran. The genetic advance raises the possibility of breeding wheat that is resistant to the fungus, researchers report in the journal Science.

Stem rust is regarded as a major threat to wheat, one of the world's most important cereal crops. It is a fungal disease that appears as reddish blisters on wheat. The blisters contain millions of spores, which infect the plant tissues, and disrupt the crop's ability to produce grain.

Ug99, which was discovered in Uganda in 1999, is a form of black stem rust that can wipe out whole harvests. more


Publicly funded science in the UK will have to get by with another period of fixed spending. Chancellor George Osborne says he intends to keep the country's R&D budget at its current level through to the next election. This figure, which amounts to about £4.6bn per year, has been held flat since 2011.

The Chancellor made the announcement as part of the government's Spending Review delivered to Parliament. He did, however, promise to increase capital expenditure - the money going into the laboratory infrastructure. This will almost double from the current £0.6bn. more


Flies offer 'highly nutritious' replacement for soya

A biotechnology company is offering what it says is a highly nutritious replacement for soya in animal feed by farming flies. AgriProtein Technologies has developed a manufacturing process to produce fly larvae for inclusion in animal diets.

The company is making use of slaughterhouse waste, animal manure and discarded food to grow the larvae, which are then dried and ground into a powdered ingredient for monogastric animal feeds.

AgriProtein says the resulting product has a nutritional composition that is as good as fishmeal and better than soya - a vital and increasingly expensive component of poultry feed. more

Farming UK, 23 June 2013 

Growth in crop yields inadequate to feed the world by 2050 – research

If the world is to grow enough food for the projected global population in 2050, agricultural productivity will have to rise by at least 60%, and may need to more than double, according to researchers who have studied global crop yields.

They say that productivity is not rising fast enough at present to meet the likely demands on agriculture.

The researchers studied yields of four key staple crops – maize, rice, wheat and soybeans – and found they were increasing by only about 0.9% to 1.6% a year. That would lead to an overall increase of about 38% to 67% by 2050, which would only be enough to feed the population if the lower end of the estimate of yields needed and the maximum yield increase turns out to be the case. more

The Guardian, 21 June 2013 

GM Crops 'Safe And Beneficial', Says Minister

GM foods are probably safer than those produced conventionally, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has said. In a speech to scientists and people from the industry Mr Paterson attacked critics who derided genetically modified crops as "Frankenfoods" and said it was time for better informed discussion on the use of the technology.

Mr Paterson said that major European studies had concluded that there was "no scientific evidence associating GMOs (genetically modified organisms) with higher risks" for the environment or safety.

Mr Paterson, who has previously expressed his backing for GM, said he wanted the UK to be at the forefront of developing GM technology.

And in a warning to the European Union, which has tight restrictions on growing GM crops, he said: "While the rest of the world is ploughing ahead and reaping the benefits of new technologies, Europe risks being left behind. We cannot afford to let that happen." more

Sky News, 20 June 2013

HGCA says neonics ban may cost over £72m

The ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments could cost oilseed rape growers at least £72m a year due to the lack of control of two key pests. The biggest concern of the EU's ban is the implication of poor control of cabbage stem flea bettle and aphid-spread turnips yellow virus, according to a HGCA review.

In April, the EU pushed through a two-year ban on three neonicotinoids for flowering crops starting on 1 December due to their possible damage to bee numbers.

"Oilseed rape will see the biggest impact, with 71% (502,623ha) being treated by neonicotinoids," said Caroline Nicholls, HGCA's research and knowledged transfer manager. more

Farmers Weekly, 18 June 2013 

G8 Summit: 'Biofuels not to blame for hunger'

Prime minister David Cameron must address the root cause of global hunger rather than blaming biofuels for the problem at the G8 Summit this week, said the UK biofuels supply chain.

EU bioethanol production accounted for only 3% of total cereal use in 2010-11 and only 2% of good quality arable land was used for biofuels, said Clare Wenner, head of renewable transport at the Renewable Energy Association.

"Without this demand and with no real export potential EU farmers would simply cut their production and the corresponding volumes of animal feed materials would need to be imported from overseas," she said. more

Farmers Weekly, 18 June 2013 

Minister wades into food v fuel debate

A debate is needed on the future of subsidies for renewable energy projects which encourage crops to be grown for fuel rather than food, farm minister David Heath has warned.

His comments come amid concern that livestock farmers wanting to secure supplies of animal feed and bedding are increasingly being priced out of the market by demand for fuel crops which has resulted in soaring values for forage maize and cereal straw.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly, Mr Heath said he believed anaerobic digestion had a huge role to play in creating energy from slurry and waste,which involved an element of crop feed. But there was a question mark over whether it was right to grow crops specifically for energy. more

Farmers Weekly, 18 June 2013 

Climate change overseas likely to affect UK food supplies

Climate change abroad will have a more immediate effect on the UK than climate change at home, a report says.

Research by consultants PWC for Defra says the UK is likely to be hit by increasingly volatile prices of many commodities as the climate is disrupted. It warns that global production of some foodstuffs is concentrated in a few countries. These are likely to suffer increasing episodes of extreme weather.

The report says there will be opportunities for the UK from climate change but these are likely to be far outweighed by problems. more

BBC News, 17 June 2013 

Gene breakthrough in battle against ash dieback

Scientists have made a major breakthrough in the fight against ash dieback disease.

Researchers at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich have identified a strain of ash tree that is highly resistant against the disease.

In northern Europe, the Chalara fraxinea fungus responsible for ash dieback has wiped out thousands of trees, including up to 90% of ash woodland in Denmark. more

Farmers Weekly, 17 June 2013 

David Cameron: 'It is time to look again at GM food'

David Cameron has opened the way to Britain relaxing rules on genetically modified food. The Prime Minister said he wanted to foster a “pro-science culture” in the UK, and this started with a shift in Britain’s attitude towards so-called GM food, dubbed "Frankenstein food" by its critics.

The comments come ahead of a major speech by Environment secretary Owen Paterson on Thursday next week which is set to signal a change in GM policy.

Advocates argue that GM techniques increase crop yields, avoid the need for pesticides, and could be essential in assuring Britain's future food security. The Government is reported to be ready to call for European Union restrictions on cultivation of the crops for human consumption to be relaxed. more

Daily Telegraph, 14 June 2013 

Defra approves Rothamsted GM wheat trial extension

DEFRA has approved the extension of Rothamsted Research’s genetically modified (GM) wheat trials this autumn.

Rothamsted scientists sowed wheat plants which have been genetically engineered to produce an aphid alarm pheromone to repel the pests in the first stage of a two-year field trial last spring. The scientists said the plants would cut the amount of insecticides currently being used on crops. more

Farmers Guardian, 13 June 2013

Research boost for soils and crop protection

Two major new research initiatives have been announced which will put soil ecosystems and future strategies for controlling pests, diseases and weeds in the spotlight. More than £4.5m of funding has been made available for research into soil ecosystems and their impact on agriculture and food production.

The Global Food Security programme used the opening day of Cereals to put out a call for research proposals which focus on improving understanding of the role of soil. The funding will come from both the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council. more

Farmers Weekly, 12 June 2013 

Europe must back GM or just be an old-tech museum, Willetts warns

Britain is urging the European Union to ease restrictions on genetically modified crops and other cutting-edge branches of science before the continent becomes a "museum of 20th century technology", the Science Minister has said.

David Willetts said that EU rules were holding back ground-breaking work in fields as diverse as medicine, agriculture and space exploration, and ministers were worried that Europe could lag behind. He also voiced concern about Europe's failure to feed itself despite exporting GM technology to the third world. more

The Times, 10 June 2013

Farming revolution needed to keep UK competitive

A scientific revolution is needed to ensure UK farming remains competitive over the next 20 years and beyond, industry leaders have warned.

Investment in innovation, research and development - including the application of modern breeding techniques to crops and livestock - is vital if agriculture is to feed a growing world population, according to a cross-industry report published on Thursday (6 June).

Called Feeding the Future - Innovation Requirements for Primary Food Production in the UK to 2030, the document sees industry leaders set out what they believe farming's chief research and development focus should be over the next two decades. more

Farmers Weekly, 6 June 2013 

Less than one in 100 are farmers, census shows

Less than one in 100 people in England and Wales are farmers compared to almost a quarter of the workforce 170 years ago, analysis has shown, revealing far-reaching changes in the country's industrial landscape.

A report from the Office for National Statistics analysing censuses from 1841 to 2011 found that the proportion of workers who are in agriculture and fishing in England and Wales fell to 0.9pc - or 200,000 people - in 2011.

Farming is now the smallest industry in England and Wales compared to 1841 when over one in five workers were in agriculture and fishing; since then, the industry has declined as better transport allowed for more importing of goods and machines have taken the place of farmhands. "In 1900 one agricultural worker fed around 25 people in Great Britain, by 2010 one agricultural worker fed 200 people," said the ONS. more

The Telegraph, 6 June 2013

The UK scientific community has issued a broadside to the government, warning it not to cut the science budget. Ministers are due to announce their spending plans for the next four years on 26 June.

The public research budget was frozen when the coalition came to power in 2010, but inflation has eroded its value by 10% since.

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said that depressing funding still further would damage the economy. "Science is the seedcorn of growth," he told reporters. "You do not burn the seedcorn when you are in a difficult situation; you preserve it and that's our message to government." more


TB vaccination expensive and offers little benefit, MPs conclude

TB vaccination is expensive, offers no guarantee of protection and will provide little benefit in the immediate future, a committee of MPs has concluded.

In a report on its inquiry into cattle and badger vaccination the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee accuses the Government of failing to sufficiently communicate all the issues that surround the policy.

This has led to ‘poor public understanding’ of the vaccines, which are often held by opponents of the badger cull as credible alternatives. more

Farmers Guardian, 5 June 2013 

MPs urge UK to eat less meat to help global food supplies

The UK population must be encouraged to eat less meat "over time" in an effort to make the global food supply more sustainable, MPs have said.

The International Development Committee said increased growing of grain to feed cattle was reducing the resources for nourishing people. And food production companies that wasted too much should face "clear sanctions", the MPs said. more

BBC News, 4 June 2013 

Anti-badger cull rally held in London as pilot culls begin

Several hundred people have held a rally in London as licences to cull badgers came into force in two areas. Up to 5,094 free-running badgers in west Somerset and west Gloucestershire can now be shot by trained marksmen.

Ex-Queen guitarist Brian May, who led the rally, said the cull would not make "life any easier for farmers", adding: "We don't believe it will work."

Farmers believe badgers spread TB and have led to rising numbers of infected cattle being slaughtered every year. more

BBC News, 1 June 2013 

GM wheat found growing in US field

US regulators are probing the shock discovery of unlicensed GM wheat found growing on a farm in Oregon. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched an investigation after wheat plants survived being sprayed with Monsanto's Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide.

Further testing by USDA laboratories indicates the presence of the same GM glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorised to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005.

Analysts at Oregon State University confirmed the presence of GM glyphosate tolerance traits in the wheat. So far no data on the levels of contamination has been released, and there is no evidence that contaminated wheat grains have entered the market. more

Farmers Weekly, 30 May 2013 

EFSA links fourth pesticide to bee decline

The insecticide fipronil poses a "high acute risk" to bees when used as a seed treatment for maize, according to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).

The findings, published in an EFSA report requested by the European Commission, could see potential restrictions on the use of fipronil. This is the fourth insecticide used as seed treatment suspected of being harmful to bees.

Last month the EU announced a ban on the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides - imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin - from 1 December this year.

"The insecticide fipronil poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize," said EFSA in a statement on Tuesday (28 May). more

Farmers Weekly, 29 May 2013

Prince Charles blames horsemeat scandal on farming standards

The horsemeat scandal and declining public health are symptoms of a "drive to the bottom" in food production standards, Prince Charles has said.

Speaking in Germany, the Prince of Wales said the "aggressive search for cheaper food" should be replaced by more sustainable production worldwide.

He said farmers were being "driven into the ground" by low prices, which had led to some "worrying shortcuts". He also warned low-quality food could lead to "unaffordable" future costs. more

BBC News, 27 May 2013 

'Too much emotion in mega-farm debate'

The debate around so-called "mega-farms" must focus on science rather than emotion if farmers are to produce more food sustainably, an expert has warned. Too much emphasis was placed on the perceived welfare and environmental issues associated with large-scale livestock production, said Chris Warkup, director of the Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Network.

Animal welfare campaigners claim livestock production plans involving farms that would house thousands of animals are cruel and unethical. But Mr Warkup said more science had to be brought to the discussion so decisions by planners, retailers, policy-makers and consumer could be based on fact. more

Farmers Weekly, 25 May 2013 

Defra minister backs plant breeding campaign

Defra science minister Lord de Mauley has given the Government’s formal backing to an industry-led campaign to highlight the critical role of plant breeding innovation and quality seed in supporting a competitive farming industry and a dynamic value chain.

The PVR campaign, launched jointly by BSPB and AIC earlier this year, focuses on the importance of Plant Variety Rights (PVR) as a unique form of intellectual property which helps to protect, stimulate and reward progress in crop improvement.

Speaking at the BSPB Annual Dinner at the Royal Society in London earlier this week, Lord de Mauley said: “I am very pleased to endorse the campaign initiated by BSPB and AIC to highlight the need for continued investment in plant breeding as the starting point in the UK’s £90 billion food supply chain. This initiative chimes exactly with the Government’s own aim to improve the competitiveness of UK agriculture through innovation. more

Farming Online. 24 May 2013 

Former Government chief scientist accuses EU over pesticides

Former Chief Government Scientist Professor Sir John Beddington has accused EU policymakers of misusing the precautionary principle in their approach to pesticides such as neonicotinoids.

Speaking at the Crop Protection Association’s (CPA) annual convention, in London, Prof Beddington said EU attitudes towards pesticides, dating back more than two decades, were hampering the UK’s ability to produce food. more

Farmers Guardian, 22 May 2013 

Improved tools needed to assess agriculture's environmental footprint

The beef and lamb sector is working hard to address environmental issues, but more work is needed to define how the carbon footprint of all agricultural sectors is measured to assess its environmental impact.

The statement came from a group of MPs who have been feeding into an inquiry on the positive and negative effects of livestock on the environment.

The committee, led by Neil Parish MP (Con, Tiverton and Honiton), revealed more robust scientific data and a standard model to measure carbon sequestration is needed to help the beef and lamb sector meet the twin challenges of sustainable food production and reducing its environmental impact. more

Farmers Guardian, 20 May 2013 

Large-scale pig farm consultation begins

Plans to build a large-scale pig unit in Derbyshire are to go under consultation after the proposals were tweaked to meet the concerns of local residents.

Pig production company Midland Pig Producers (MPP) said it had slightly altered the layout of its proposed unit which will house a total of 25,000 pigs near Foston after listening to local residents' complaints about previous plans.

It said it was now confident the application for the £20m project, which would create one of the UK's largest pig farms, would now get the go-ahead from local planners. more

Farmers Weekly, 17 May 2013

HDC precision herbicide research moves toward commercialisation

Precision technology that will allow reduced herbicide use by accurately identifying and spot-spraying weeds, developed from research funded by the Horticultural Development Company (HDC), is to go into commercial production.

The prototype device combines an innovative image analysis-based system for identifying a variety of weeds in row crops, coupled with a choice of two precision spraying modules to directly apply herbicide either to single spots or to small patches of weeds. more

Horticultural Development Company, 16 May 2013 

UN urges people to eat insects to fight world hunger

Eating more insects could help fight world hunger, according to a new UN report. The report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that eating insects could help boost nutrition and reduce pollution.

It notes that over 2 billion people worldwide already supplement their diet with insects. However it admits that "consumer disgust" remains a large barrier in many Western countries. more

BBC News, 13 May 2013 

Biogas offers alternative fertiliser opportunity

Digestate is still a relatively new source of alternative fertiliser, but with more biogas plants coming on stream in the UK an increasing number of farmers are applying it on their land to help reduce artificial fertiliser costs.

Latest figures from the National Non-Food Crops Centre and WRAP show there are 106 anaerobic digestion plants outside the water industry, processing up to 5.1m tonnes of food and farm waste every year. Around 90-95% of material fed into an AD plant comes out as digestate, so there is a potentially significant source of fertiliser for growers to tap into. more

Farmers Weekly, 13 May 2013 

Cambridge-based scientists develop ‘superwheat’

British scientists say they have developed a new type of wheat which could increase productivity by 30%.

The Cambridge-based National Institute of Agricultural Botany has combined an ancient ancestor of wheat with a modern variety to produce a new strain.

In early trials, the resulting crop seemed bigger and stronger than the current modern wheat varieties. more

BBC News, 12 May 2013 

Bee decline in UK blamed on intensive farming

Intensive farming and urban development have been identified as two "key reasons" for bee decline in the UK over recent years, according to a new study.

Britain has more than 250 bee species, but numbers have fallen dramatically due to disease, an increase in chemical use among farmers and habitat loss, says theIconic Bees report from the University of Reading, commissioned by Friends of the Earth (FoE).

The report, published on Thursday (9 May), says ongoing agricultural intensification and change of landscape represents the "main threat" to some of Britain's most iconic bees, such as the Large Garden Bumblebee and the Potter Flower Bee.

But the NFU said the report was an unfair attack on farming that failed to take into consideration all the good work farmers have done under agri-environment schemes to improve farm biodiversity. more

Farmers Weekly, 9 May 2013 

Brussels unveils agri-food safety plan

Brussels has unveiled proposals for a "landmark package" it says will modernise, simplify and strengthen food safety across Europe. The reform package will cover plant health, seeds, animal health, official controls and a common financial framework for food and feed.

The proposed regulations aim to simplify, yet strengthen, rules while removing avoidable duplications and unnecessary burdens, said the European Commission.

On plants, the review would help ensure the health, identity and quality of plant reproductive material - including seeds and plant propagating material. more

Farmers Weekly, 7 May 2013 

GMs benefit farmers and consumers, says report

GM crops have delivered economic benefits for farmers, consumers and the environment since the technology was introduced 16 years ago, according to a new report.

The study, by UK firm PG Economics, found that GM insect-resistant crops have delivered higher incomes through improved yields in all countries where biotech crops are grown.

Since the introduction of GM crops in the mid-1990s, many farmers, especially in developing countries, have also benefitted from lower costs of production through less expenditure on pesticides. more

Farmers Weekly, 7 May 2013 

US rejects EU claim of insecticide as prime reason for bee colony collapse

A government report blamed a combination of factors for the disappearance of America's honeybees on Thursday and did not join Europe in singling out pesticides as a prime suspect.

The report, by the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, blamed a parasitic mite, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and genetics as well as pesticides for the rapid decline of honey bees since 2006.

Researchers said it was not clear whether a certain class of pesticides was a major cause of the colony collapse. more

The Guardian, 3 May 2013 

New facilities support transition from plant science into practice

Showcasing plant science and making it accessible to farmers and growers is the aim of a new £2.16 million glasshouse facility and visitor centre in Cambridgeshire. Defra Science Minister Lord de Mauley performed the official opening of the facility at NIAB’s Innovation Farm near Cambridge last week.

As well as supporting the translation of plant science into practical application, it will also provide business advice for small and medium-sized enterprises in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk.

Lord de Mauley said the opening of the new facility was ‘excellent timing’ with the Government’s recent focus on improving the competitiveness of agriculture, including encouraging farmers to use new groundbreaking technology. more

Farmers Guardian, 2 May 2013 

Neonicotinoid decision could set dangerous precedent

The EU decision to ban pesticides which it says are harmful to bees could be setting a dangerous precedent for regulatory decision making, experts have warned.

The Crop Protection Association (CPA) said yesterday’s ruling, which saw the European Commission temporarily ban three neonicotinoid seed treatments for two years, was completely ‘at odds’ with field-based research.

CPA chief executive Nick von Westenholz said the decision ignored trial data which found no evidence of harmful effects on bees when neonicotinoids were used in the field. more

Farmers Guardian, 30 April 2013              

Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

The European Commission will restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths by researchers, despite a split among EU states on the issue.

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations.

Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.

But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data. more

BBC News, 29 April 2013 

New hybrid grass could reduce devastation caused by flooding

Scientists believe a new grass hybrid could minimise the impact of flooding. Researchers used a hybridised species of grass called perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) with a closely related species called meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis).

They hoped to integrate the rapid establishment and growth rate of the ryegrass with the large, well developed root systems and efficient water capture of the meadow fescue.

Over two years of field experiments in the South West, the team demonstrate the hybrid, named Festulolium, reduced water runoff from agricultural grassland by up to 51 per cent compared to a leading UK nationally-recommended perennial ryegrass cultivar and by 43 per cent compared to meadow fescue. more

Farmers Guardian, 25 April 2013 

Mega farm fears threatening UK livestock production

Growing urbanisation of the British countryside is threatening national food production, says the National Pig Association. There are concerns that planning applications for traditional part-time pig units are now meeting with opposition.

"Britain already imports around 60 percent of its pork and pork products — usually from less welfare-friendly farms — and this figure is set to rise unless farmers are encouraged to invest in new more efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings" the association said.

NPA has identified a growing trend for vegan groups and other single-interest lobby groups to become involved in planning applications, using misinformation to frighten local residents into opposing new and replacement pig farms. more

Farming UK, 23 April 2013 

Researchers developing climate change resilient crops

Researchers at the University of Bolton have made a molecular-level discovery in plants that could lead to the development of crops that are more resilient to climate change.

Dr Ianis Matsoukas is a molecular physiologist and biology lecturer at University of Bolton. He and his research team from Bolton and the University of Warwick have discovered why, at a molecular level, plants are unable to flower during the juvenile phase of plant development. more

Farming UK, 22 April 2013 

Case for GM crops is becoming ‘stronger’, says chief scientist

Sir Mark Walport, who took over as the government’s chief scientific adviser a few weeks ago, said the rise of GM was “inexorable”.

Sir Mark, who took over from his predecessor Sir John Beddington this month, spelled out his belief that the genetic modification of crops had important potential benefits for humankind.

Speaking publicly for the first time in the post, David Cameron’s personal scientitific adviser said evidence on the benefits of farming GM crops was becoming “stronger and stronger” as the technology started “showing its value”. He said the crops could potentially help address the world’s food crisis as farmers struggle to meet growing demand. more

The Telegraph, 19 April 2013 

World’s Gene Pool Crucial for Survival

Conserving and making the most of the planet's wealth of genetic resources will be crucial for survival, as people will need to produce sufficient and nutritious food for a growing population, FAO Deputy Director-General Dan Gustafson said, addressing the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The Commission, the only intergovernmental body to specifically address all matters related to the world's gene pool for food and agriculture, is marking its 30th anniversary and is meeting in Rome this week.

"FAO believes that adaptation of the agriculture sector is not merely an option, but an imperative for human survival, and genetic resources will form an essential part of any adaptation strategy," he said. more

The Crop Site, 17 April 2013 

Pig born using new GM approach

The laboratory which created Dolly the sheep has produced a disease-resistant piglet using a new technique which is simpler than cloning and could bring GM meat a step closer.

The piglet, known only as "Pig 26", was the first animal to be created via "gene editing" when it was born four months ago at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute.

The new technique, which is faster and more efficient than existing methods, avoids one of the major concerns of anti-GM campaigners because it does not involve the use of antibiotic-resistance genes. Scientists hope it could make genetic engineering of livestock more acceptable to the public and be key to the challenge of feeding the growing global population. more

The Telegraph, 16 April 2013 

Biofuels: ‘Irrational’ and ‘worse than fossil fuels’

The UK's "irrational" use of biofuels will cost motorists around £460 million over the next 12 months, a think tank says.

A report by Chatham House says the growing reliance on sustainable liquid fuels will also increase food prices.

The author says that biodiesel made from vegetable oil was worse for the climate than fossil fuels. more

BBC News, 15 April 2013 

World food prices rise year on year

Although UN Food and Agriculture Organisation figures suggest food prices remained stable for the past 5 months, with little fluctuation between October 2012 and March this year, when prices rose one percent, researchers in the United States claim that longer-term analysis shows prices are rising year on year.

Researchers from the Worldwatch Institute in Washington DC announced on Thursday that prices have been increasing steadily for the past decade.

According to the Washington DC-based research group, prices rose 2.7 percent in 2012, reaching levels not seen since the 1960s and 1970s but still well below the price spike of 1974. more

Farming Online, 12 April 2013 

Waitrose bans use of neonicotinoids

WAITROSE is banning its suppliers from using neonicotinoids on produce destined for the supermarket. The retailer is asking growers of fruit, vegetables and flowers to stop using the pesticides by the end of 2014, due to their alleged effects on pollinators.

Waitrose said the restriction on use is a ‘precautionary measure and will remain in place until scientists can demonstrate conclusively whether or not the formulations are adversely affecting populations of pollinator insects’.

The approach will also be rolled out progressively to commodity crops such as oil seed rape on the Waitrose Farm at Leckford in Hampshire and ‘as soon as practicable’ to other areas of the arable sector which supply Waitrose. more

Farmers Guardian, 12 April 2013 

Tesco drops non-GM specification for egg and poultry

The supermarket has published a letter to consumers from Tim J Smith, group technical director, explaining its own-label fresh and frozen chicken and hens had been fed non-GM as a condition of suppliers' contracts. This specification has now been dropped.

"Over recent weeks UK poultry and egg suppliers have been telling retailers that it is increasingly difficult for them to guarantee that the feed they use is entirely GM free," said the letter.

Mr Smith explains the difficulty is down to the amount of non-GM soya now available: "There simply isn't enough non-GM feed available. It is a global supply issue - 80% of the world's soya is now modified." more

Farmers Weekly, 11 April 2013 

Higher levels of healthy compound in Beneforté broccoli

Field trials and genetic studies have shown that a new variety of broccoli developed by BBSRC-funded scientists reliably yields higher levels of a health-promoting compound.

Broccoli contains a compound called glucoraphanin, which has been shown to promote health by maintaining cardiovascular health and a reduction in the risk of cancer. A long term breeding programme to increase glucoraphanin levels has resulted in the commercial release of Beneforté broccoli. Beneforté was developed by crossing standard broccoli with a wild relative derived from Sicily. more

BBSRC, 10 April 2013 

Could wheat be made more like maize?

Wheat yields could potentially double as scientists seek to make the crop's efficiency of photosynthesis similar to that of maize plants. Maize draws in more carbon dioxide than wheat does, making it twice as efficient at transforming light energy into biomass and hence yield.

Scientists at Rothamsted Research see improving the photosynthesis of wheat as key after setting out a programme to raise top yields by a third. They are confident this yield lift can be reached without using genetic modification (GM) technology, although GM is being used in the laboratory to map particular traits. more

Farmers Weekly, 8 April 2013

Britain ‘running out of wheat’ owing to bad weather

Britain will become a net importer of wheat for the first time in a decade this year because of bad weather, the National Farmers' Union has said.

NFU president Peter Kendall said more than two million tonnes of wheat had been lost because of last year's poor summer. The prolonged cold weather would also hit this autumn's harvest, he said.

But he said the shortage was unlikely to affect the price of bread because of the global nature of the market. more

BBC News, 6 April 2013 

Bee-harming pesticides should be banned, MPs urge

The UK environment secretary, Owen Paterson, must end his department's "extraordinary complacency" and suspend the use of pesticides linked to serious harm in bees, according to a damning report from an influential cross-party committee of MPs.

The UK is blocking attempts to introduce a Europe-wide ban on the world's most widely used insecticides, neonicotinoids. But MPs on parliament's green watchdog, the environmental audit committee (EAC), said the government was relying on "fundamentally flawed" studies and failing to uphold its own precautionary principle.

"The environment department seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees given the vital free service that pollinators provide to our economy," said Joan Walley, the chair of the EAC. "We believe that the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action."

The EAC report concluded that by the start of 2014 the UK government must enforce a moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoids on the flowering crops that bees and other pollinators feed on, such as corn and oilseed rape. more

The Guardian, 5 April 2013 

Sainsbury’s to fund broiler feed research

Agricultural consultant ADAS has received a substantial grant from the Sainsbury's Innovation Fund to examine the extent to which higher levels of UK-produced rapeseed meal can be substituted for soya bean meal in broiler diets. The aim is to reduce the environmental impact and improve the sustainability of poultrymeat production, without compromising productivity or welfare.

"The project addresses concerns about the continuing use of imported soya bean meal due to the potential negative environmental impact of production in third countries, as well as the scarcity of supply of non-GM soya bean meal," said a statement. more

Farmers Weekly, 1 April 2013 

Defra conclude neonicotinoids pose 'low' risk to bees

DEFRA has published two pieces of research suggesting the risk of neonicotinoids seed treatments to bee populations in the field is low.

The two pieces of research, including a field trial from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), contradict the findings of an EU risk assessment are likely to reinforce the UK’s opposition to a proposed EU ban.

The European Commission is planning to suspend the use of three neonicotinoid products - imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin - for two years from as soon as this July. more

Farmers Guardian, 27 March 2013  

Rothamsted applies for autumn GM wheat trial

Britain's first open field trial of autumn-sown GM wheat could get under way later this year. Rothamsted Research has submitted an application to DEFRA to plant autumn-sown wheat as part of its GM wheat trial.

Scientists believe the extension of the trial would allow them to study the effects of autumn aphid infestations on their experimental aphid-repelling wheat. They say autumn-sown Cadenza wheat engineered to repel aphids - a major crop pest - would allow them to gain further data for the experiment. more

Farmers Weekly, 25 March 2013 

Prof Sir John Beddington warns of floods, droughts and storms

The government's chief scientist has said that there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere for there to be more floods and droughts over the next 25 years.

Prof Sir John Beddington said there was a "need for urgency" in tackling climate change. He said that the later governments left it, the harder it would be to combat.

Prof Beddington made his comments in the final week of his tenure as the government's chief scientific adviser. more

BBC News, 25 March 2013 

Farming key to economic recovery

FARMING and the rural economy can be at the centre of the UK’s ‘economic renaissance’, according to an East Anglia MP. George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, was talking at the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists AGM at the Tower of London.

Mr Freeman spoke about the Government’s life sciences strategy and how he believes the country can play a key role in the future of global agricultural research.

He said: “The rural economy can be the crucible of rural renaissance for small businesses. We are on the cusp of real opportunities with the right government policy in place.UK food and farming can be a strategic sector for the economy and is part of a sustainable recovery. Agricultural research, technology and science can be the jewel in the crown of our wider life sciences research base.” more

Farmers Guardian, 24 March 2013

Heath hits out at 'international hypocrisy' on GM

Farming Minister David Heath has hit out at the ‘international hypocrisy’ he claims exists over the rules surrounding genetically modified (GM) crops. Mr Heath said he had always been ‘extremely cautious’ about GM technology because of the ‘need to be clear about the human health and environmental implications’.

But, speaking at the International Food Exhibition, in London, this week he said the evidence was there that GM crops had been grown over a ‘very large part of the world for a very long time without those effects being manifest’. Specific GM applications therefore ought to be considered on their own merit,” he said. 

“There is a moral duty to look at every possibility to see if there are things we can do safely and better than we do now to meet the challenge of feeding a hugely increased population with sustainable techniques,” he said. more

Farmers Guardian, 21 March 2013 

Consumers will shape the future, says food survey

Nearly one in five food industry representatives do not monitor or measure the sustainability of the food products they source, according to a new survey.

The Driving Sustainability report, from LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) launched yesterday, provides a unique insight into the challenges facing farmers and the food industry in producing sustainable food.  It surveyed nearly 1,000 representatives from across the food industry and questioned more than 150 LEAF farmers about how they are addressing sustainability.

The results show that while 82 per cent of the food industry representatives agree sustainability is very important to their company, one in five (19 per cent) do not monitor or measure the sustainability of food products they source. more

Smallholder, 20 March 2013 

U.N. bodies want to tackle drought to avert food crisis

U.N. agencies want to strengthen national drought policies after warnings that climate change would increase their frequency and severity. Droughts cause more deaths and displacement than floods or earthquakes, making them the world's most destructive natural hazard, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, one of the groups taking part. 

"We must boost national capacity to cope before droughts occur," Ann Tutwiler, FAO deputy director-general told the five-day talks on drought in Geneva attended by scientists, politicians and development agencies.

“Unless we shift towards such policies, we face the prospect of repeated humanitarian catastrophes and the repeated threat of drought to global food security." more

Reuters, 15 March 2013 

EU Standing Committee delivers ‘no opinion’ on neonicotinoids

Member States have failed to reach a qualified majority in a vote potentially leading to a ban on the use of neonicotinoid based pesticides on crops attractive to bees. The European Commission’s Appeal Committee will now decide the fate of this important agricultural technology. 

Friedhelm Schmider Director General of the European Crop Protection Association commenting after the Standing Committee on the food chain and animal health (SCFCAH) vote: 

“ECPA would like to highlight that the proposal to ban neonicotinoids did not receive a qualified majority at the Standing Committee. This shows that Member States are doubtful about the proportionality of the measures proposed by the Commission. The measures would clearly have an impact on expected yield, economic growth and jobs with no improvement on bee health”. more

Farm Business, 15 March 2013 

'Valley of death’ devours science ventures 

Britain is failing to secure the economic benefits of its world-class scientific research because the government has “no coherent innovation policy” for commercialising discoveries, MPs have warned. The Commons science and technology committee said a “valley of death” was blocking the progress of scientific innovations from the laboratory to commercially successful businesses.

The cross-party committee expressed concern that many British technology start-ups are bought up by larger overseas companies before they can develop into thriving businesses that create jobs and wealth in the UK.

Andrew Miller, committee chairman, said: “The UK’s university and science sector is a global success, but the challenge for government is how that world class academic research can be translated into commercial activity. “British entrepreneurs are being badly let down by a lack of access to financial support and a system that often forces them to sell out to private equity investors or larger foreign companies to get ideas off the ground." more

Financial Times, 13 March 2013 

More nitrogen could benefit wheat

A fear of applying too much nitrogen (N) and falling foul of cross-compliance rules could be one reason why wheat yields have remained largely unchanged in recent years, prompting calls for a rethink on rates.

Data analysis carried out as part of the HGCA yield plateau project suggest that modern elite varieties of wheat need an extra 20kg of N/ha for every extra 1t of yield, says HGCA research and knowledge transfer manager Paul Gosling.

"We are almost certainly starving some of our wheat crops of nitrogen," he says. Over the period 1983 to 2009, the average national use of nitrogen fertiliser on wheat has remained static, while requirements have increased. more

Farmers Weekly, 12 March 2013 

'Farming promotes antibiotic resistance in humans'

England's chief medical officer has blamed the overuse of antibiotics in livestock farming for contributing to resistance in drugs used in human medicine.

Prof Dame Sally Davies described resistance to antibiotics as a "ticking timebomb" and she urged the government to take the threat of resistance as seriously as the threat of terrorism.

She warned that routine operations could potentially become deadly in as little as 10-20 years. more

Farmers Weekly, 11 March 2013 

New poultry research facilities

Poultry health and welfare, a key factor in a multi-billion pound food industry, will be boosted with the building of a new research centre.

Work has already begun on the £14M National Avian Research Facility (NARF) at the University of Edinburgh's Easter Bush campus.

Its resources will be made available to both national and international researchers studying issues affecting avian health, such as the spread of infections. This is paramount in an industry worth five per cent of the world-market food value and rising demand for food from a growing population. more

BBSRC, 11 March 2013

McDonald’s unveils free tool to give beef farmers a digital advantage

McDonald’s UK has today launched a bespoke carbon tool for the beef sector, as part of a £1 million investment in helping beef farmers in Britain and Ireland improve their environmental performance and realise greater efficiencies. 

For the first time, the innovative ‘What If?’ tool will enable farmers to measure the carbon emissions produced per kilo of beef, and benchmark their score against top performing farms. more

Farm Business, 8 March 2013 

Ash dieback genetic code cracked

British scientists have cracked the genetic code of the ash dieback fungus, raising hopes that the disease can be beaten. Scientists from The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) and the John Innes Centre in Norwich sampled the pith from a twig, extracted RNA and sequenced it.

TSL took cuttings of infected ash in Ashwellthorpe wood in Norfolk, where the fungus was first identified in the natural environment in the UK. They hope genome sequences of three samples of the fungus will shed light on the infection process and reveal clues to the origins of the disease. more

Farmers Weekly, 8 March 2013 

Oral badger vaccine field trial under way

A field trial is under way in Ireland aimed at developing an oral TB badger vaccine, scientists have revealed.

Government agencies, including DEFRA, FERA and the AHVLA, are working together with researchers in the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand to develop an oral vaccine.

The key areas of work include formulation and bait development, efficacy and safety studies and field deployment studies aimed at producing data to submit an application for a licensed product. more

Farmers Weekly, 7 March 2013 

Research could help bees communicate health problems

Honeybees could one day be able to communicate their poor health to beekeepers thanks to a £1.2m (€1.4m) research project.

It is hoped the research, which has been led by Nottingham Trent University and the Bee Farmers Association of the United Kingdom (BFA), may halt the decline of honeybee populations in Europe.

The EU-funded study aims to monitor and decode the buzzing of bees in the hive and pass crucial information to beekeepers via wireless technology. more

Farmers Guardian, 5 March 2013 

UK must adapt for weather extremes, says Environment Agency

Britain must become more resilient to both drought and flooding, Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith has said. New figures from the agency show that one in every five days saw flooding in 2012, but one in four days saw drought.

Rivers such as the Tyne, Ouse and Tone fell to their lowest and rose to their highest flows since records began, within a four-month period of the year.

Lord Smith said urgent action was vital to help "prepare and adapt" many aspects of Britain for such extremes. more

BBC News, 4 March 2013 

Schmallenberg figures grow as farmers wait on vaccine

New government figures have revealed the Schmallenberg virus has spread to more than 1,500 farms in the UK with the disease moving progressively northwards. The virus has been reported in all counties of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and may begin to circulate in Scotland this year.

The disease, which leads to lambs and calves being stillborn or deformed, led to widespread worry in the early lambing season with figures indicating up to a 60% loss being suffered by early flocks. Farmers began to complain over the lack of information released by Defra but the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency newly reported over 1,531 infected farms, a 26% increase from January figures. more

Farming UK, 1 March 2013 

New group to advise Barroso on science, technology

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced on Wednesday (27 February) the creation of an advisory group on science and technology, 13 months after the appointment of the Commission’s first scientific advisor.

The Science and Technology Advisory Council includes a cross-section of advisors – from universities, non-governmental groups and businesses. The council is to provide independent information and advice on an array of scientific and technology issues.

The creation of the council and the earlier appointment of a staff science advisor reflect both the Commission's increasing focus on science and technology to boost European competitiveness, but also a need to deal with political minefields such as genetically modified crops, biofuels and shale gas. more

Euractiv, 28 February 2013 

Neonicotinoids decision must not be rushed - Paterson

Owen Paterson has urged the EU health commissioner not to rush into a decision on the use of neonicotinoids.The Secretary of State wants a decision on the insecticides' future use to be based on data gathered in a field, not in a laboratory, and lobbied EU health commissioner Tonio Borg on the issue in February.

“We are assessing field data using real bees, real fields and real conditions and I hope there will be no rushed decision before our field data is published,” he said. “We’ve always got to look at the impact of a very significant reduction in yields and the dangers of a fall back on older pesticides developed in the 60s and 70s.” more

Farming UK, 27 February 2013 


GM decisions should be based on 'real' data - Owen Paterson

At the 2013 NFU Conference the Defra Secretary said any decisions which could affect farmers’ profitability should be based on sound, scientific evidence rather than knee jerk reactions.

Speaking in relation to comments made about the restrictions on Genetically Modified (GM) crops and a potential ban on neonicotinoids, Owen Paterson said ‘real’ data had to be taken into account.

Mr Paterson said the potential ban on neonicotinoids, which could come into effect in July, would be based on lab data rather than ‘actual field data’ which is being carried out in the UK. more

Farmers Guardian, 27 February 2013 

Farmers must play their part to stop 'water crisis'

As the world’s largest users and wasters of water, farmers must improve operations in the battle against water scarcity, leading food experts said.

Speaking at the annual City Food Lecture in London last night (Monday), Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke and champion for the UK’s Global Food Security Programme, Prof Tim Benton, said poor irrigation techniques and biofuel production were two of the main drivers of the ‘water crisis’.

Mr Bulcke said first generation biofuels (those made from food crops including wheat, oilseed rape, and sugar beet), caused ‘collateral damage’ as they competed for water against crops grown for food. more

Farmers Guardian, 26 February 2013 

Developing countries plant most GM crops

Developing countries grew more hectares of GM crops last year than industrialised countries but the USA remains the world's largest grower, according to a new report.

Developing nations planted 52% of the global biotech crops in 2012, up from 50% a year earlier and above the 48% industrial countries grew last year, according to a report by the pro-GM International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

Globally, farmers grew a record 170.3m hectares of biotech crops - up 6%, or 10.3m hectares more than in 2011. more

Farmers Weekly, 21 February 2013 

UNEP study calls for smarter nutrient use to avoid environmental destruction

The authors of a new report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have urged policy makers to roll out sustainable agriculture techniques, which they claim are "already available but typically not yet applied," and suggested consumers cut their meat intake to limit the damaging effects of modern farming on the environment.

The report, Our Nutrient World, highlights how humans have massively altered natural flows of nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients. It shows that, while this has had huge benefits for world food and energy production, it has also created "a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health, causing toxic algal blooms, killing fish, threatening sensitive ecosystems and contributing to climate change." more

Farming Online, 18 February 2013 

Badger cull 'will not stop TB in cattle' says new research

New research conducted by Durham University has claimed a 'widespread badger cull' will have no impact in solving the problem of tuberculosis in cattle.

It has been claimed that controlling badger numbers would reduce the risk of TB in cattle and a cull is due to begin in the summer after the government announced a temporary ban in October.

Professor Peter Atkins, from Durham University's Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience has investigated the spread of the disease in new research. "Badgers almost certainly play a part in spreading the disease, but my conclusion is that their impact over the decades has been far less than suggested" said Atkins. more

Farming UK, 15 February 2013 

Planting wildflowers on farmland helps spiders

Farmers could help control crop pests by encouraging spider populations, according to new research. Scientists found that growing wildflowers on non-crop buffer strips of grass increased spider numbers, which feed on crop pests like aphids.

However the research also showed that simply planting wildflower seeds into existing grass buffer strips is not enough, because grasses already dominate the area. To encourage wildflowers to grow, the researchers cultivated the grass strips before planting wildflower seeds, and used a selective herbicide that reduces grass growth. more

BBSRC, 14 February 2013 

Horsemeat crisis caught government 'flat-footed'

The UK's ability to respond to the horsemeat crisis has been undermined by a lack of clarity over the role of the Food Standards Agency, according to MPs.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee said moving responsibility for nutrition policy and labelling away from the FSA to the Department of Health in 2010 had given the agency a "diminished role".

This meant the current contamination crisis had caught the FSA and government flat-footed and unable to respond effectively. more

Farmers Weekly, 14 February 2013  

Horsemeat scandal: EU urges DNA tests of processed beef

The EU is urging members to conduct random tests to tackle a widening scandal over mislabelled horsemeat. All members should carry out DNA tests on processed beef for traces of horsemeat for three months from 1 March, the health commissioner said.

Horsemeat should also be tested for the presence of the veterinary medicine phenylbutazone ("bute"), he added. Tonio Borg was speaking after a meeting with ministers from the UK, France and other affected countries in Brussels. more

BBC News, 13 February 2013 

UK could go it alone on GM – Paterson

Individual EU member states should be allowed to make the decision on whether to adopt GM, according to Defra secretary Owen Paterson.

In a bid to pave the way for the UK to go it alone on the technology, he has begun talks on this "single state" approach with EU health and consumer policy commissioner Tonio Borg. more

Farmers Weekly, 9 February 2013 

UK vets have ‘repeatedly raised concerns’ over bute in food

An independent veterinary committee had "repeatedly expressed concern" about a drug found in UK horsemeat destined for export, the BBC has learned.

The discovery of horsemeat in UK foodstuffs is raising big concerns that UK testing regimes are not sufficient.  There are worries that if unregulated horsemeat is substituted for beef it could expose people to a drug called phenylbutazone - often called "bute". more

BBC News, 8 February 2013 

After 30 years, is a GM food breakthrough finally here?

Scientists say they have seen the future of genetically modified foods and have concluded that it is orange or, more precisely, golden. In a few months, golden rice – normal rice that has been genetically modified to provide vitamin A to counter blindness and other diseases in children in the developing world – will be given to farmers in the Philippines for planting in paddy fields.

Thirty years after scientists first revealed they had created the world's first GM crop, hopes that their potential to ease global malnutrition problems may be realised at last. Bangladesh and Indonesia have indicated they are ready to accept golden rice in the wake of the Philippines' decision, and other nations, including India, have also said that they are considering planting it. more

The Observer, 3 February 2013 

EU says pesticides linked to bee decline should be restricted

The European Commission has proposed that member states restrict the use of certain classes of pesticide that are believed to be harmful to bees.

Sprays that use neonicotinoid chemicals should only be used on crops that are not attractive to the insects they said. The sale of seeds treated with these chemicals should also be prohibited.

Bayer, one of the companies who make the pesticides, says they are convinced they can be used without harm to bees. more

BBC News, 31 January 2013 

BASF halts EU approval process for GM potatoes

BASF, the world's biggest chemicals company, has decided to no longer seek EU approval of its genetically modified (GM) potato products in the face of stiff resistance.

BASF said in a statement it will "discontinue the pursuit of regulatory approvals for the Fortuna, Amadea, and Modena potato projects in Europe because continued investment cannot be justified due to uncertainty in the regulatory environment and threats of field destructions." more

Agra-Net, 29 January 2013 

Omega-3 can help laying hens avoid bone damage

Most of us are aware of the potential health benefits of omega-3 found in fish oil and flax seed. Now researchers have found that omega-3 could help laying hens avoid bone damage, which affects millions of hens each year, and the research may also help human patients suffering from osteoporosis.

The three-year research project, led by Dr John Tarlton and colleagues from the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences, investigated the benefits of omega-3 supplemented diets in laying hens. They looked at the full biochemical and cellular mechanisms through which omega-3 is able to improve bone health. This study, published in the journal BONE, could also have potential benefits for human osteoporosis, a disease that affects almost three million people in the UK. more

BBSRC, 28 January 2013 

Sugar-rich willow can boost biofuels’ green credentials

Scientists have identified willow trees that yield five times as much sugar as ordinary varieties, "drastically reducing" the impact of biofuels. UK researchers found that if the trees grew at an angle, they produced a special kind of wood that resulted in the higher sugar content.

Willow, a short rotation coppice crop, is widely grown as a source for the biofuel and biomass industries. The findings appear in the Biotechnology for Biofuels journal. more

BBC News, 25 January 2013 

UN launches global project to tackle food waste

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has launched a new campaign to cut food waste, which it says could dramatically reduce the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year.

The campaign: Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint aims to reduce food waste to tackle poverty, improve sustainability and help achieve the first Millenium Development Goal of drastically reducing hunger around the world. The new campaign specifically targets food wasted by consumers, retailers and the hospitality industry. more

Farming Online, 23 January 2013 

Biofuel targets driving global hunger crisis, churches and charities warn

The rush to power cars with “green” fuel is contributing to a global hunger crisis threatening to envelop almost a billion young people, almost 100 charities and religious groups warn today.

Targets to boost biofuel production have encouraged multinational companies to buy up land in the developing world, forcing some of the world’s poorest people further into poverty, it is claimed.

The warning comes in a report by a new coalition of charities and faith groups backed by figures such as Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, and the South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. more

The Telegraph, 23 January 2013 

Wasps v moths: Biocontrol uses nature against crop pests

Blinking in the blazing Brazilian sun, a farmer looks up at the sound of an aeroplane, flying low over his sugarcane plantation in Sao Paulo. A hatch suddenly opens, and a white cloud emerges. It may look like pesticide, but these are live eggs falling down - from wasps.

Once hatched and grown, the insects inject their own eggs into those of the sugarcane borer - a moth that in its caterpillar stage eats valuable plants - preventing the pest from hatching. A number of farmers in Brazil have swapped chemicals for wasps, in a country that has recently outgrown the US as the largest consumer of pesticides.

The biotechnology firm that is fighting nature with nature - what is known as biocontrol - is Bug Agentes Biologicos, or simply Bug, based in Piracicaba, Sao Paulo. more

22 January 2013 

Campaign for agricultural innovation to begin

A 13-year agricultural science and technology innovation project will be launched this year to improve the country's level of technology and international competitiveness, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences announced on Jan 21.

Research items under the project will cover prominent agricultural problems in China, such as breeding, animal epidemic disease control, and quality standards on agricultural products, said Li Jiayang, vice-minister of agriculture and president of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

"For China, developing agricultural technology is a core issue to ensure sufficient supply of high quality, safe agricultural products in the future," he said at a news conference in Beijing.

Rising food demand from population growth, decrease in arable land and water shortages are major challenges the country must address, he said. more

China Daily, 21 January 2013 

New Plant Variety Rights trademark launched to promote plant breeding and seed innovation

A new information campaign to highlight the critical role of plant breeding innovation and quality seed moved a step closer this week as participating seed companies and plant breeders unveiled the new EU-registered PVR trademark for the first time at the LAMMA event in Lincolnshire.

Initiated jointly by BSPB and AIC on behalf of the UK plant breeding and seeds sector, the campaign will focus on the importance of Plant Variety Rights (PVR) as a unique form of intellectual property to protect, stimulate and reward progress in crop improvement.

The PVR trademark will soon start appearing across the seed industry on seed bags, stationery, invoices, websites, variety boards and marketing material. Supporting information about Plant Variety Rights, plant breeding and seed production will be provided through a dedicated campaign website and literature, as part of a wider drive to highlight the vital contribution of our plant breeding and seeds sector. more

Seedquest, 16 January 2013 

EC launches consultation on future of organic sector

Does organic, by definition, have to mean GM-free? That is the one of the questions the European Commission is asking in a new EU-wide public consultation on the future of organic food production in Europe, which launched today.

The online consultation asks EU citizen for their views on a range of issues affecting the organic sector and its production standards, including pesticide levels, animal welfare standards and awareness levels of the EU organic logo. more

The Grocer, 15 January 2013

Neonicotinoid ban could cost farmers 'millions'

Farmers could be hit for millions of pounds if restrictions on neonicotinoid seed treatments are introduced in the UK, a new report warns.

Up to £630m could be lost from the UK economy each year if neonicotinoids are withdrawn, says the study published by the EU's Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture (HFFA) and commissioned by Syngenta and Bayer CropScience.

Yield penalties of up to 20% for oilseed rape, sugar beet and cereal crops could ensue, which could make winter wheat an unprofitable crop for many British growers and its production unfeasible in areas of high pest pressure, the study adds. more

Farmers Weekly, 14 January 2013 

Synthetic farm virus built in lab

A synthetic version of the Schmallenberg virus has been made in the laboratory by Scottish scientists. The research raises hopes for developing a vaccine for the livestock disease, which causes lambs and calves to be stillborn.

Schmallenberg virus (SBV) was discovered little more than a year ago in Germany, but has now spread to several European countries. About 1,000 farms have reported cases across England and Wales. Some farmers are reporting heavy losses as the lambing season gets underway. more

BBC News, 11 January 2013 

Schmallenberg virus 'costing farms thousands'

First indications of the full impact of Schmallenberg disease are starting to emerge, with some sheep flocks reporting up to 50% lamb losses, costing their businesses thousands of pounds.

Industry organisations are worried the impact of the disease could be worse than initially expected for some producers, with others describing the virus as worse than Bluetongue.

The government is under pressure to approve a vaccine. And while the chief veterinary officer for England, Nigel Gibbens, has described the disease as "low impact", producers are insistent it is not the case at farm level. more

Farmers Weekly, 11 January 2013 

Warning over DEFRA pesticide plan

Government ministers have failed to grasp the seriousness of challenges posed by the withdrawal of important pesticides, scientists and farm leaders have warned.

More research in alternative crop protection is needed to meet demand for food as pesticides are taken off the market due to European legislation, DEFRA has been told.

The warning is contained in an open letter to farm minister David Heath from processor Toby Bruce, of the Association of Applied Biologists, and NFU president Peter Kendall. more

Farmers Weekly, 10 January 2013 

We throw away half our food

Up to half of all food is still wasted due to overly strict sell-by dates and the refusal of supermarkets to sell produce which doesn't look cosmetically perfect, a new report claims. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimated that between 30 and 50 per cent of food produced around the globe, or 1.2 to two billion tonnes each year, never reaches a human mouth.

Vast quantities of produce from developing countries is lost due to poor storage or inefficient farming, while wasteful behaviour by consumers and supermarkets means half of all food bought in the west is thrown away. As many as 30 per cent of UK vegetable crops are not even harvested because they do not meet retailers’ stringent demands on appearance, which are based on what customers will accept. more

The Telegraph, 10 January 2013 

Two-thirds of British consumers say GM food labelling is important

Two-thirds of the British public say it is "important" that genetically modified ingredients are labelled on food, according to a survey published on Wednesday by the government's Food Standards Agency (FSA), despite only a tiny number saying they look for GM information on labels.

The findings, drawn from interviews with 1,467 people for a report by the food watchdog on GM labelling, will be a "major blow" to the government's bid to win public acceptance for GM crops and food, anti-GM campaigners said. The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, last week told a farming conference: "we should not be afraid of making the case to the public about the potential benefits of GM." more

The Guardian, 9 January 2013 

Animal health in Scotland given £10m boost

ANIMAL science research has been given a £10m boost from the Scottish Government. The Roslin Institute will use the funding to help develop an international livestock improvement centre.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Michael Russell said: “Scotland has great strength and expertise across many research fields and the Roslin Institute is leading the way in the animal health sector. We want to build on existing excellence to develop our reputation in research and maximise the benefits for our economy.”

“By investing in our research and development capacity, we will help sustain and improve Scotland’s livestock industry while leading efforts to relieve poverty in developing countries. It will position Scotland at the forefront of animal science research across the globe.” more

Farmers Guardian, 7 January 2013 

Food prices to rise sharply, says Waitrose boss

The price of basic food items could rise by as much as five per cent this year because of miserable weather last autumn, the managing director of Waitrose has warned.

Mark Price said food price inflation is already hovering at three to three and a half per cent, but this is just "the tip of the iceberg" and prices could increase even more dramatically over the coming months.

Produce such as bread and vegetables will become up to five per cent more expensive because of poor crop yields leading to a shortage of supply, he warned. more

The Telegraph, 4 January 2013 

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson tells farmers to push GM

The Government will promote the benefits of genetically modified crops aspart of the drive to modernise farming in the UK, Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has said. The Cabinet minister in charge of food and farming has already made clear he backs the controversial technology. In a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, he is expected to say that farmers, policy makers and scientists have a duty to turn around the image of GM.

“We should not be afraid of making the case to the public about the potential benefits of GM beyond the food chain, for example, reducing the use of pesticides and inputs such as diesel,” he said. “I believe that GM offers great opportunities but I also recognise that we owe a duty to the public to reassure them that it is a safe and beneficial innovation.” more

The Telegraph, 3 January 2013 

Scientist in GM plea to European states

EUROPEAN nations are "giving away the crown jewels" by not capitalising on their expertise in genetically modified food, the chief scientific adviser to the European Commission has said.

Europe appears to be in a "race for second place" by conducting highly regarded research but then waiting for other countries to carry out the practical work, said Anne Glover, a former Scottish Government adviser. more

Herald Scotland, 1 January 2013 

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