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NEWS RELEASE - Agricultural science and innovation key to raising food productivity

07 July 2011

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) welcomes the central conclusion of the House of Lords Agriculture Committee report into Innovation in EU Agriculture that agricultural science and technology must be at the heart of the EU’s response to food security, climate change and resource conservation.

The report calls for immediate action to transform EU food production.  European Governments are urged to promote increased productivity as the prime focus for agricultural policy, reversing past trends to limit farm output.  This will require increased funding for EU agricultural research, with particular emphasis on applied and translational research to ensure new knowledge is transferred into innovative products and practices.

The report also highlights the need for Member States to improve farm advisory systems to put innovative knowledge into practice at farm level.

Regulation of new agricultural technologies, including GM crops, must be enabling and science-based, says the report, which also calls for greater efforts to communicate the benefits of agricultural innovation to the public, and to promote plant science in particular as a frontline activity in addressing the challenges of food security and sustainable intensification. 

NIAB chief executive Dr Tina Barsby said the strategic development of NIAB’s capabilities in recent years was entirely in step with the reports’ key recommendations:

“NIAB submitted both written and oral evidence to the Agriculture Committee’s inquiry, and we fully support the priorities for action highlighted in the report.

“Through our investment in a new pre-breeding platform, our extended capabilities in applied agronomy and knowledge transfer as NIAB TAG, and our efforts to improve wider understanding of the positive contribution of plant genetic science at Innovation Farm, NIAB is uniquely placed to respond to the challenges identified.

“Alongside the Royal Society’s Reaping the Benefits report in 2009, and the Foresight Food and Farming Futures report earlier this year, the conclusions of this inquiry add further evidence and weight to UK calls for immediate action to boost food crop productivity through scientific innovation.

“That message must be communicated in the strongest possible terms at an EU level, where regulation and policy do more to stifle than promote research and innovation in new agricultural technologies,” said Dr Barsby.

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