01 August 2008
Dr Tina Barsby, chief executive of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), is writing to Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the new Defra Council of Food Policy Advisers, inviting Council Members to visit NIAB in Cambridge as part of their work to identify the measures needed to ensure the UK has a secure and sustainable food supply.
Welcoming today’s announcement of the membership of the Council of Food Policy Advisers by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, Dr Barsby said:
“Mr Benn is right to highlight the importance of securing our food needs in the face of population growth, climate change and water scarcity. These are indeed the major challenges facing our society in preparing for future generations.
“Action to address climate change is one aspect of this, and this includes an urgent need to reverse chronic under-spending in applied UK research for agriculture and food production. Only through continued progress in science and technology will the world meet its food needs – in particular through improvements in plant breeding and the development of higher-yielding, more climate resilient crop varieties.
“In recent decades the UK’s world-class plant science base has dramatically increased our understanding of fundamental plant genetics, but the pipeline from basic science through to applications of relevance to farmers – both in the UK and in developing regions of the world – is not functioning effectively.
“Building on our unique expertise in crop testing and evaluation, NIAB has invested in the research facilities and scientific staff to become the translational hub of UK plant science. Our aim is to re-connect the R&D pipeline by providing dedicated pre-breeding services capable of translating basic genetic discoveries into material suitable for use in commercial plant breeding programmes.
“By inviting members of the new Food Policy Council to visit NIAB, we aim to highlight the importance of revitalising the UK’s investment in translational plant science, to ensure the potential benefits of gene discovery in model crop species are effectively transferred into crops of relevance to plant breeders, farmers and end-users,” said Dr Barsby.
Daniel Pearsall, Front Foot Communications
T 01487 831425