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NIAB welcomes EFRA Committee support for agricultural research

27 July 2009

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) has welcomed calls from a cross-party group of MPs for the UK to invest an extra £100m in public sector agricultural research.

The demand for additional research funding is one of the main recommendations of a food security report issued today by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

The report focuses on the challenges for the UK of meeting a required doubling of global food production by 2050, while at the same time coping with climate change and new pest and disease pressures.

It calls on the Government to produce a long-term vision and strategy for the UK food and farming sectors, with a long-term goal of encouraging farming systems which increase production while protecting vital soil and water resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In particular, MPs highlight the important role of agricultural science and technology in allowing food production to keep pace with population growth, and the need to increase investment in public sector research. The lack of applied research services to translate the results of basic science into on-farm practice is identified as a serious cause for concern.

Welcoming the report, NIAB chief executive Dr Tina Barsby said:

“Crop improvement through plant breeding and related agronomic improvements will be the major contributor to increased food production for the indefinite future, yet the UK has progressively cut public sector investment in applied agricultural research and knowledge transfer to a precariously low level.

“There is now a gap in the research pipeline. While our research institutes and universities remain world-leaders in basic plant science, much of that work is taking place without being transferred to potentially useful crops.

“Working in partnership with these organisations, NIAB has the scientific skills and agricultural expertise to translate advances in basic plant science into genetic backgrounds and material which will be of use to commercial plant breeders. We therefore welcome the EFRA Committee’s call for greater long-term, strategic investment in applied research and knowledge transfer, especially translational work of the kind taking place at NIAB to transform basic plant science into innovative products of value to farmers and consumers.”

For further information contact:
Dr Tina Barsby, Chief Executive, NIAB
T: 01223 342200
M: 07711 845209
E: tina.barsby@niab.com

Issued by:
Daniel Pearsall, Front Foot Communications
T: 01487 831425
E: daniel.pearsall@frontfoot.uk.com