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

Group News

APPGSTA Annual Report 2012/13
January 2014

The UK as a global hub of agricultural innovation: George Freeman presentation to Oxford Farming Conference, January 2014

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

 

APPGSTA Report

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

 

2013 Archive

 

2012 Archive

 

2011 Archive

2010 Archive

2009 Archive

2008 Archive

Science & Technology News

 


Defra unveils 15 Agri-Tech projects

Projects to improve the taste of lamb and to develop an organic pesticide are among 15 innovative pieces of research to benefit from funding under the Government’s Agri-Tech strategy.

Defra has revealed 15 agri-tech projects that will receive a share of £18 million from Government and industry to help accelerate agricultural innovation and their commercial viability.

These are the first industrial research awards to be funded by the £70m Agri-Tech Catalyst, which is aiming to make the UK a world leader in agricultural science, innovation and sustainability. more

Farmers Guardian, 22 July 2014  


Beef environment cost 10 times that of other livestock

A new study suggests that the production of beef is around 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock.

Scientists measured the environment inputs required to produce the main US sources of protein. Beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy.

The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While it has long been known that beef has a greater environmental impact than other meats, the authors of this paper say theirs is is the first to quantify the scale in a comparative way. more

BBC News, 21 July 2014 


Norfolk MP becomes Minister for Life Sciences

The Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has been given his first ministerial job as Minister for Life Sciences jointly in the Department for Health and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Mr Freeman worked in the biomedical field before becoming an MP in 2010. In 2011 he was appointed Government Adviser on Life Sciences to the then Universities & Science Minister David Willetts. more

ITV News,  15 July 2014 


Science database could prevent and tackle disease outbreaks

Researchers at the University of Liverpool are building the world’s most comprehensive database describing human and animal pathogens, which they believe could be used to prevent and tackle disease outbreaks around the globe.

By effectively mapping the relationships between human and animal diseases and their hosts, disease-causing pathogens and the ways in which pathogens are transmitted, scientists can use the information to see what disease risks are in a population or geographical area, and how best to manage and eliminate them. more

Farmers Guardian, 15 July 2014


New Centre of Excellence for Plant and Microbial Science

Scientific partnerships between the UK and China are being strengthened with the establishment of a £12M centre for plant science and microbiology spanning the two countries.

The joint John Innes Centre/Chinese Academy of Sciences Centre of Excellence in Plant and Microbial Science will enhance research to support the agricultural technology and microbial genetics agendas of both countries.

This new agreement is the most advanced partnership between the UK and China of its kind and was developed with support from BBSRC, from which the John Innes Centre receives strategic funding. more

John Innes Centre, 14 July 2014 


Farming policy needs overhaul to tackle future problems, report says

Major changes are needed to the UK's food and farming policy if it is to combat food poverty, obesity and environmental problems of the future, according to a new report.

'Square Meal: why we need a new recipe for farming, wildlife, food and public health' is a new report published today by The Food Research Collaboration, the RSPB, Friends of the Earth, the National Trust, the Food Ethics Council, Sustain, the Wildlife Trusts, the Soil Association, Eating Better and Compassion in World Farming.

This new discussion document urges major changes to national food and farming policy. It calls for stronger government leadership in planning the future use of land, food policy, farming and conservation in England and for wider public engagement on issues that affect the whole of society. more

Farming UK, 14 July 2014 


Japanese plant experts produce 10,000 lettuce heads a day in LED-lit indoor farm

Could this be the future of agriculture? A physiologist has turned a former semiconductor factory into one of the world’s largest indoor farm, cultivating lettuces with LED lights. At almost half the size of a football pitch, the farm, which opened in Japan in July, is already churning out 10,000 lettuce heads a day, the brains behind it say.

Plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura wanted to explore ways that man could keep up with the ever-increasing food demand while bypassing the risks brought on by drought, crop disease and natural disasters. “I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen,” Mr Shimamura said.

The climate controlled room is powered by LED fixtures that emit light at wavelengths – the most ideal for plant growth – while also giving the ‘farmers’ power to control the night and day cycles. more

The Independent, 12 July 2014 


Morrisons launches cattle farming app

Morrisons has become the first supermarket to launch a free app for cattle farmers aimed at simplifying livestock management.

The Morrisons Farming App is aimed primarily at beef producers and is available on all Android devices. It will also be available on Apple devices soon.

The app includes a live link to the British Cattle Movement Service so cattle data from multiple holdings can be viewed. It also enables the registering of cattle births, deaths and movements. more

Farmers Guardian, 9 July 2014  


Mustard growers face neonics challenge

One of Britain’s iconic niche crops could be hit harder than most by a European decision to ban neonicotinoid seed treatments.

Fewer than 20 farmers grow English mustard for Norwich-based Colman’s, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. But the neonicotinoid ban means they face an additional challenge when establishing the crop this coming season.

The potential impact of the ban for oilseed rape growers has been well-documented. But the handful of English mustard growers could face even bigger consequences – partly because there are fewer alternatives to neonicotinoids when it comes to controlling pests in mustard. more

Farmers Weekly, 8 July 2014 


MPs push for reduction in antibiotics on farm

Ministers must step up action to stop the unnecessary use of antibiotics in farm animals, say MPs. They say the use of antibiotics in healthy animals to promote growth has sky-rocketed during the past 40 years.

And if the government doesn’t take steps to curb their routine use, there is danger that antibiotics-resistant bacteria in the food supply will endanger human health.

The warning is contained in a report published on Monday (7 July) by MPs on the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee, entitled Ensuring Access to Working Antimicrobials. more

Farmers Weekly, 7 July 2014


Radical plan needed to stop spread of cattle TB – study

New research suggests that the spread of TB in cattle can only be controlled if more radical measures are adopted. Culling of entire herds, more testing and cattle vaccination are needed to reverse the spread of the disease.

The lead researcher has told BBC News that the study also confirms research that shows culling badgers will at best slightly slow down rather than stop the epidemic.The results have been published in the journal Nature.

Prof Matt Keeling of Warwick University, who led the research, told BBC News that computer projections showed that the current measures adopted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are unlikely to reverse the spread of TB in cattle. more

BBC News, 2 July 2014 


UK future food security threatened by complacency, MPs warn

The UK’s ability to feed itself is threatened by “complacency” over the extreme weather driven by climate change and increasing competition for food as the world’s population grows, MPs warned on Tuesday.

The environment, food and rural affairs (Efra) select committee said ministers must put plans in place to secure supplies of fruit and vegetables and the soya needed to feed the nation’s dairy herds, noting that the UK’s self-sufficiency for food that can be grown domestically has fallen from 87% to 68% in 20 years. The MPs also urged the embracing of technology, including genetically modified crops and robots that weed fields. more

The Guardian, 1 July 2014 


UK faces ‘significant’ shortage of farmland by 2030   

Britain is running out of land for food and faces a potential shortfall of two million hectares by 2030 according to new research.

The report, from the University of Cambridge, says the growing population plus the use of land for energy crops are contributing to the gap.

It criticises the government's lack of a coherent vision on how to make the most of UK farm land. The authors warn that tough choices may need to be made on future land use. more

BBC News, 25 June 2014 


EU azole review threatens fungicides' future

The European Commission has published a roadmap for identifying chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties, which threatens the future of one of the most popular group of cereal fungicides.

The report, published this week, sets out the timetable the commission is working towards to define endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which have been linked to a range of serious illnesses.

But any decision to classify endocrine-disrupting chemicals could have a massive effect on international trade and the marketing of some widely used pesticides, such as azole fungicides, and farmers’ ability to use them, the NFU has warned. more

Farmers Weekly, 24 June 2014 


The aim of the Innovation for Agriculture (IfA) scheme will be to use agricultural societies around the country as hubs for knowledge and technology transfer.

It follows the roll out of the Government’s £160 million Agri Tech strategy, which aims to make the UK a world leader in agricultural technology and innovation. more

Farmers Guardian, 24 June 2014


Researchers in twin breakthrough against blight

Scientists from international consortia including the James Hutton Institute are making headway in the fight against blight, a plant disease responsible for major famine and loss of life throughout history. They have managed to track down the origins of Phytophthora infestans, the pathogen responsible for blight of potato, tomato and other related hosts, as well as to spatially map its distribution and diversity across Europe.

In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international research group has pinned down the origins of potato late blight to a scenic highland valley in central Mexico. The findings are relevant not just in terms of agricultural history, but also because they may aid researchers in their quest for food security through disease resistance. This is quite topical as there’s no respite from blight: so far in 2014 there have been 60 outbreaks in the UK. more

James Hutton Institute, 19 June 2014 


GM banana designed to slash African infant mortality enters human trials

A genetically modified banana which has the potential to dramatically reduce infant mortality and blindness in children across Africa is to undergo its first human trials in a major step towards becoming a staple for millions of people.

The GM banana developed by Australian scientists is enriched with vitamin A to combat a nutritional deficiency which leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths, and children losing their sight across the world every year.

Researchers hope that the bioengineered crop, which increases the level of beta-carotene in a particular type of cooking banana grown in East Africa, will go into commercial production in Uganda by 2020 if proven to be effective at producing increased levels of vitamin A. The banana is one of a series of GM organisms - from a vitamin A-enhanced rice variety to a mosquito that could help combat malaria - which scientists and their backers say could have a massive effect on problems of malnutrition and disease in the developing world. more

The Independent, 16 June 2014


Plants send out new roots towards water

Scientists have discovered how the presence of even small amounts of water can influence the structure of plant roots in soil, a finding that opens up new possibilities to improve water and nutrient foraging for important food crops.

The degree of root branching determines the efficiency of water uptake and acquisition of nutrients in crops. Understanding the regulation of root branching is therefore of vital importance, and the researchers, from the University of Nottingham, believe the added knowledge could lead to development of higher yielding crop plants. more

Farming Online, 16 June 2014 


EU to limit production of biofuels from food crops

EU energy ministers agreed to limit production of biofuels made from food crops on Friday, in response to criticism these stoke inflation and do more environmental harm than good.

The ministers' endorsement of a new compromise overcomes last year's stalemate when EU governments failed to agree on a proposed 5% cap on the use of biofuels based on crops such as maize or rapeseed.

Friday's deal would set a 7% limit on the use of food-based biofuels in transport fuel. It must now be considered by the newly-elected European parliament. more

The Guardian, 13 June 2014 


EU ministers back deal with option to ban or approve GM crops

A compromise deal to give European Union states the option of banning genetically modified crops won approval from EU environment ministers on Thursday, bringing the EU closer to ending years of deadlock over GM cultivation.

Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops in Europe have divided opinion, with strong opposition in many countries, including France and Germany, while Britain favors them.

Thursday's compromise deal drew criticism from both opponents and supporters of growing GM food in Europe. Monsanto, maker of the only GM crop grown in the EU, said if the law were enacted as drafted, the company would continue to focus its investment in other parts of the world. The European Green Party, meanwhile, described the deal as "a Trojan horse" that would open the door to GM crops across Europe. more

Reuters, 12 June 2014 


Pesticide 'zealots' threaten food production

Overzealous restrictions on pesticides mean farmers face a growing challenge to produce enough food, industry leaders have warned at the Cereals Event.

The crop protection toolbox is becoming worryingly depleted at a time when British farmers need to produce more crops, said the NFU.

Crop production – which is already flatlining – would be sent into decline if British farmers continued to lose access to key crop protection materials, it added. Statistics show that half of pesticides have been lost since 2001, claimed the union. more

Farmers Weekly, 11 June 2014 


Economic benefit of research at IBERS highlighted

An independent report on the BBSRC-funded Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University has shown that every £1 of public funding invested there in 2012/13 generated £12.18 of benefit for the UK economy.

IBERS is strategically funded by BBSRC and generated a total economic benefit of £365M Gross Value Added (GVA) for the UK economy and supported almost 2,450 jobs.

The report, by independent economic consultancy BIGGAR Economics, analysed the impact of the internationally recognised research and teaching centre. It highlights how fundamental and applied research has already made an impact and how it will continue to do so. more

BBSRC, 10 June 2014 


Climate change could slash wheat yields

The changing climate and likelihood of more frequent adverse weather conditions could have a detrimental impact on wheat yields in Europe by 2060, scientists have warned.

A group of international researchers, including scientists from Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, used climate scenarios based on the most up-to-date climate projections to predict the frequency and severity of weather extremes affecting wheat production across Europe in the next 50 years.

The team found the probability of more than one of these extreme events occurring during a wheat cultivation season was likely to increase. The severity of their effect on wheat yield depends on the type of the cultivar, said the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. more

Farmers Guardian, 8 June 2014 


Root growth regulation could help boost crop performance

Scientists have uncovered a new mechanism by which plants can regulate root architecture, a discovery that could lead to better ways of growing crops.

Adaptable roots are critical for plants to survive in changing environmental conditions, to anchor the plant to the ground and take up water and nutrients. One important aspect of root architecture is root branching, or lateral root development, a complex process involving plant hormones, environmental signals, and many genes and proteins.

Working on the plant species Arabidopsis, BBSRC-funded researchers from the universities of Birmingham and Nottingham discovered that a gene called AtMYB93 plays an important role in the regulation of root branching. They found that plants where AtMYB93 was switched off had faster growing lateral roots and more of them, whereas the opposite was the case in plants where the gene was expressed at a higher level than usual. more

BBSRC, 6 June 2014 


UK self-sufficiency drops for third consecutive year

The UK’s self-sufficiency in food has dropped for the third successive year, prompting fresh calls for action to help reverse the trend and increase home production.

The country’s self-sufficiency in food types that can be grown in this country fell from 77% in 2012 to 73% in 2013, according to provisional figures released in the past few days by Defra.

Overall this means that last year the UK only produced 60% of the food consumed by its inhabitants, compared with a high of 75% in the late 1980s and early 1990s and 62% in 2012.

Latest statistics released by the government in its Agriculture in the United Kingdom document show the biggest rise in imports was in grain. more

Farmers Weekly, 4 June 2014 


New neonicotinoid report sparks evidence-led calls

Scientists are calling for an evidence-led debate into the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides in pollinators. An EU ban on certain neonicotinoids was introduced in December 2013 because of fears they are harming pollinating insects. 

A restatement of the scientific evidence on neonicotinoids has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The restatement, from a group of nine scientists led by Prof Charles Godfray and Prof Angela McLean of the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, clarifies the scientific evidence available on neonicotinoids.

Prof Godfray said: “Pollinators are clearly exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides, but seldom to lethal doses, and we need a better understanding of the consequences of realistic sub-lethal doses to the insect individual, bee colony and pollinator population.”

Prof McLean added; “A major question to be addressed is what farmers will do now that they face restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids. Will they switch to crops which need less insecticide treatment or might they apply older but more dangerous chemicals?” more

Farmers Guardian, 28 May 2014 


GM crops: organic farmer loses court case over alleged contamination                       

An organic farmer has lost a landmark court case against a neighbour who grew genetically modified food. Steve Marsh was suing his neighbour and former friend Michael Baxter for $85,000 after claiming that GM canola drifted onto his oats, rye and sheep farm at Kojonup, 260km south-east of Perth.

As well as financial compensation, Marsh wanted Western Australia’s supreme court to issue a permanent injunction banning Baxter from planting GM crops.

But Justice Kenneth Martin came down on the side of Baxter when he delivered his judgment on Wednesday. more

The Guardian, 28 May 2014


EU pesticide clampdown threatens viability of UK crop industry

The viability of the UK crop sector is under threat from moves to tighten EU pesticide regulations, which could remove up to half the currently available crop protection products, industry leaders have warned.

UK politicians have this week been urged to ensure they make the scientific case at EU level against unjustified restrictions which could render the UK uncompetitive in the global crop market.

Last year’s suspension of vital neonicotinoid seed dressing products could be just the start of a wider EU clampdown on crop protection products. more

Farmers Guardian, 23 May 2014 


EU boasts high pesticide compliance rate

The European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) latest annual report on pesticide residues has found that 97.5 per of some 79,000 food product samples tested were within the maximum residue levels (MRLs) of pesticides permitted in the EU. According to the EFSA, the report contains findings from a record number of tests carried out in 2011.

More pesticide residues exceeding the MRLs were found in food imported from countries outside the European Union (6.3 per cent) than in samples originating from EU and European Free Trade Associations (1.5 per cent).

The EFSA report concludes that there is no long-term risk to consumer health from dietary exposure from 99 per cent of 171 pesticides assessed. more

EuroFruit, 21 May 2014 


Innovation centres will help farmers access 'big data'

The first UK innovation centre to launch under the Government’s Agri-Tech Strategy should enable farmers to access world class research and data which at one time may have only benefited larger enterprises.

The new facility will be the Centre for Agricultural Informatics and Sustainability Metrics and is expected to be based inside a research facility already in operation. Defra envisages it will be set up and operated by a single consortium of publicly and privately-funded organisations, with small and medium-sized businesses playing an ‘influential role’.

Ian Meikle who is head of agriculture and food for the Government’s Technology Strategy Board said the challenge would be to help all farmers benefit from data. more

Farmers Guardian, 20 May 2014 


GM crops benefit farmers and environment. study claims

Farmers who grow biotech crops benefit from increased yields and deliver more environmentally friendly farming practices, a new global impacts study of GMs claims.

Biotech crops contributed to significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices, according to the report.

GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2012 was published this week by UK-based consultancy PG Economics. more

Farmers Weekly, 17 May 2014


Action needed to address 'stagnation' in science and innovation

The UK farming industry is under threat due to a major ‘slowdown’ in technology and innovation, experts have claimed. Ten months on from the launch of the Government’s £160 million Agri Tech strategy, leaders in science and research said little had been done to bridge the gap between ‘basic science and applied science’.

The UK has some of the best research scientists and institutes in the world, but where it was once comparable to other western European countries, it now lags significantly behind major competitors in productivity growth, which has stalled.

Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) chief executive David Gardner said unless there was a sea change in how knowledge was transferred into the field, the UK would continue to fall behind countries such as the USA, Netherlands and Spain. more

Farmers Guardian, 16 May 2014 


   

El Nino events can have a significant impact on the yields of certain major food crops, a study has shown. Researchers say the climatic phenomenon, which triggers changes in temperature and rainfall, can reduce maize yields by more than 4%.

El Nino episodes are caused by changes in the sea surface temperature in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Writing in Nature Communications, the team said the data could be used by governments to manage food supplies. more

 


Up to 70 jobs axed at James Hutton Institute amid cuts

Dozens of jobs are to be axed at a leading Scottish farming and environmental research centre. The James Hutton Institute, based in Invergowrie and Aberdeen, is to cut up to 70 jobs as part of a voluntary redundancy scheme aimed at reducing costs.

Chief executive Prof Iain Gordon said the institute needed to adapt to an "ever-changing funding environment". The voluntary redundancy scheme will be opened to staff in May.

The institute, which operates a number of farms leading research into crops including barley and potatoes, has about 600 staff split between its two sites. more

BBC News, 14 May 2014 


Farmer-led research crucial for food security

A sustainable food supply hinges on agricultural innovation, but current investments neglect a key area for improving crop yields, according to new research.

The study, published in scientific journal Nature, highlights the need for more research designed by and for farmers as crucial to the chances of meeting the global demand for food.

Agriculture: Engage farmers in research, was written jointly by the Soil Association’s director of innovation, Tom MacMillan, and Professor Tim Benton of the UK’s Global Food Security Programme. The paper suggests that investing more research into smaller farming businesses could help small-scale farmers boost yields to help sustainable farming. more

Farmers Weekly, 8 May 2014 


Climate change reduces nutrients in food crops

New research, published in the scientific journal Nature this week, has revealed that higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have serious effects on the nutrients in a range of crop plants – bad news for farmers, and consumers.

Based on predicted atmospheric CO2 levels for 2050, crops that provide a large share of the global population with most of their dietary zinc and iron will have lost a significant amount of these nutrients within the next thirty years. more

Farming Online, 8 May 2014 


Joint action needed to tackle massive global food losses

Tackling the world’s massive food loss problem is a key to reducing hunger and poverty, but governments and companies must step up their collaboration on the issue, an international congress on food losses and waste has heard.

Speaking at the 2nd SAVE FOOD International Congress in Düsseldorf, FAO Assistant Director-General Ren Wang underlined that effective coordination across all sectors could make “a real difference” to one of the world’s major food security challenges.

While 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger, around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year. FAO estimates that the food produced but never eaten would be sufficient to feed two billion people.Even just halving the current level of losses would have a dramatic impact on the projected 60 percent increase in food availability required to feed a global population of 9 billion by 2050. more

Farm Business, 8 May 2014 


DEFRA plans to privatise part of science agency

Private sector companies are being invited to invest in the government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA). DEFRA has launched a procurement exercise to seek a private sector business to work as a partner for the organisation, a leader in environmental science.

FERA currently provides a range of scientific services across food and farming industries. It runs more than 600 research projects each year. This includes plant and bee health, sustainable crop production, a badger vaccination project for bovine TB, and tackling ash dieback, the fungus that decimated European ash trees.

Under the proposals, up to three-quarters of FERA’s research would be undertaken by a joint venture involving a private sector investor. more

Farmers Weekly, 7 May 2014 


Agri-Food businesses call for an EU policy shift towards innovation

A broad coalition of groups representing Europe’s agricultural and food business interests is calling for better and smarter policy-making that fosters innovation and creates jobs, ensuring that the EU agri-food chain becomes more productive and resource-efficient.

The group of 11 EU-level associations presented their joint "Vision for unlocking the potential of agriculture and food industries in the EU" during the meeting of EU Ministers for Agriculture in Athens on 6 May.

The coalition includes numerous agricultural input industries such as suppliers of machinery, seed, fertilisers, crop protection, animal health, feed and biotechnology-based products, as well as the agricultural trade and of course EU farmers and the European food and drink sector. Together, these industries account for about 30 million jobs and 3.5% of the EU’s gross value added. more

Fresh Plaza, 6 May 2014 


Insects could replace soya as animal feed protein

Insects could replace soya as a cheap and secure source of pig and poultry feed on farms across Europe. Researchers think insects such as the common house fly could be the way to end Europe’s dependency on imported protein crops for animal feed.

As well as being cheaper than conventional protein sources, they say animals actually prefer insects to soya, and that insects help produce better-tasting meat.

Speaking at the British Society of Animal Science at the University of Nottingham, Dr Adrian Charlton of the Food and Environment Research Agency said insects could eventually be a viable alternative to conventional feed. more

Farmers Weekly, 1 May 2014 


Climate change increases threat of wheat rust epidemics

Climate change is increasing the threat of emerging wheat rusts that could have devastating effects on wheat production in the UK, scientists have warned.

In recent years, aggressive new strains of wheat rusts, such as yellow (stripe) rust and leaf stem rust, caused by particular rust fungus, have wiped out up to 40% of harvests in countries in Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.

And the threat of different rusts hitting UK wheat crops is being intensified by climate change, according to scientists. who are using wild grasses and barley to combat the problem. more

 


Interested parties sought for 'world-class' agri-data centre

The Government is inviting proposals from businesses and research institutions interested in coming together to form a ‘world class’ centre to promote agricultural innovation.

The Government’s Agri-tech strategy, published last July, committed £90 million to establish centres for agricultural innovation.

The overarching aim of the strategy is to encourage businesses to develop, adapt and exploit new technologies and the first centre would be a single point of access for data on the agricultural industry. more

Farmers Guardian, 23 April 2014 


Government must step in over land based skills gap

Education authorities are being urged to offer more agricultural and land based courses to help plug the widening skills gap in the agricultural sector.

It comes after an updated report by sector skills council Lantra highlighted the need for 600,000 new recruits by 2020.

The report calls on education leaders to bring ‘relevant subject matter’ to courses and focus on the skills needed by the industry, as well as promoting the right qualifications, training and career paths to young people and adults. more

Farmers Guardian, 22 April 2014


Trial of GM plants to help fight heart disease given go-ahead

Scientists have been given permission to grow genetically modified plants that could help protect against heart disease.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has given the go-ahead for the field trial of a crop of GM camelina plants, the seeds of which are modified to produce fish oils. The oils could provide feed for farmed fish, meaning that fewer fish need to be caught from the sea, and ultimately could be used in health supplements or as an additive in foods such as margarine.

Scientists at Rothamsted Research Centre in Hertfordshire who will run the trial hailed the decision as a significant milestone for research into genetically modified plants. more

The Guardian, 17 April 2014 


Agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions on the rise

New FAO estimates of greenhouse gas data show that emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past fifty years and could increase an additional 30 percent by 2050, without greater efforts to reduce them.

This is the first time that FAO has released its own global estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU), contributing to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Agricultural emissions from crop and livestock production grew from 4.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents* (CO2 eq) in 2001 to over 5.3 billion tonnes in 2011, a 14 percent increase.  The increase occurred mainly in developing countries, due to an expansion of total agricultural outputs. more

Farm Business, 13 April 2014 


DEFRA slammed for stance on UK self-sufficiency

Farming leaders have criticised the government’s attitude towards agriculture after farm minister George Eustice said he was happy with the level of UK self-sufficiency in food.

NFU vice-president Guy Smith said he was disappointed that Mr Eustice told a parliamentary committee the government was content with current levels of self-sufficiency – even though the UK produces just 62% of its own food, down from 75% in 1991.

Giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Mr Eustice said: “Food security is not just about self-sufficiency at a national level. Actually having open markets and free trade globally has got a very important role to play in making sure we have food security.” more

Farmers Weekly, 11 April 2014 


Peter Kendall named as new AHDB chairman

Former NFU president Peter Kendall has been appointed chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Mr Kendall takes up the role for a three-year term with immediate effect. He replaces John Godfrey, who stepped down after his term in office at the end of March.

Funded by farmers and others in the supply chain, the AHDB works to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of agriculture and horticulture through advice, information and promotional activity. more

Farmers Weekly, 7 April 2014 


Urgent action on food waste needed

The House of Lords EU Committee has today called for urgent action on food waste in Europe highlighting that at least 90 million tonnes of food is wasted across the EU each year.

In a report published today, the Committee urges action on the basis that food waste represents a financial and environmental loss of resources. The 15 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year equates to a financial loss to business of at least £5 billion per year.

Environmentally, the carbon footprint of worldwide food waste is equivalent to twice the global greenhouse gas emission of all road transportation in the USA. more

House of Lords European Union Committee, 6 April 2014 


Princess Anne: Gassing badgers is most humane way to cull

Gassing is the most humane way to cull badgers, the Princess Royal has said.

Princess Anne, who has lost 15 of her rare breed cattle to bovine TB in the past two years, was speaking to BBC One's Countryfile programme at her Gatcombe Park estate.

Her comments come after the government said it would not expand badger culling from two pilot culls aimed at reducing TB in cattle. Defra said "initial investigations" into the use of gas were taking place. more

BBC News, 4 April 2014


Badger cull expansion abandoned after trial failure

The government has abandoned its planned expansion of badger culling to reduce TB in cattle. The environment department's original plan was to announce up to 10 new cull areas in South West England each year.

Defra's own independent assessment shows that culls in two pilot areas were not effective, and raised questions about their humaneness.

These pilot culls will continue, though there will be no independent oversight to assess their future performance. more

BBC News, 3 April 2014           


Animal lab cuts ‘pose threat to human health’

Cuts to animal health surveillance mean Britain is at a much greater risk of outbreaks of devastating diseases such as "mad cow disease", experts say.

The Royal College of Pathologists (RCP) says human health could be at risk. The RCP is calling for an urgent review of plans to cut the number of animal health surveillance laboratories in England and Wales from 14 to seven.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says the cuts are part of an "improved approach". more

BBC News, 1 April 2014 


Climate impacts 'overwhelming' - UN

The impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible", a major report by the UN has warned. Scientists and officials meeting in Japan say the document is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impacts of climate change on the world.

Members of the UN's climate panel say it provides overwhelming evidence of the scale of these effects.

Natural systems now bear the brunt, but a growing impact on humans is feared. Our health, homes, food and safety are all likely to be threatened by rising temperatures, the summary says. more

BBC News, 31 March 2014 


£4 million for agricultural innovation

Businesses including an urban farm and spin-outs from universities across the UK have received a share of £4 million of funding from government and industry to develop their innovative business ideas.

The government funding comes from the £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst announced as part of the UK Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies. It is designed to support businesses and universities to bridge the difficult gap between lab research and the marketplace.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “The pioneering projects announced today are the businesses of the future and this funding will make a real difference in bringing innovative ideas from the lab to the marketplace. This work is critical in supporting the UK’s Agri-tech Strategy and our commitment to establish the UK as a world leader in agriculture technology, innovation and sustainability.”

Agriculture and Science Minister Lord De Mauley said: “Farmers are the backbone of the £97 billion agri-food sector. The 11 projects announced today will be invaluable in helping them take advantage of the latest science and innovation, supporting our world-class agricultural technology sector.” more

BIS/Defra/DfID, 28 March 2014 


Climate change could prolong world hunger for decades, says Oxfam

World hunger could be prolonged for decades because our global food system is “woefully” unprepared for the impacts of climate change, an Oxfam report has warned.

The paper, titled Hot and Hungry: How to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger, says that rising temperatures, extreme weather and changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change are already affecting crop yields across the world.

Oxfam lists examples such as the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013, the flooding of the Somerset Levels and droughts in Brazil and California as recent disasters that have threatened food production. Climate scientists have already predicted that climate change will increase the chances of similar weather events occurring around the planet. more

Blue & Green Tomorrow, 26 March 2014 


British food too cheap warns supply chain expert

The continual drive to produce the cheap food that fuels supermarket competition is having a damaging effect on the environment and agricultural biodiversity, as well as the capacity of the land to continue to produce food sustainably.

Speaking about food poverty and the constant push to make food cheaper, Ralph Early, who is head of the food science and agri-food supply chain management at Harper Adams, warned the days of cheap food must draw to a close.

He said: “Some people believe that the simple solution to food poverty is to make food cheaper, which often means producing cheaper raw materials. But, if we are at all concerned with agricultural sustainability and the capacity of the land to feed us long into the future, we must ask ourselves whether food in Britain is actually too cheap.” more

Farmers Guardian, 24 March 2014 


Heatwaves could threaten frood crops, study warns

Future heatwaves could threaten key global food crops if climate change is not addressed, according to a British study. Researchers came to the conclusion after estimating the effects of extreme temperatures and raised carbon dioxide levels on maize, wheat and soybean production. 

While more C02 in the atmosphere may boost plant growth, this effect is likely to be counteracted by extreme heat, they warn. Crops are especially vulnerable to heat around anthesis, the flowering period of the plant.

“At this stage, extreme temperatures can lead to reduced pollen sterility and reduced seed set, greatly reducing the crop yield,” said lead scientist Delphine Deryng, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. more

The Guardian, 20 March 2014 


PAC says agriculture research body failed to deliver ‘value for money’

A body doing crucial work for the agri-food industry has failed to deliver good value for money on £253m of spending, a report has found.

The report by the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) at Stormont stated management of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) had been "unacceptably poor".

The institute was set-up in 2006 and is run by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. It carries out scientific research. more

BBC News, 19 March 2014  


Researchers aim to develop portable TB testing device

Scientists say they are in the process of developing a portable testing device capable of detecting bovine TB (bTB) in cattle in just a matter of minutes

In a three-year study, at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, scientists are identifying ‘biological markers’ – or molecules – in the blood, which indicate the presence of bovine TB.

The next stage of this, the subject of a £1.1 million collaborative study, is to develop a rapid ‘point of care’ device, about the size of a smartphone, that could be used by vets to give ‘an almost instant diagnosis from a simple blood test at farm sites’. more

Farmers Guardian, 19 March 2014 


Climate change to hit crop yields sooner than thought

New research, led by scientists at the University of Leeds, has shown that global warming of only 2°C will be detrimental to crops in temperate and tropical regions alike, and that changes will begin to have marked effects on yields sooner than had been anticipated.

According to the scientists, yields could begin falling from the 2030s onwards.

Professor Andy Challinor, from the University's School of Earth and Environment led the study. Prof Challinor said, "Our research shows that crop yields will be negatively affected by climate change much earlier than expected… The impact of climate change on crops will vary both from year-to-year and from place-to-place – with the variability becoming greater as the weather becomes increasingly erratic.” more

Farming Online, 17 March 2014 


David Cameron's science advisers call for expansion of GM crops

David Cameron's official science advisers have called for GM crops to be rolled out across the UK by scrapping "dysfunctional" EU regulations that risk curtailing future food supplies.

"We take it for granted that because our supermarket shelves are groaning with food, there are no problems with the food supply, but there are," said government's chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, citing rising global population, limited farmland and climate change. "If we don't use GM the risk is people going unfed."

In a report published on Friday, the scientists say GM crops should face the same regulation as conventional crops and that the UK government should take back powers from Brussels to be able to unilaterally approve the growing of GM crops across the UK. more

The Guardian, 14 March 2014


Environment groups condemn GM crop plan

Environment groups have written to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to condemn Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s support for growing GM crops in Britain. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, GeneWatch UK, GM Freeze and the Soil Association expressed concerns that controversial Roundup Ready GM crops might be planted in England as early as Spring 2015.

At the EU’s March Environment Council meeting Paterson supported a proposal that would fast-track GM crops for commercial cultivation in pro-GM countries, while allowing anti-GM countries to opt out. 
more

Farming UK, 11 March 2014 


‘Embrace technology to maintain food security’, says CLA 

The CLA has told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee that the UK must invest in technology to protect food security. Giving evidence, CLA President Henry Robinson told the Committee that a massive rise in the global demand for food needs to be tackled by utilising new technology.

CLA President Henry Robinson said: “The UK has been slow to recognise the full range of techniques available to improve farming methods. China’s changing diet and the expected rise of Asian middle classes from 500 million people to three billion in just 15 years will considerably impact meat and dairy availability.

“The arable sector has a greater capacity to invest in these precision technologies and reap the rewards of the huge opportunities that are available. However, livestock farmers need help if they are to facilitate the new technology.”
more

Farm Business, 6 March 2014 


Virtual honey bee colony could measure effects of pesticides

Scientists have created a computer model which simulates a honey bee colony in order to see how bees are affected by environmental changes such as pesticide use. The BEEHAVE model, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, was created to investigate the losses of honey bee colonies and to identify the best course of action for improving bee health.

It simulates the life of a colony including the queen’s egg laying, brood care by nurse bees and foragers collecting nectar and pollen in a realistic landscape.

The project, which was funded by an Industrial Partnership Award from BBSRC with co-funding from Syngenta, will also investigate the use of pesticides on bee populations. more

Farmers Guardian, 4 March 2014 


Crop diversity decline ‘threatens food security’

Fewer crop species are feeding the world than 50 years ago - raising concerns about the resilience of the global food system, a study has shown.

The authors warned a loss of diversity meant more people were dependent on key crops, leaving them more exposed to harvest failures.

Higher consumption of energy-dense crops could also contribute to a global rise in heart disease and diabetes, they added. The study appears in the journal PNAS. more

BBC News, 3 March 2014 


MEPs call on EU to support a competitive plant breeding sector

The European Parliament is urging the European Commission to boost investment in EU plant breeding research to help Europe’s farmers meet future food needs and cope with climate change.

This week, MEPs adopted a report from the Agriculture Committee highlighting the critical importance of having an effective and competitive European plant breeding industry, and calling on the Commission to step up its efforts to create a coherent and long-term framework for plant breeding research in the EU.

In particular, the report highlights the need for higher-yielding varieties to meet increased demands for food and feed, and for plant breeding research to focus on developing crops with improved resilience to more extreme weather conditions and new disease challenges. more

Farm Business, 28 February 2014 


More than 20,000 crops from more than 100 nations have arrived at a "Doomsday vault" in the Arctic Circle.

The latest delivery coincides with the sixth anniversary of the frozen depository in Svalbard, which now houses more than 800,000 samples. The shipment includes the first offering from Japan, where collections were threatened by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The facility is designed to withstand all natural and human disasters. more

           


Biodiesel by-product could be used to protect soil quality

Scientists at the BBSRC strategically-funded institute Rothamsted Research have shown that a waste product from biodiesel manufacture could be used to protect soil quality for agriculture.

An important goal in agricultural sustainability is to establish better management of nitrogen (N) to prevent "leaching" of nitrate (NO3) out of the soil into water. more

BBSRC, 24 February 2014 


East Anglian researchers in race to develop new higher-yielding wheats

Arable farmers have been struggling for the past two decades to boost average production as national yields have been on a plateau. The opportunity to smash through this yield barrier has long been a goal of plant breeders and scientists but a team of researchers at Cambridge has achieved some dramatic progress with a potential “superwheat.”

Even a yield improvement of about 15pc on the country’s farms could be worth an estimated £416m, said Prof Andy Greenland, who is NIAB’s director of genetics and breeding. He leads the six-strong team at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, which was established in 1919 at Cambridge, and has been shortlisted for an Innovator of the Year award. more

Eastern Daily Press, 22 February 2014 


Flood-proofing farming: a grass roots approach

Scientists at two BBSRC-funded institutes – Aberystwyth University's Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) and Rothamsted Research North Wyke in Devon – are developing new grasses that enable soils to capture increased volumes of rainfall, thereby reducing the risk of flooding downstream.

The 5 year £2.5M LINK project named SUREROOT is funded by BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), and match-funded by a range of industrial partners from across the food production spectrum, including a seed company, a major retailer and the meat, poultry and dairy industry. more

BBSRC, 20 February 2014 


Genetically modified potatoes ‘resist late blight’

British scientists have developed genetically modified potatoes that are resistant to the vegetable's biggest threat - blight. A three-year trial has shown that these potatoes can thrive despite being exposed to late onset blight. That disease has plagued farmers for generations and it triggered the Irish potato famine in the 1840s.

EU approval is needed before commercial cultivation of this GM crop can take place. The research is published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. more

BBC News, 17 February 2014 


Scientists identify TB-resistant genes

Scientists have identified genetic traits in cattle that could allow farmers to breed livestock with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis (bTB).The research, led by the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, compared the genes of TB-infected and disease-free Holstein Friesian cows.

They were able to identify a number of genetic signatures associated with TB resistance in the cows that remained unaffected.

Researchers at the institute said the latest finding is significant as it sheds further light on whether it might be possible to improve TB control through selective breeding. more

Farmers Weekly, 13 February 2014 


EU set to grow more GM maize despite strong opposition

The EU is set to approve a new type of genetically modified maize for cultivation despite huge opposition. The European Commission says the US-developed maize variety, called Pioneer 1507, is safe and the decision is now in the Commission's hands.

Most EU governments objected to it in a vote, but the vote tally was still not enough to block it. Under EU rules, the Commission can now authorise it. Only one GM crop - another maize variety - is grown in the EU currently. more

BBC News, 11 February 2014 


High-oleic hemp may be low-input OSR alternative

Hemp crops producing oil with similar qualities to olive oil could become an alternative to oilseed rape in UK rotations, but without many of the disease and pest problems seen with rape.

Scientists at the University of York have successfully developed hemp plants with a dramatically increased content of oleic acid, the fatty acid more often associated with olive and rapeseed oils. more

Farmers Weekly, 10 February 2014 


Organic farming 'boosts biodiversity and bees'

Organic farms support 34% more plant, insect and animal species on average compared with conventional farms, according to Oxford academics.

Researchers from the University of Oxford reviewed farm data going back 30 years and they concluded that organic farms yielded greater biodiversity benefits than intensively-farmed land. The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, also found that on average, non-organic farms have about 50% fewer species of pollinators, such as bees, than organic farms.

“Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” said Sean Tuck, study lead author, of Oxford University’s department of plant sciences. more

Farmers Weekly, 4 February 2014 


New funding to create healthier and safer food

A low calorie chocolate that tastes just as good as the real thing and a white bread with high fibre are just two of the projects being funded that could make a difference to your diet and health in the future.

£8.5M is being invested in almost 40 research projects by BBSRC, the Technology Strategy Board and other partners to tackle issues around nutritional values, food safety, specific dietary requirements and food waste.

Other innovations being developed include a project to identify foods that could treat osteoporosis, and studies assessing the potential for using pumpkin and mulberry extracts to help treat diabetes and obesity. more

Technology Strategy Board, 3 February 2014 


Finnish study finds neonicotinoids do not harm bees

Initial findings from a Finnish study on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on field crops suggest they may not cause acute harm to bees.

The Neomehi Project in Finland is studying how neonicotinoid-based insecticides used in the cultivation of spring oilseed rape and spring turnip rape plants affects honeybees.

Based on the first set of test results, researchers said they suggested neonicotinoids do not cause immediate harm to honeybees. more

Farmers Weekly, 2 February 2014


Environment Minister launches Agricultural Engineering Innovation Centre

A £2.9 million centre to support advanced agricultural engineering teaching and research was today (30 January) launched at Shropshire’s Harper Adams University.

Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for natural environment and science, conducted the official opening of The Agricultural Engineering Innovation Centre (AEIC). The Environment Minister said: “Harper Adams’s new £2.9m Agricultural Engineering Innovation Centre for precision agriculture is a world class example of the innovation and agri-engineering expertise we have in the UK.

“We need to do all we can to translate research into new products, processes and technologies if we are to increase the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, address the challenge of food security and enhance the environment.” more

Farming Monthly, 30 January 2014 


UK could fall behind without investment in plant science

A funding shortfall is threatening the UK’s position as a world leader in plant science, a new report has claimed.

Researchers from the UK Plant Sciences Federation said the industry played a vital role in guaranteeing food security, coping with the threats from climate change, protecting biodiversity, and improving human health.

However, they claim a lack of investment in the industry coupled with a skills shortage could be detrimental to the industry if the gloomy trend is not addressed soon.

The report calls for a doubling of investment in UK plant science, which currently receives less than 4 per cent of public research funding. more

Farmers Guardian, 28 January 2014 


Chair of APPG appointed UK trade envoy

George Freeman, MP for Mid-Norfolk and Chair of the APPG on Science and Technology in Agriculture, has been appointed a UK Trade Envoy by the Prime Minister.

The announcement was made at the close of the Davos World Economic Forum, as part of an expansion of the UK's global trade and inward investment mission spearheaded by UKTI.

George Freeman, elected to Parliament in 2010 for the new constituency of Mid Norfolk after a career in the Eastern Region founding high growth start-up technology businesses, was appointed Government Adviser on Life Sciences in 2011 and has been closely involved in the launch of the UK's Industrial Strategies for Agri-Tech and Life Sciences.
more

Farming UK, 27 January 2014 


Genetically-modified purple tomatoes heading for shops

The prospect of genetically modified purple tomatoes reaching the shelves has come a step closer.

Their dark pigment is intended to give tomatoes the same potential health benefits as fruit such as blueberries.Developed in Britain, large-scale production is now under way in Canada with the first 1,200 litres of purple tomato juice ready for shipping.

The pigment, known as anthocyanin, is an antioxidant which studies on animals show could help fight cancer. Scientists say the new tomatoes could improve the nutritional value of everything from ketchup to pizza topping. more

BBC News, 24 January 2014 


‘Fish oil’ GM plant trial application submitted

An application to conduct field trials of a genetically modified crop containing Omega-3 fatty acids normally found in oily fish has been submitted. If approved by the government, the trials could begin at Rothamsted Research agricultural institute in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, this year.

The initial aim of the crop is to benefit the fish farming industry, the researchers said. But in a decade it could end up in food products, such as margarine.

The scientists at Rothamsted Research - who have been working on the project for 15 years - modified seeds from Camelina sativa (false flax) plants using genes from marine algae - the primary organisms that produce the fatty acids.

By substituting synthetic versions of up to seven genes from marine algae, the researchers have engineered Camelina plants to produce two key Omega-3 fatty acids normally obtained from oily fish, EPA and DHA. more

BBC News, 24 January 2014 


Summit to discuss threat of 'over cautious' pesticide rules

 Over-precautionary regulations on pesticides are hampering UK farmers’ ability to produce food, the NFU has warned.

Ahead of a summit on Wednesday (January 22) to discuss concerns over crop protection, NFU president Peter Kendall said the ever increasing regulatory pressure meant farmers were facing a growing challenge to produce the high quality British food consumers want.

Leading industry figures from farming, agricultural chemical manufacturing and crop protection distribution will meet at the union’s Stoneleigh headquarters. more

Farmers Guardian, 20 January 2014   


Campaign launched to warn farmers of illegal pesticides

A national campaign warning farmers of the risks of buying illegal pesticides has been launched.

Watch Out! for illegal pesticides is the message of the 12-month industry campaign launched to raise public awareness of illegal pesticides.

The Voluntary Initiative (VI) and Red Tractor Assurance is supporting the drive, with funding from the Crop Protection Association, NFU and Agricultural Industries Confederation. more

Farmers Weekly, 17 January 2014 


New research funding to combat yellow rust

A major £1.4m international research project aimed at combating a key disease in wheat is set to take place in the east of England.

The John Innes Centre in Norwich and NIAB in Cambridge will provide the base for one year of a project developing genetically resistant wheat varieties.

Four PhD students appointed in India, Kenya and Ethiopia will spend one year abroad in one of the UK partner institutions, which also includes The Sainsbury’s Laboratory in Norwich. The move comes as part of a major international effort to improve crop production in developing countries and combat disease. more

Farmers Weekly, 14 January 2014 


Hostility to GM putting EU in 'global slow lane' - report

The growing influence of green lobbyists and anti-capitalists on European policymaking is condemning the EU the ‘global slow lane’ when it comes to biotechnology, an MP has warned.

George Freeman, chairman of the All Party Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, said ‘growing hostility’ to technologies like GM is already forcing some of the biggest biotechnology companies to abandon Europe as a market.

The UK and the rest of the EU are in danger of missing out on the ‘major opportunity’ presented by the revolution in the field of genomics to support farmers in boosting food production while also creating ‘huge new inward investment and export opportunities’, according to the Norfolk MP. more

Farmers Guardian, 14 January 2014 


Norfolk MP says EU’s hostility towards science is hampering investment

The rise of an “increasingly science hostile” European Union is undermining our attractiveness as a place to invest, MP George Freeman has said while calling for reform or the UK would try to “take back” science regulation from Brussels.

The Norfolk MP will today publish a report for the European reform project, Fresh Start, in which he highlights an increasing tide of “anti-biotech” legislation.

He said the EU’s hostility to Genetically Modified crops had already seen German based BASF and US major Monsanto announcing its withdrawal from Europe in agricultural research and development, adding that EU policymaking machine was being driven by “increasingly strident and politically active biotech-hostile lobbying groups, and minority political parties exercising influence through the coalition politics of member states.” more

Eastern Daily Press, 10 January 2014


Technology revolution presents opportunities for farming

A technological revolution in British agriculture presents huge opportunities for UK farming, according to Tory MP George Freeman.

Mr Freeman was speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference on the potential impact of the government’s £160m agri-tech strategy.

Mr Freeman, the Tory MP for mid-Norfolk, said that the pace of economic development in industrialising countries was “utterly breathtaking” and would lead to more pressures, but also opportunities, which the strategy could make use of. more

Farmers Weekly, 9 January 2014 


New GM plants could help to feed world — if Luddites don’t interfere, say farmers

A new, less intrusive way of genetically engineering plants would help to feed the world’s growing population but is at risk from the same “Luddite attitudes” blocking GM crops, according to a farming industry report.

The technology, known as cisgenics, involves transferring genes from closely related plant species rather than genetically modifying crops by importing “foreign” genes. It more closely resembles conventional breeding but uses similar technology to GM methods.

The report, being debated today at the Oxford Farming Conference, says: “New technology, post GM, is emerging but must not be allowed to fall victim to the same Luddite attitudes which have left Europe isolated from transgenic technology. The cost of doing so would be catastrophic in terms of food production failing to increase to feed the world’s growing population.” more

The Times, 7 January 2014 


Wheat promiscuity holds key to yields

Wheat will have sex with anything. That observation from Keith Woodward, professor of cereal genomics at Bristol University, holds the key to breaking the yield plateau, he said at a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council fringe meeting at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Wheat’s “promiscuity”’ to cross with plants outside its genus, such as grasses with significantly better photosynthetic efficiency, offers breeders great scope to increase yields.

Prof Woodward explained that a six-year collaboration between John Innes, NIAB, Rothamsted and Nottingham and Bristol universities called WISP (Wheat Improvement Strategic Programme) to identify new genetics is going “remarkably well”. Now halfway through the programme the partnership have identified 80,000 gene markers and are on course to have 820,000 by the end of this month. more

Farmers Weekly, 7 January 2014 


 

Designer plants have vital fish oils in their seeds

 

Move over, cod liver oil. A biofuel crop related to cabbages, called camelina, has been genetically modified to produce components of fish oils beneficial for cardiovascular health. The approach could relieve some of the pressure on the oceans.

 

The flesh of oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, plus the livers of white fish such as cod, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The most important ones are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – known to reduce the risk of heart disease – and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – a lack of which has been linked to visual and cognitive problems. more

New Scientist, 2 January 2014 


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 


© 2010 Front Foot Communications Design Martin Phillips Associates Ltd