needed to assess agriculture's environmental footprint
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.
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.
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
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
Farmers Weekly, 17 May 2013
HDC precision herbicide research moves toward
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
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
Company, 16 May 2013
UN urges people
to eat insects to fight world hunger
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.
BBC News, 13 May 2013
Biogas offers alternative fertiliser
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.
13 May 2013
Cambridge-based scientists develop
British scientists say they have developed
a new type of wheat which could increase productivity by
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.
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.
Farmers Weekly, 9 May 2013
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
On plants, the review would help ensure
the health, identity and quality of plant reproductive
material - including seeds and plant propagating material.
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
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.
Farmers Weekly, 7 May 2013
US rejects EU claim of insecticide as prime reason for bee
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
Researchers said it was not clear whether
a certain class of pesticides was a major cause of the
The Guardian, 3 May 2013
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
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.
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
Guardian, 30 April 2013
Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid
The European Commission will restrict the
use of pesticides linked to bee deaths by researchers,
despite a split among EU states on the issue.
is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee
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
But many farmers and crop experts argue
that there is insufficient data.
BBC News, 29 April 2013
New hybrid grass
could reduce devastation caused by flooding
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).
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.
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
Farmers Guardian, 25 April 2013
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.
23 April 2013
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
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
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.
The Telegraph, 19 April 2013
World’s Gene Pool Crucial for
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 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.
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.
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.
The Telegraph, 16 April 2013
Biofuels: ‘Irrational’ and ‘worse than
The UK's "irrational" use of biofuels will
cost motorists around £460 million over the next 12 months,
a think tank says.
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.
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.
Farming Online, 12 April 2013
Waitrose bans use
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
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’.
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.
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."
Farmers Weekly, 11 April 2013
Higher levels of
healthy compound in Beneforté broccoli
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.
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.
BBSRC, 10 April 2013
Could wheat be made more like maize?
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.
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.
Farmers Weekly, 8 April 2013
Britain ‘running out of wheat’ owing to
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
BBC News, 6 April 2013
Bee-harming pesticides should be banned,
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
"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
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
Guardian, 5 April 2013
Sainsbury’s to fund broiler feed
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
"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.
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
Commission is planning to suspend the use of three
neonicotinoid products -
imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin - for two years
from as soon as this July.
Guardian, 27 March 2013
Rothamsted applies for autumn GM
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.
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.
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
Prof Beddington made his comments in the
final week of his tenure as the government's chief
BBC News, 25 March 2013
Farming key to
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
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.
“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.”
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
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.
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.
U.N. bodies want to tackle drought to avert food crisis
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.
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.
shift towards such policies, we face the prospect of
repeated humanitarian catastrophes and the repeated threat
of drought to global food security."
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
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”.
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."
Financial Times, 13 March
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
12 March 2013
'Farming promotes antibiotic
resistance in humans'
chief medical officer has blamed the overuse of antibiotics
in livestock farming for contributing to resistance in drugs
used in human medicine.
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
that routine operations could potentially become deadly in
as little as 10-20 years.
Farmers Weekly, 11 March 2013
health and welfare, a key factor in a multi-billion pound
food industry, will be boosted with the building of a new
already begun on the £14M National Avian Research Facility
(NARF) at the University of Edinburgh's Easter Bush campus.
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.
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.
Business, 8 March 2013
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.
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.
Farmers Weekly, 8 March 2013
vaccine field trial under way
A field trial is under way in Ireland
aimed at developing an oral TB badger vaccine, scientists have revealed.
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
7 March 2013
Research could help bees communicate
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.
study aims to monitor and decode the buzzing of bees in the
hive and pass crucial information to beekeepers via wireless
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
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
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Farmers Guardian, 27 February 2013
Farmers must play their part to stop
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.
Farmers Guardian, 26 February 2013
Developing countries plant most GM
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.
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).
farmers grew a record 170.3m hectares of biotech crops - up
6%, or 10.3m hectares more than in 2011.
Farmers Weekly, 21 February 2013
UNEP study calls for smarter nutrient use to avoid
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
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."
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
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.
15 February 2013
Planting wildflowers on farmland helps spiders
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
BBSRC, 14 February 2013
Horsemeat crisis caught government
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.
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".
the current contamination crisis had caught the FSA and
government flat-footed and unable to respond effectively.
14 February 2013
Horsemeat scandal: EU urges DNA tests of
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
13 February 2013
UK could go it alone on GM – Paterson
member states should be allowed to make the decision on
whether to adopt GM, according to Defra secretary Owen
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
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".
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.
Observer, 3 February 2013
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.
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."
Agra-Net, 29 January 2013
Omega-3 can help laying hens avoid
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.
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.
Sugar-rich willow can boost biofuels’
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.
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.
BBC News, 25 January 2013
UN launches global project to tackle
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.
Farming Online, 23 January 2013
Biofuel targets driving global hunger crisis, churches and
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.
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
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
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
22 January 2013
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.
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
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
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
The Grocer, 15 January 2013
Neonicotinoid ban could cost farmers
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.
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
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
News, 11 January 2013
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
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
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.
The Telegraph, 10 January 2013
Two-thirds of British consumers say GM food labelling is
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."
The Guardian, 9 January 2013
Animal health in Scotland given £10m
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.
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
“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.”
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.
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
The Telegraph, 3 January 2013