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

Group News

Agri-science MP concerned over axing of EU chief scientist role
News Release, 13 November 2014

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



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


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Science & Technology News


British produce vital for food security, say MPs

MPs have called on the government and retailers to do more to encourage shoppers to buy home-grown produce because it forms a vital part of a secure food supply system.

The recommendation was made in the Food security: Demand, Consumption and Waste report published on Thursday, 22 January by the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee.

Committee chairwoman Anne McIntosh MP said climate change and rising world populations meant ensuring everyone could access affordable, healthy food was a growing challenge for the UK. more

Farmers Weekly, 22 January 2015 

EU pesticide crackdown ‘must be based on sound science’

Pesticides must only be identified as endocrine disruptors following a sound scientific and full risk assessment, says the NFU.

The European Commission’s consultation to help define the criteria for endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) closed for responses on 19 January. The consultation aims to help the commission define chemicals that might interfere with hormone systems, which may harm human health and the environment.

An independent report by farm consultant Andersons has warned up to 40 active substances are at risk of being lost. This could result in a yield penalty of up to 50% depending on the crop, and farming income could take a £1.73bn hit, equivalent to a 36% fall in overall profits. more

Farmers Weekly, 21 January 2015 

Doubts raised over neonic ban as bee scientists clash

Concerns are mounting over the scientific backing behind a ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments as two researchers at the same university row over possibly flawed experiments.

The two scientists at the University of Sussex disagree on whether neonicotinoids were to blame for a decline in bee populations, which was the main factor behind the ban on the pesticide. Bee researcher Norman Carreck is accusing his colleague Dave Goulson of feeding bumblebees unrealistic high levels of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid in the laboratory to show an adverse effect on bees.

“This shows that there are significant questions over the science. Full field trials have not shown the levels of harm compared with artificial doses,” says Chris Hartfield, bee and pollinator expert at the NFU. more

Farmers Weekly, 20 January 2015 

The food systems of the future need to be smarter, more efficient 

Increasing competition for natural resource and emerging resource bottlenecks mean that global agriculture can no longer operate using a "business as usual" approach – the input-intensive agricultural development model used for the past 40 years is no longer sustainable, and a "paradigm shift" in food production is needed.

This was the key message of a speech delivered by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture taking place this week in Berlin. The topic of the forum is The Growing Demand for Food, Raw Materials and Energy: Opportunities for Agriculture, Challenges for Food Security?

"Business as usual would mean a huge and simultaneous increase in the need for food, energy and water in the next decades: 60 percent more food, 50 percent more energy and 40 percent more water by 2050," Graziano da Silva said during his remarks. FAO estimates point to the need to increase food production by 60 percent by 2050 to feed a population that will top the 9 billion mark. more

Farm Business, 17 January 2015 

Restrictions on plant protection products would have detrimental effect on land management, says CLA 

The CLA has said vital products needed for land management may be lost as a result of the EU’s attempt to redefine how hazardous they are.

Responding to a European Commission consultation to help determine criteria for endocrine disruption - chemicals contained within products which could alter the hormonal system - the CLA said it was necessary to identify the potential risk of pesticides and biocides by taking into account potency and exposure as well as hazard.

CLA President Henry Robinson said: “Seventeen active substances in herbicides, fungicides and insecticides could be lost as a result of the endocrine disruptor classification. Such a loss would have significant consequences for agriculture and land management. more

Farm Business, 16 January 2015 

MEPs vote to give member states more powers on GM crops

MEPS have overwhelmingly endorsed a significant change to EU legislation today, giving member states a much greater say over whether they grow genetically modified (GM) crops.

The European Parliament voted in Strasbourg on Tuesday by 480 votes to 159 to make it easier for member states to ban GM crops and, potentially, to push ahead with approvals on a national scale, prompting speculation about possible approvals in England within the next few years.

After today’s vote, the new legislation is expected to be in place by this spring. more

Farmers Guardian, 13 January 2015 

Truss wants UK powers to decide on GM approvals

DEFRA Secretary Liz Truss has stressed her desire for the UK to be allowed to make its own decisions on GM crops, ahead of a key vote in Europe next week.

The vote could go a long way to moving control over GM approvals away from the Commission into the hands of member states. This follows a vote by MEPs in November.

Mrs Truss said GM crops should ‘have a role to play’ in the UK and farmers should have the opportunity to grow GM crops. She said the UK was pushing at EU level to break down the barriers to growing them. She called for decisions on issues like pesticides and GM cultivation to be ‘made on science alone’. “Ultimately we want to see decisions on GM crops taken in Britain,” she said. more

Farmers Guardian, 8 January 2015 

OFC report highlights UK sector must improve productivity

The UK farm industry is lagging behind other countries and must work to improve efficiency.

The Oxford Farming Conference’s annual report, compiled by Andersons, identified key issues within the UK’s agricultural industry which have seen it fall behind several other countries’ farm sectors.

According to the report, ‘The Best British Farmers: What gives them the edge’, the UK is hampered by a loss of technology but must work harder to implement tools to improve competitiveness. more

Farmers Guardian, 7 January 2015

Global warming threat to wheat yields

New research in the UK has predicted global wheat yields will drop by 6% for each degree of centigrade of global warming.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, also warns global warming will increase variability of wheat yields across regions and seasons.

An international group of agronomists, including scientists from Rothamsted Research, used computer modeling technologies, field and artificial heating experiments to focus on responses of wheat to high temperatures. more

Farmers Weekly, 5 January 2015 

'Broadband to boost rural job migration over next decade’

Faster internet and better transport links could help the rural economy grow faster than urban areas over the next decade, say government analysts.

A Defra report on rural productivity claims rural workers are 83% as productive as those in urban areas. However, increased connectivity, spread of innovation and growth in knowledge-based industries, including agriculture, could allow the countryside to gain ground on towns over the next decade.

Defra estimates a rise in rural jobs, thanks to a high-tech boost from speedier broadband and better transport links, could increase economic output in rural areas by £35bn by 2025. During this time, the government predicts an additional 300,000 rural jobs could be created – a 6% increase in rural employment – with more people leaving cities in search of a rural idyll. more

Farmers Weekly, 5 January 2015 

Bee-friendly pesticide research among Agri-Tech winners

Research to develop an environmentally-friendly pesticide, using spider venom, that is not harmful to bees will be among the beneficiaries of the latest tranche of Government funding aimed a tackling the big agricultural challenges of the day.

Businesses and universities across the UK will benefit from £16 million under the second round of funding to be distributed through the £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst, announced as part of the UK Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies in July 2013.

Among the most eye-catching beneficiaries is a £1m project aiming to further develop an environmentally friendly pesticide which is harmless to non-target species, including bees. Led by Arch UK Biocides in collaboration with the University of Durham, the Food and Research Agency (FERA) and I2LRESEARCH LTD, this project will receive over £650,000 in Agri-Tech Catalyst funding. more

Farmers Guardian, 24 December 2014 

SRUC and University of Edinburgh ‘most powerful’ in UK agricultural and veterinary research 

Agricultural and veterinary research at SRUC and the University of Edinburgh has been ranked as most powerful in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The REF process is an assessment of the quality of the research being undertaken at UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the impact it has in society. Building on a long history of collaboration and complementary activities, SRUC and the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies – which includes The Roslin Institute - made a joint REF submission.

Three quarters of the research and related activity submitted by SRUC/UoE was judged to be “world leading” (receiving the top REF grading of four star) or “internationally excellent” (three star). more

Farm Business, 19 December 2014

NFU issues 'call to arms' on EU pesticide legislation

The NFU is urging farmers to make their views known to the European Commission about proposals that could remove key pesticides from the market.

The Commission is currently consulting on the definition of ‘Endocrine Disruptors’ a group of chemicals that could be removed under changes to EU pesticides legislation.

In a recent report, commissioned by the UK farming and agro-chemical industry, farm business consultants Andersons concluded the potential loss of pesticides from this and other EU legislation could have a devastating impact on the UK farming industry. more

Farmers Guardian, 17 December 2014 

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