1 November 1996

Research cut alarm

KEY farming and food safety research will be slashed next year because of the BSE crisis, scientists warn.

They claim government has provided no new cash to fund an increase in the BSE research budget, which was boosted by £1m for 1996-97. Instead cuts have of up to 20% have been made in other research work commissioned by MAFF.

The Institution of Scientists and Professionals, which represents scientists, including those working in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, say the cutbacks will mean:

&#8226 A cut of up to 20% in funds for research into less intensive farming methods.

&#8226 A reduction, or an end, to projects on ruminant nutrition, farm waste, pests diseases and nitrogen fixation.

A call for redundancies has already gone out to staff at several BBSRC institutes including the Institute of Food Research the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research and the Institute of Arable Crops Research. Unfilled vacancies for scientific staff have been frozen.

IPMS is calling for an urgent meeting with farm minister, Douglas Hogg. "The fact is that no new money has been put into BSE research, it has all been taken from other programmes," said Tony Bell, IPMS national officer.

"That is short sighted in the extreme. BSE was caused by over-intensive food production methods of precisely the kind which BBRSC research is working to minimise. For the health of the British consumer and the farming industry, these cuts must be stopped."

A MAFF spokesman said it had been made clear at the time of the last public expenditure round that BSE research was going to be increased and that would have to be balanced in part elsewhere. But a commitment had also been made to ring fence research linked to public health and safety.