OFC 2010: Government plans to boost food research

The government’s chief scientific adviser has unveiled plans to improve research into food security and sustainability.

John Beddington said the Strategy for Food Research and Innovation will look at the best ways to spend the government’s annual £415m food research budget. It would also help farmers understand how to use science on their farms.

The strategy would bring together researchers and government departments to ensure farmers have access to the best science, technologies and skills, Prof Beddington told the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday (6 January),

“We are trying to look at how we can better join-up research. Research money is currently distributed in a number of different ways and we need to ensure there is no duplication and that there’s cooperation across different organisations.”

Prof Beddington said the strategy was working towards putting together a programme of research with research bodies and the government to tackle problems identified by farmers.

The UK’s scientific community was well-placed to contribute to the success of the government’s Food 2030 strategy, unveiled by the previous day at the conference by DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn.

“There are real challenges ahead for policy makers, producers and retailers,” said Prof Beddington. “The UK must draw on the strengths in its science base and in industry and exploit the opportunities for innovation and new markets that exist.”

A more joined-up approach would be central to contributing to a thriving UK agri-food business sector and delivering a sustainable and secure food system over the coming decades.

Developing GM technology is critical to the challenge of increasing food production, said Prof Beddington.

Increasing food production by 50% by 2030 – with less land, water and energy – meant genetic developments needed to be embraced to feed a growing world population, he told conference delegates.

GM science was moving forward quickly and should not be dismissed as the industry sought to overcome animal disease, drought and the problem of feeding a growing population.

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