Food and farming strategy set for October launch

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sustainability Hilary benn Food security

Food and farming strategy set for October launch
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will publish its new research strategy for food and farming in October.DEFRA chief...

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will publish its new research strategy for food and farming in October.

DEFRA chief scientific adviser professor Robert Watson announced the plan last week at the official launch of The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in York.

The strategy will incorporate work evaluating how food security and sustainable ecosystems, underpinned by behavioural changes required to move to a “low carbon economy”, need to be developed alongside climate change, said Watson. “Food security is absolutely critical,” he claimed.
“John Beddington [the government’s chief scientific adviser] brought together all the UK funding agencies to try to understand the research needs for UK food security,” he said. “We also had a meeting a couple of weeks ago with about 30 people - 25 from the private sector.”
“We’ve got to analyse the role of DEFRA; the BBSRC [Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council]; the [Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board] levy board; the private sector; and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). And John Beddington and I and others are working with the TSB to see whether we have an innovation platform in the agriculture sector, and that decision will be made quite shortly.”
DEFRA spends around 5% or £124M/year of its total budget on research, said Watson, of which £64.9M goes to food and farming research. This will rise to £68.48M/year for the period 2009-2011.
FERA, a scientific centre of excellence, was formed from the former Central Science Laboratory based at Sand Hutton near York in April this year. It hopes to benefit from some of this spending, although an increasing amount of its income is expected to come from private sector projects for companies in the food chain.
FERA’s work covers everything from agriculture and wildlife conservation to food safety and authenticity - from the birds and the bees to dioxins, nanotechnology and food authenticity.
“The work being carried out here is absolutely vital to the future of our planet,” said environment secretary Hilary Benn at the launch.