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Reverse Underspend on R&D, Says Science Campaign

by 5m Editor
14 October 2008, at 10:48am

UK - Reverse the current trend in under-spending for research and development in agricultural science is the call going to Government from the National Farmers Union today as it launches 'Why Science Matters' campaign.

With more than 70 MPs, industry stakeholders and opinion formers due to attend the launch in the House of Commons, the NFU believes now is the time to put production and food security at the top of the political agenda for agricultural research. NFU President Peter Kendall will call for Government to shift its policy and priorities to recognise the need of productive and efficient agriculture as an important goal for scientific research and development, and not focus on environmental mitigation as its sole objective.

"In the 21st century we are faced with the unique challenge of needing to produce more food using less land, water and other inputs," said Mr Kendall. "Therefore we need to embrace science, research and technology more than ever before to help increase production while preserving our environment and dealing with the impacts of climate change.

"However this idea isn't new. Throughout history farmers and growers have applied science to farming to improve and protect crops and livestock, to feed the population and deal with challenges they faced. From the mechanisation of farming more than 150 years ago, farming has remained a high-tech industry with a wide range of technologies now being used to reduce inputs, improve efficiency and increase productivity."

A report being published for the launch will show that in recent years there has been a 45 per cent drop in funding research and development in agriculture which has paved the way for redundancies in the science sector, leading to second class facilities for researchers working in highly sensitive areas such as animal disease. This current underinvestment has resulted in a stagnation of national productivity, currently only one per cent per year.

"Applied science and knowledge transfer must receive proper resource from Government if we are to reverse the current trend and see new technology and advancements disseminated throughout the industry and more importantly to those working on the ground," said Mr Kendall. "We must look at new ways to collaborate, both with government and private companies, as so many of the issues surrounding food production impact on society and the economy.

"When you think developing countries now spend more than the developed world on agri-related research and development, in particular China and India, this highlights how important this campaign is in trying to reverse the current trend and show why science matters."