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UK Cross-Government Food Research and Innovation Strategy

John Beddington, UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor
A new science strategy to help improve the security and sustainability of our food system has been launched by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Beddington. The UK Cross-Government Strategy for Food Research and Innovation aims to provide the evidence to support effective, joined-up policies, and ensure the development and dissemination of new knowledge, technologies and skills.

Key initiatives highlighted in the Strategy include:

-a new multi-partner food security research programme, co-ordinated by BBSRC and delivered jointly with relevant Research Councils and government departments, and including close engagement with industry and the third sector. Key aims include strengthening research coordination and partnerships, building a more integrated community of researchers, funders and users that extends across disciplines, organisations and sectors, to provide multi-disciplinary research to ensure a sustainable and secure food system;

-a new Technology Strategy Board led Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform, co-funded by Defra and BBSRC with up to £90M over five years, to fund innovative technological research and development in areas such as crop productivity, sustainable livestock production, waste reduction and management, and greenhouse gas reduction;

-a doubling of research investment in agriculture by DFID to £80m/yr by 2013 to provide farmers in developing countries with access to technologies and to help national governments develop more effective agricultural policies, based on a robust evidence base. Important progress is also being made towards strengthening the institutional arrangements at international level that will help maximise the value of these investments;

-impetus to exploit opportunities in the European Research Area through co-ordination mechanisms such as ERA-NETs and Joint Programmes, and collaboration through the RTD Framework Programme more generally;

-a major Foresight study looking over the long term at the ability of global food systems to feed a future world population of 9 billion healthily and sustainably, set to launch its findings in October 2010;

-a new BBSRC Advanced Training Partnership scheme to provide a range of specialist high level training (masters, professional doctorate and continuous professional development) to meet industry needs in partnership with the higher and further education sectors; and

-the development of new indicators to monitor research collaboration, innovation and skills within the suite of indicators being introduced by Defra for a sustainable and secure food system…
(Jan 2010)

Return to slop bucket as homes face ban on sending food waste to landfill

Valerie Elliot, The Times
Householders will soon have to keep food waste in the modern equivalent of a slop bucket, the Government said yesterday.

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, said that instead of being thrown away on landfill sites, food waste would be used for composting or turned into energy.

Britain throws away 8.3 million tonnes of food each year, costing families with children £680 a year, according to government figures. Food waste at landfill sites is also estimated to generate about 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of emissions from four million cars.

The ban, which could be introduced in two years, will apply to businesses and the public sector as well as homes. The bulk of commercial food waste comes from retailers and wholesalers — about 12.7 million tonnes a year, nearly half of which is sent to landfill…
(19 Jan 2010)

It’s time to get back to the land

Geoffrey Lean, The Telegraph
My mother was a Land Girl, one of the 80,000-strong Women’s Land Army that dug for victory during the Second World War. One of the family’s most cherished photographs is of her young self wielding a spade as she helped grow vegetables on what had been an immaculate lawn.

The picture seems a world away from today’s mechanised, computerised, industrialised, depersonalised agriculture. But if a growing number of experts are to be believed, my children’s generation will increasingly go back to the land to dig not for victory, but for survival. For once again, our food security is at risk. Then, German U-boats menaced the imports on which Britain had become reliant after decades of neglecting agriculture. Today, domestic food production has again been declining, just as world supplies look like getting much tighter.

Prof Tim Lang, of City University, perhaps Britain’s top food academic, says: “We are sleepwalking into a major food crisis.” Prof Sir John Beddington, the Government’s chief scientist, forecasts “a perfect storm” as population growth, diminishing resources and climate change create shortages in food, water and energy. Our generation may be the last, as well as the first, to be able to take food supplies for granted.

“We need to produce more food,” Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, told the Oxford Farming Conference this week. A statement of the obvious? It actually signals a change in policy. For decades, ministers have seen agriculture as unimportant since, as Benn’s own department put it less than two years ago, as a developed economy, “we are able to access the food we need on the global market”: manufacturing and the City would earn us enough to buy in supplies…
(8 Jan 2010)