Research councils join forces to launch food-security programme

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Defra are among bodies linked in a new Global Food Security Programme, launched today.

The UK's main public funders of food-related research and training will today (11 March) join to launch a programme aimed at meeting the challenge of providing the world's growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of good quality food using less land and fewer resources.

The organisations will work together through a new programme - Global Food Security.

By working together to develop strategy and identify shared goals the partners aim to harness the country's research base to help to deliver healthy, sustainable food for all.

Professor John Beddington, the Government's chief scientific adviser, who is speaking at a reception to launch Global Food Security in London tonight, said: "Research is crucial to find ways to sustainably meet the increase in demand for food, and to support healthier diets. This means we need multidisciplinary approaches, fostered through the Global Food Security programme, to increase production sustainably, to ensure a secure supply of healthy, affordable food from less land, less water, fewer inputs and producing less waste and emissions."

Global Food Security sponsors and partners include five Research Councils, working together as Research Councils UK, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for International Development, the Government Office for Science, the Scottish Government, the Technology Strategy Board and the Food Standards Agency.

Professor Janet Allen, chair of Global Food Security Programme Development Board and director of research at BBSRC, said: "By working together the Global Food Security Partners can ensure that we are coordinating a true national programme in food security research, one that cuts across the partners' remits. We will be able to address issues across the entire food supply chain, fostering multidisciplinary research and avoiding overlaps or gaps."

Global Food Security will address four themes: Economic resilience, including trade and competitiveness; resource efficiency, including reducing inputs and improving efficiency; sustainable production, including crops, livestock and farm systems; and sustainable, healthy, safe diets, including food safety and accessibility.

Defra Minister Lord Davies said: "We know we need to produce more food in the future and we need to do it sustainably and in a way that is good for our health.

"The Government's food strategy launched earlier this year made it clear that we need to make changes right along the food chain - from farm to fork - and need to support consumers in making informed decisions about food.

"Bringing the skills and experience of these research funders together will be important in putting in place the practical measures needed to feed the global population in years to come."

NFU president Peter Kendall explained: "UK farmers are very well placed to provide solutions to food security, globally as well as closer to home. But farming can only deliver if the right research is funded and sustained long-term, and then translated into practice. I am very pleased to see major funders coming together to coordinate the underpinning science. Now that there is high level Government acceptance of the strategic importance of agriculture, the launch of Global Food Security shows a commitment by public research funders to work together on this critical issue." 

Partner and sponsor organisations are:

  • Research Councils UK:
    • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
    • Economic and Social Research Council
    • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
    • Medical Research Council
    • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Department for International Development
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Government Office for Science
  • Scottish Government
  • Technology Strategy Board

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