Royal Agricultural Society to lobby main parties over a huge chasm between growing from science

The general election is being used by the Royal Agricultural Society to highlight damaging separation between science and practice that now threatens 200 years of success in agriculture, it says.

Royal Agricultural Society of England said it was handing its report to each of the three main parties as they cranked up their campaigns for the general election.

Professor David Leaver, a chairman at the society and the report's author, blamed 25 years of poor government policy for splintering growing and farming from science.

Government policy had hived off science from practice to such an extent the unique partnership between scientists and farmers that "underpinned agricultural success for nearly two centuries" was seriously threatened, he said.

"The uptake of scientific development has been the foundation on which profitable agriculture has been built," he said.

"We are now in grave danger of breaking those links. The election provides us with an opportunity to get this on the political agenda."

In his report Leaver said the implications of a "non-functioning research chain" were that new innovations and technologies would evolve at a lower rate than other countries. This would result in a greater reliance on other countries to produce our food.

"The food-price spike in 2008 challenged politicians to re-consider their views on food security and the role of UK agriculture. But while much has been said in Government circles, relevant actions are still awaited."

The report calls for a new approach to research and development and for the public and private sectors to work in closer partnership.

The report said universities appeared to have "no mandate to deliver benefits to the agricultural industry", and until they undertook industry-directed research, a number of research institutes should be made to lead research for the various agricultural sectors.

The Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board should be more strategic in encouraging increasing production and sustainability through creating demonstration farms. Levy bodies meanwhile could utilise their funding to support applied research.

Professor Leaver said: "Practice with science has guided the development of the royal society and has driven its contribution to help improve and promote technical progress in UK farming."

 


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