Agricultural research flagged as key for European food role

Academic tells CropWorld conference that agricultural development in the UK and on the Continent is being stifled.

Europe can play a lead role in global food production, but needs "a revolution" first, economic consultant, lecturer and author Sean Rickard told the CropWorld conference last month.

"Europe will become more important due to climate change, but the increase needed in production is phenomenal," he said.

"We can only get out of rising demand for food by implementing new technologies. These have the potential to turn this industry on its head over the next 20 years - and they will need to."

However, agriculture policy in Europe is still driven by obsolete concerns, Rickard claimed. "Whatever they propose for the Common Agricultural Policy, it will hold back the development of agriculture.

"We are paying inefficient framers who will never solve the problems of food security, while holding back more efficient ones. But its 50-year legacy won't be abandoned overnight."

This has led to neglect of the Continent's research capacity, he added. "We thought the problem was over-supply, and that farmers are there to protect the countryside. The UK used to be in the vanguard of agricultural science, but spending on research has dried up over the past 20-30 years and we badly need to reverse that. I would scrap farm subsidies and put the money into research and development."

This should be driven by the need to get more output from less land, energy and water, and that will mean bio-technology, he said. "The industry should be in the vanguard, arguing for first-class, hi-tech, industrialised farming."

In this context, Rickard described organic farming as morally impossible to defend. "A small minority is holding back the whole industry."

Scientist's view

"We know we can feed nine to 10 billion people, but we will need at least 50 per cent more food in the next two decades. There is no single formula for that and no technology should be ruled in or out.

"In Europe there has been complacency for the best part of 30 years. We have lost capacity, motivation and training." - Professor Ian Crute, Chief Scientist, Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

How will the fresh-produce growing season pan out with less labour?

How will the fresh-produce growing season pan out with less labour?

The new fresh-produce season is around the corner and Brexit just over a year away, yet the Government has still given no indication that it will enable seasonal workers to come to the UK in the volumes the sector requires, either in this season or any other.

What recent developments can help growers fight orchard pests and diseases?

What recent developments can help growers fight orchard pests and diseases?

Last week's British Independent Fruit Growers Association Technical Day (31 January), heard about the latest research in orchard pests and diseases and how to deal with them.

Is a move away from plastic produce packaging now inevitable?

Is a move away from plastic produce packaging now inevitable?

A tipping point has been reached in the attitude of retailers and the Government to waste plastic which is likely to affect suppliers' future packaging options.