Horticulture bodies discuss future of R&D with government's chief scientist John Beddington

Government chief scientist John Beddington met with horticulture representatives last week to discuss the crisis facing research and development in the sector.

The meeting included representatives from the National Horticultural Forum (NHF), the Horticultural Development Company, Warwick HRI, East Malling Research, the Commercial Farmers Group, Defra and biotech-funding council BBSRC. NHF chairman Andrew Colquhoun described the meeting as "the best hearing we have had so far on horticultural R&D".

Referring to the House of Commons' Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Efra) committee on food security, which last month called on Defra to investigate the obstacles to increasing UK production, Colquhoun said the committee's report was heavily influenced by Beddington - hence he felt the group was "pushing at an open door".

He added: "We took the conclusions of the report and said that needs to be underpinned by R&D over the longer term — it was an easy argument to make with him."

The group said that Defra needed to: take ownership of the whole research pipeline; take a "continuous" interest in East Malling Research, Stockbridge Technology Centre and Warwick HRI; and take a leadership position with other departments such as the Department of Health.

Beddington has asked the Government Office for Science to convene a further meeting in the autumn to work on priorities.

Find out about HW's Save Our Science campaign at www.HorticultureWeek.co.uk/soscampaign.

 

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