Food has been hitting the headlines in the past week or so warning us of shortages in various vegetables – particularly courgettes, iceberg lettuce and peppers – with subsequent jumps in the price of such produce and even rationing by some supermarkets. This example, albeit modest in my book, highlights the fragility of our food supply chains by providing yet another demonstration of how extreme weather events – in this case snow in southern Spain – can impact the supply of food stuffs we take for granted. […]
Tag: food security
At BBSRC we understand how important our relationships with academics, policy makers, end-users and civil society are.
To deliver our vision of leading world-class bioscience, promoting innovation and realising benefits for society in the UK and beyond we need to work constructively with a huge range of different people and organisations. Some of those interactions are at the highest levels in Government, while many of them, no less important, are at the day-to-day level of delivering investments in bioscience.
BBSRC provides strategic funding to eight institutes that have long-term research programmes and national capabilities that underpin important sectors of the UK economy – including agriculture, food and drink and pharmaceuticals. Last week I had a very productive visit to one of the institutes – IBERS which is part of Aberystwyth University. As well as getting a review of the Institute Strategic Programmes that we fund there, I also spoke to a number of researchers in areas as diverse as ruminant microbiota and biofuels. I hadn’t realised that the Institute was so heavily involved in teaching undergraduates as well as postgraduates and was pleased to see how successfully integrated it has become with the University. I was extremely impressed with the National Plant Phenomics Centre and its capacity for automated imaging and measurement of a range of different plant sizes. The ability to measure both below and above ground phenotypes is impressive. The Institute is also home to the Beacon Biorefining Centre of Excellence which is a partnership between Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities. […]
Agriculture and food security in various forms were the main areas of focus during the past week. The agri-food chain (i.e. from farm to fork) contributes about £96Bn to the UK economy and is equivalent to 7% GVA (gross value added). It also provides over 3M jobs.
The UK government recently recognised the importance of the agri-tech sector and published a strategy earlier in the year for the industry. The aim is to ensure that the UK becomes a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability both in the UK and globally. I attended my first meeting of the leadership council for the Agri-Tech Strategy whose chair is Judith Batchelar from Sainsbury’s. It will be important going forward that all the key stakeholders work together, including industry, to drive the strategy forward. BBSRC has been very active in this area in the past and the Diet and Health Research Industry Club has been particularly successful and we will continue to play a very active role. […]
The first external meeting was with Prof David MacKay, Chief Scientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. We enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion focussed on Bioenergy, including theoretical yields of photosynesis, losses in light and dark reactions, the continuing improvement in willow and Miscanthus yields, biological carbon sequestration, anti-flooding plants, the overall contribution to energy and chemicals needs one might anticipate from UK crops, and so on.
I attended an interesting and rationally argued set of talks at the British Library on pollinators and insecticides, chaired by Bill Turnbull of BBC Breakfast News fame (and a clearly committed beekeeper), with Panel contributions by individuals from the British Beekeepers Association, from Cambridge University and from Syngenta. The multifactorial nature of stresses on bees (not least poor weather and inadequate forage) were well explained (and well accepted) by all. Interestingly, most of the issues were precisely those that I had covered in an earlier blog or two. […]