UK chief scientist accuses EU of ignoring food production

7th Nov 2011

Goverment chief scientist Professor Sir John Beddington has accused the European of failing to grasp the key messages about the need to increase food production.

Sir John, lead author of the influential Foresight report, contrasted the UK’s positive response to the report with the EU’s continuing pursuit of policies that restrict farmers’ efforts to increase production.

Asked to explain the rationale behind the Commission CAP reform proposals, based on making the policy ‘greener, he said he couldn’t ‘because I think it’s wrong’.

He added that he also had ‘real concerns’ over the way the European Commission has handled legislation on farm chemicals.

He add: ”I have real doubt about the rationale for moving from a risk-based approach to a hazard-based one,” he said after his closing keynote speech at the CropWorld Global 2011 event.

“With the EU, I don’t think the message has got through that there is a real need to increase productivity, while recognising the environmental concerns. My excuse is that I am chief scientist to the UK, not to the EU Commission – that is probably something that could be improved on,” he said.

He said the UK Government’s response to the messages in the Foresight report has been ‘pretty good’, although as one of 27 member states, it has limited influence.

He highlighted, in particular, the ‘complete u-turn’ on funding for agricultural science in the UK since 2008/9, compared with the previous decade. “It is ow taken seriously,” he said.

Earlier, he spelled out the case for the sustainable intensification model of food production to feed an increasingly urbanised population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, while protecting the environment and dwindling resources.

He said the key message from the Foresight report was that ‘no action, no change is not an option’.

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