As a key voice of the UK plant science industry, the Crop Protection Association (CPA) works to promote the role of modern plant science in safeguarding our food supply from seed to shelf.
Through CPA, the crop protection sector is leading a fresh debate about modern intensive agriculture and its role in providing a secure supply of safe, affordable, healthy food.
In 2012, extreme weather conditions hit harvest prospects in many parts of the world and global food prices reached dangerously high levels, prompting fears of a return to the soaring prices, food riots and export bans of 2008.
It was a sharp reminder of the precarious balance between global food supply and demand, and the need to embrace developments in agricultural science and technology to ensure food production keeps pace with the needs of a burgeoning world population.
CPA has repeatedly warned that without access to advanced crop technologies, Europe risks sleep-walking into a global food crisis. As one of the world’s major food producing economies, the EU has significant capacity to influence global food prices and availability, and innovations in plant science - from GM crops to novel crop protection products - offer major opportunities for Europe’s farmers to boost production sustainably. Yet they are being denied such advances by the political agenda in Brussels.
As we enter 2013, there are encouraging signs that the UK’s top politicians not only recognise the renewed significance of agricultural science in addressing the global food security threat, but are willing to argue that case in Europe by tackling regulatory barriers and blockages at an EU level.
In October 2012, Science Minister David Willetts unveiled plans for a UK Agri-Tech Strategy as the next phase in the Government’s Life Sciences Strategy, highlighting a key role for agricultural innovation both in meeting the world’s food needs and as a platform for economic growth.
More recently, in December 2012, Downing Street backed Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s support for GM crops, confirming that the Prime Minister was pushing EU officials to make the regulatory system governing GM crops “more efficient and more effective”.
The messages coming out of Government suggest a strong determination for the UK to show leadership in a new agricultural revolution.
The challenge for 2013 is to transform these political signals into practical action, by ensuring that the regulation of production-boosting technologies is science-based and proportionate, by reversing more than 30 years of chronic under-investment in applied agricultural research, and by restoring the status of modern, intensive agriculture as the basis for a secure and affordable food supply for this and future generations.