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What agricultural R&D should be funded?

The following are the 'themes and key outputs' identified by the priorities group set up to advise Defra.

The following are the 'themes and key outputs' identified by the priorities group set up to advise Defra. The days are long gone when mechanisation featured - witness the demise of Silsoe Research Institute - but it is interesting that the disruption of food supply has at least been put back on the table whereas politicians had been dismissing any importance saying that we will always be able to buy cheap food (like we could always buy cheap gas?).

Climate Change: Water management, adapted crops, improved soil function, indicators for sustainable land use.

Energy, water and waste: Holistic approaches to food chain waste management, improved efficiency of energy and water use.

Environment and landscape: Research to inform the environmental assessment of new policies, research to inform changes in land management at the landscape scale.

The quality and composition of food: Improve nutritional quality, taste and flavour, develop novel approaches to deliver health benefits, improved crops and livestock, improve the efficiency of small-scale and regional processing.

Food safety and dietary information: Develop improved detection and diagnostics, enhance resistance of primary products to pathogens, investigate how diet, lifestyle and genetic profile interact, establish a better understanding of the health significance of very low levels of contaminants.

Disruption of the food supply and understanding sustainability: Assist in the development of policies to safeguard food chain security, compare economic, environmental and social costs of different production systems, develop baseline indicators to measure the impact on sustainability of changes in production systems.

Socio-economic and policy analysis: To facilitate changes in land management at the catchment scale, develop models or tools to assess the social impact of technological innovation, identify and model social, economic and environmental effects of changes in demand for recreation and tourism, investigate the extent to which consumers use and value information, characterise the full range of non-marketed costs and benefits associated with land management.
[AEA 1/11/06]

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