All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture Annual Report
July 10, 2020
In July, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, of which Julian is Chair, recently published their Annual Report 2018-19.
Julian wrote the following as an introduction:
“As ever, I am grateful to Members and Stakeholders who have contributed to our busy work programme over the past year, addressing many of the challenges and opportunities for agriscience as the UK plans its future outside the EU.
Support for R&D and access to innovation in UK agriculture will be more critical than ever, particularly in view of the potential impact of Brexit on trade, competition and future levels of support.
The Government’s Agriculture Bill, the first major reform of farm policy in more than 40 years, seeks to balance new payments for public goods with incentives to improve farm-level productivity.
But latest Government figures point a drop in UK agricultural productivity of more than 2% between 2017 and 2018, signalling the scale and urgency of the challenge, and the importance of getting the policy balance right.
It is 10 years since Sir John Beddington’s Foresight report on food security urged the UK Government to take a lead in promoting ‘sustainable intensification’ in agriculture.
While the pressures on global food supply remain as critical as ever, little progress has been made at a UK level to define, measure or monitor ‘sustainable intensification’ in practice.
As many guest speakers have pointed out to the Group, the UK now has a unique opportunity to embed data science and sustainability metrics at the heart of a policy agenda focused on securing the optimum balance between food production, resource use and environmental impact.
Farming businesses already generate large amounts of data relating to input use, productivity and management, but no centralised system currently exists for industry-wide sharing or collation of data.
Access to metrics capable of objectively and consistently monitoring the balance between productivity, resource use and environmental impact will be essential to define the concept of ‘sustainable intensification’ in practice, to set targets, measure progress and develop coherent R&D programmes.
It will also provide the basis to understand and disseminate advice on best practice throughout the industry.
A global, 10-year study presented to the Group by leading conservation scientists at Cambridge University has challenged the popular notion that more extensive farming systems are always the most sustainable. In fact, their research suggests that high-yield, intensive farming may be the only way to feed the world sustainably.
The urgency of the pressures facing our food supply are such that all farming systems must be subjected to the same process of independent, science-based assessment.
That’s why the development and application of sustainability metrics in agriculture will continue to be a key focus for the All-Party Group.”
Read the full report here: