Brussels, 17 Jan 2003
At a conference in London on 14 January examining whether science can offer a solution to the challenges facing the UK farming industry, farmers, consultants, scientists, and UK government officials agreed that science is indispensable to the growth of agriculture but measures need to be taken in order for science to become and integral part of food production.
The event identified and explored the various economic, political and consumer pressures facing the industry, and whether, as in the past, science can provide answers. The conference was organised by the agriculture and environment group of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI), an association that helps improve the exchange of information and understanding between researchers, industrialists, consumers, financiers and academics.
During the conference, speakers reiterated the need for scientific excellence, particularly in biology, to support many areas of agriculture and medicine. As Dr Clive Rahn told CORDIS News, 'future research will become much more demanding on tools for measurement and data handling and its emphasis will be towards sustainability of land use rather than just agriculture.'
Dr Rahn went on to describe how the conference addressed the need for farming in the UK to align itself with a changing common agriculture policy (CAP), where support is likely to be given for reducing environmental burdens and social value of agriculture rather than just production.
The conference also emphasised the need to adopt the latest production methods based on scientific research: This would inevitably lead to farming playing a greater role in the process of research as well as providing an opportunity for researchers and industry to exchange information and understanding.
The event also highlighted society's changing attitude towards research in food and agriculture. Citizens demand safer and healthier food, quality rather than quantity, the right to know and choose where their food comes from and more ethical treatment of farm animals.
Recent controversies have highlighted the need for agricultural research and further information on the origins of food products. As Dr Rahn told CORDIS News, 'After the salmonella crisis in UK, egg production's better brands recovered sales in weeks, whereas for less well-known brands took years for sales to recover.' Research into branding, traceability, and product excellence were cited as possible provisions to improve food quality.
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