Press comment: government's new agri-tech strategy
22 July 2013
Speaking about the government’s new agri-tech strategy launched today (22 July 2013) Tom MacMillan, director of innovation at the Soil Association said: “Whether this big investment is good for farming, the environment and consumers will depend on how well government involves working farmers and the public in the new innovation centres it’s planning. The challenge is to make sure this is a strategy for innovation in agriculture, not just for the manufacturing and supermarket industries that are upstream and downstream of farming.”
“This would mean giving farmers and consumers a direct say in decisions about research funding, and investing much more in agroecology - approaches like organic that help farmers buy fewer inputs and make best use of the renewable resources they have on their farm. We’re piloting farmer-led ‘field labs’ and other grassroots approaches to innovation through our Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme.
“How the new agri-tech strategy plays out in practice will depend on the detail. Some parts are potentially exciting, for example the new Centre for Agricultural Informatics and Metrics of Sustainability. While it pays lip service to minsters’ unhealthy obsession with lobbying against the EU’s precautionary approach on GM and pesticides, it at least seems there’s no plan to fritter new money away on it.
“While government has made clear this is an industrial strategy for the UK economy, some news reports are mistaking it as a strategy for feeding the world. There is already a resoundingly thorough international strategy for that. Known as IAASTD (the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development), it involved over 400 scientists and is supported by the United Nations and dozens of countries. It says the top investment priorities are agroecology and practical help getting products to market.”