Nick Herbert calls for new focus on agricultural R&D

A stronger focus on agricultural research and development will be needed from the next Government if we are to meet the challenges of increasing food production sustainably, says Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert.

The Shadow Environment Secretary will be speaking at a conference on food security tomorrow (20 January) at Wilton Park near Steyning.

The conference will examine how to meet the growing demand for food worldwide whilst dealing with the threat of climate change, scarcity of land and the depletion of resources such as water.

Mr Herbert will say: "When research and development is so fundamental to the immense challenge of increasing food production while conserving our natural resources, it is critical that we get the most from our world-class science base.

"This requires the Government to do everything it can to help our universities, institutes and scientists maximise their contribution to strengthening food security, both here and across the world, by equipping farmers with the tools necessary to produce more and impact less.

"Smart solutions must be found to more effectively translate research into practical use at farm level so that yields and quality in all sectors improve and resources are used more efficiently.

"But in an era where government must do more from less, with immense pressure on the public finances, we also need to ensure the most effective use of existing resources as well as looking at potential new revenue streams for research."



Notes for Editors

1. The conference on food security will be held at Wiston House, Steyning, West Sussex BN44 3DZ. For more information about Wilton Park, an independent agency of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, visit For more information about the food security conference, visit

2. Conservative R&D policy review. Lord Taylor of Holbeach has been leading a review of agricultural research and development for the Conservatives to ensure that science, research and technology transfer can most effectively equip farmers and growers to meet the challenge of food security by increasing production in a sustainable manner, ensuring that the environment is protected. Evidence has been taken from a range of witnesses from the farming industry and scientific community. The ongoing review is looking at the development of:

  • Mechanisms by which research outcomes can be most effectively translated into practice on the ground by farmers and growers, including through intermediaries such as advisers.
  • Mutually beneficial exchanges of knowledge between the science community and farmers and growers so that research is addressing the most important issues and farmers are able to make the link between research and improvements in their products and practices.
  • Identifiable, well respected, and well-resourced centres of excellence covering all sectors of UK agriculture and horticulture with capability for highly relevant and effective research and demonstration.
  • Incentives for ‘early adopters' to demonstrate the benefits of new approaches, practices and technologies.
  • Mutually acceptable and effective IP arrangements to both encourage industry and private sector participation in research and enable results and improvements to reach the widest audience.
  • A culture within Government and the academic community which reflects the importance of science to meeting the challenges of raising production sustainably.
  • Funding streams which give sufficient certainty and stability to scientists and research centres.
Christopher N Howarth