UK crop research organisation NIAB has warned that the EU Commission’s hardline negotiating stance on Brexit is already damaging prospects for UK agri-science, and has called on Ministers to safeguard the UK science base.
Speaking in Cambridge today (30 June), NIAB Chairman Jim Godfrey said the collateral damage of the Brexit talks was becoming a reality after NIAB had recently been notified that future EU variety testing contracts commissioned directly by the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) and which might last beyond the envisaged Brexit date of 30 March 2019 would no longer be awarded to the UK.
Legumes are a very special type of crop; they are not only a source of highly nutritious food and feed but legumes require no inorganic nitrogen fertiliser, which means they have major advantages as a more sustainable crop. Despite their benefits, legume-based farming systems have not become common practice as they are seen as being less profitable.
According to recent media reports the European Commission seems poised to ban some of Europe’s most widely used pesticides to protect bees and other pollinators, but is the move likely to have an impact on food production and security? Scientists at the James Hutton Institute have demonstrated that many farmers can reduce agrochemical inputs by using alternative pest control methods without reducing yield or quality.
The EU introduced the new “greening” instrument into the Common Agricultural Policy in 2015, with the intention to slow the rapid loss of biodiversity in agricultural areas. The idea is quite simple: in return to the subsidies they receive, farmers must now implement measures to protect wild animals and plants on their land. A group of scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the University of Göttingen and other German, Austrian and French institutions examined how effective the flagship greening measure called “Ecological Focus Areas” actually is. Their conclusions, now published in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, are sobering: Ecological Focus Areas are implemented in a way that provides little benefit for biodiversity or farmers, and yet come at a high price to tax payers. However, there are many possibilities to improve the measure for the benefit of all sides.