Thursday, 11 July 2013

Agriculture: Genetically and Non-genetically Modified Food


House of Lords

I recently wrote how agri-tech is moving up a notch.  Here is evidence to show how our tax money has been spent by the government in preparation for this move.  It proves that the common sense view that agri-tech has nothing (or very little) to do with natural food production is correct.  It also shows that a lot of work is being done to move in this B'org direction.

The Countess of Mar (Crossbench)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the breakdown of spending by (1) the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and (2) the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, in each of (a) genetically modified (GM) crops; (b) non-GM agricultural biotechnology; (c) marker-assisted selection; (d) home-grown protein sources for livestock; (e) agroecology; and (f) organic farming, in the past five years.

·         Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 10 July 2013, c43W)

Lord de Mauley (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

Over the last five years Defra has spent an average of £29m per annum on food and farming research out of a total of £400m spent by government, including research councils. However, it is not possible to provide a breakdown as requested. Agricultural biotechnology, marker-assisted selection and agroecology may all play a part in a variety of the research projects we undertake relating to farming systems.

The breakdown of the spending by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is as follows:

a) genetically modified (GM) crops

Annual Spend £M
2007/08
2008/09
2009/10
2010/11
2011/12
GM Crops (specific)1
5.7
3.8
4.8
4.4
3.3
GM Crops (direct)2
4.7
8.3
11.1
10.2
9.3
GM Crops (total)
10.4
12.1
15.9
14.6
12.5
Total Crop Science
40.5
45.5
50.5
49.8
49.3

1 research involving the use or the production of a GM crop, usually to enable enhanced agricultural traits (e.g. stress-tolerance or disease resistance in wheat).

2 crop research involving the use or the production of a GM crop to further biological understanding of the plant (e.g. genetically modifying a protein to understand its function in the plant).

b) non-GM agricultural biotechnology

No breakdown figure available for non-GM agricultural biotechnology.

Overall spend in agri-technology sector, based on spend on crop science, farmed animal health and welfare, and agricultural systems.

Annual Spend (£M)
2008/09
2009/10
2010/11
2011/12
Total for Agri- technology
79.6
82.1
80.8
83.3

c) marker-assisted selection

Estimated figure for crops only.

Annual Spend £M
2007/08
2008/09
2009/10
2010/11
2011/12
Marker assisted breeding, in crops1
8.9
10.0
11.1
11.0
10.8
Total Crop Science
40.5
45.5
50.5
49.8
49.3

1 An estimated figure calculated as 22% of the total crop science spend and based on analysis figures from 2007/08 and 2008/09. Note there is significant effort in marker assisted breeding in crops and livestock undertaken at BBSRC strategically funded institutes so estimated figures above are likely to be underestimated.

d) home-grown protein sources for livestock

No figures available. However, please note the BBSRC has provided funding to the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University in support of research on ryegrass and clover as feedstocks.

e) agroecology

Figure for agricultural systems1 which includes agroecology but no further breakdown available.

Annual Spend (EM)
2008/09
2009/10
2010/11
2011/12
Agricultural Systems1
9.2
8.0
8.0
9.5

1 Studies of agricultural landscapes and systems (including mathematical modelling) and effects of agriculture on ecosystems and the environment; soil science; interactions of crop farming practices with the environment (e.g. pollution of water supplies, effects on biodiversity); impacts of climatic and other environmental factors on agricultural systems (e.g. effects on productivity and pest and disease management; impact on biodiversity, soils and the aquatic environment, when set in an agricultural context; breeding of crops and livestock to circumvent negative effects of climate change; relevant factors include temperature, gases, water (drought and flooding), wind, sunlight and salinity.

f) organic farming

Estimated as approximately 1% of agri-technology spend (see response to part b), based on analysis data from 2006/07.

Please note that spend figures for 2012/13 are currently being processed and therefore unavailable.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Agri-tech Moving Up a Notch

On 8th July 2013 this question was asked in the House of Lords
 
The Countess of Mar (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when their agri-tech strategy will be launched; and what are the reasons for the delay.
 
Viscount Younger of Leckie (Conservative) replied that “the agri-tech strategy will be launched this summer.  I wonder when though as it is summer now and it will soon be over.  He further said in a roundabout way that they were having trouble selling the project.  (Well, I for one don’t buy it.)
 
So what are they talking about?  There was a consultation about this which ran between 11 October 2012 and 22 November 2012.  Below is the description of the consultation which shows the essence of what they are proposing to do to our food supply and I comment to show how this is wholly unsatisfactory.
 
 
Shaping a UK agri-tech strategy: call for evidence (What’s wrong with this picture?  Or, do you see yourself fitting into this picture?)  Read on to see.
 
The UK (government) has the potential to be at the forefront of developing innovative solutions (to what problems? - the ones created by the UK government!), and to make fuller use of its agri-science base (including GMOs, cloning and nano technology). Translating fundamental (underlying what principle?) and applied scientific research (applied to what?) into innovative technologies, practices and information could enable countries worldwide to meet the food and environmental challenges ahead (this is most likely a blatant lie) while also contributing significantly to UK economic growth (of the Elite).  In other words, the UK wants to be involved in exploiting the UK and other countries by manipulating food sources with the use of technology that works against nature (BECAUSE nature is not in the business of making money!  After all, nature gives food for free.).
 
With its world class plant, animal and environmental research base (designed to gain control of food through patents and other modes of ownership), the UK is well placed (with corporations such as Monsanto having a base here) to contribute to the global effort (who is making this effort? – transnational corporations who only care about share value) needed (by them) to improve (a matter of opinion except to improve corporate earnings) the sustainable (obvious lie because that would negate the need for new technology in the future) intensification of agriculture (monoculture) both at home and overseas. This would raise yields (of what? think about it, what crops are they referring to?) without using more land while adapting to climate change (no such thing), reducing emissions (very doubtful since there is no end in sight of the increasing manufacture of chemicals, including for agricultural use), and maintaining biodiversity (unlikely because monoculture agriculture does not promote this) and other ecosystem services (outright lie unless they mean the Elite’s ecosystem). It will involve engaging a very wide range of disciplines including natural (plant, animal, agronomy) and social scientists, engineers, and experts in risk management, economics and modelling (all about control).
 
The government is developing a long-term agri-tech strategy focused on knowledge transfer (???! from who/what to who/what?) and the application of technology to the agricultural sector.  (Yeah, let’s have more techfood!) This is part of the UK Industrial Strategy announced by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in September 2012.   And the name sums it up.  Industrial strategy for industrial food.  The food industry is not just about the production and distribution of food products.  It’s about the mechanization and control of food, even down to the smallest level of composition.  Tie this information into the fact that the EU is in the process of consolidating the legislation regarding seeds.
 
This call for evidence (what? or possibly more to the point is, who?) seeks to establish a strong evidence base (preferred theory) from the existing knowledge in the agricultural sector. It will inform our understanding of the role of agricultural technology, its strengths and weaknesses and the potential benefits to global food production (we see here the New World Order taking shape). We aim to gain better understanding of potential opportunities (ways to exploit and take advantage of people and nature) for UK businesses including growth in exports of products, technology and know-how, and inward investment.  (The bottom line is how the UK can make more money out of food products while gaining more control of the masses to boot.)

Photo Credit: Gov.UK, looks like a barcode on this blog.