Wednesday, February 16, 2011


It is rare for any politician to think or talk about food research, let alone take some concrete action to push for meaningful scientific endeavor in food area. Look at the situation in India where no politician seems to be so much concerned about food except probably eating it! Occasionally they talk about "aam admi" and make promises ad libitum to remove hunger and poverty without really meaning and the series of scams one hears about recently should be seen in this context. All they are interested is in improving the financial fortunes of themselves and their kins by any means. It is in this context one has to see the pronouncement by a British MP regarding the importance and relevance of research in food and agriculture to the economy of that country.

"George Freeman MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science & Technology has visited crop research centre NIAB on Huntingdon Road to stress the potential of the region for agricultural research and the life sciences sector, calling for a food innovation centre to be set up. He said his visit was part of a drive to unlock the East of England's significant strength in the sectors: "By linking Norfolk's traditional strength in agriculture and food sciences with institutions in Cambridge and specifically NIAB we can unlock lots of new opportunities in this area." He added: "The recent Foresight report into food security identified a clear need to support and encourage our agricultural research and food sectors. "Producing more agricultural outputs with fewer inputs is one of the biggest challenges facing us in the 21stcentury, and, through world-leading independent crop research centres such as NIAB, Britain is well-placed to play a key role in addressing that challenge and the economic benefits this will entail." But, he said, much of the UK's life sciences research needed closer co-ordination to get quick results in the ground: "The urgency of the food security challenge, and the long-term nature of the research involved, are such that we need to act now. That's why I am encouraging those in the industry and research community to explore setting up a specific technology innovation centre for the food and agricultural sciences in the UK to bring together our leading scientists. "With leadership and collaboration, our food sciences industry can be a major driver of economic growth over the next decade and East Anglia is extremely well placed to benefit from this."

The depth of his understanding about the subject is remarkable and no wonder he is heading the S & T parliamentary group vested with the responsibility of foreseeing the needs of the future in some of the areas of science and technology. While most political bosses talk about immediate future this MP had the vision to see far ahead and identify areas of critical importance that require investment now. Fragmented research is the order of the day and there is very little coordination amongst researchers leading to duplication of efforts and dilution of the likely impact. In India also research efforts are scattered with no link to the end user resulting in enormous waste of resources. Unless the scientists and technologists are brought under one umbrella and research programs are conceived and executed in close liaison with the industry the existing moribund situation will continue for ages.


No comments: