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BCPC Supports Drive To New Crop Protection Research

In order to help the agricultural supply chain meet the challenges of increasing crop productivity and reducing environmental impact, the Technology Strategy Board in collaboration with Defra and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has announced the launch of a 13m R&D funding initiative. New EU regulations mean that some widely used crop protection products are likely to lose approval, and a key aim is to develop crop protection technologies to reduce the impact of these regulations.

It is gratifying to see the Technology Strategy Board, Defra and BBSRC collaborating to provide R&D funding for new crop protection approaches, says BCPC chairman, Dr Colin Ruscoe. For too long, Defra and other relevant funding bodies focussed narrowly on environmental protection and basic plant science, neglecting the area of applied R&D. We applaud their response to the emerging consensus for supporting UK food production, including mitigating the negative effects of EU legislation which, without reference to risk or benefit assessment, is now rapidly restricting the armoury of plant protection products.

The competition will include proposals to develop new chemicals and other approaches to crop protection, pest- and disease-resistant crop varieties, integrated pest management strategies, novel and improved technologies for rapid responses to pest and disease outbreaks and more efficient application methods for crop protection products.

BCPC welcomes the focus on collaborative projects with business partners that demonstrate economic benefit and global market potential as well as innovation, adds Dr Ruscoe. Given the food security drivers, most funding should go to support projects for food rather than non-food crop production. The inclusion of more efficient application methods of crop protection products is applauded; this is another neglected research area which needs renewed support.

In particular, it is hoped that the response to the competition will result in significant funding additional to the 13m proposed. Given all the topic areas suggested within the scope of the initiative, 13m R&D funding is unlikely to go very far, suggests Dr Ruscoe.

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