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BBSRC Chief Executive calls for better coordination and increased funding to ensure food security

28 April 2009

In an interview this morning with the BBC, Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, called for better coordination and more funding for agri-food research in order to avoid a looming food security crisis.

Prof Kell said that without an increase in funding for agriculture and food research the world would not be able to achieve the 50% increase in food production required to feed the growing global population by 2030.

In addition, Prof Kell said: "The growing global population and changing diets in the developing world is putting huge pressure on food production. The price spikes we saw last summer are just the first indications of what will come if we do not find a way to increase food production.

"Only science can bring the levels of increased production we need to ensure safe, nutritious and affordable food for everyone. We need to increase the levels of food production, increase the nutrition of the food we produce and reduce waste in the food chain. This is a wide-ranging issue. We need research to understand and protect farmed animals from exotic, emerging diseases.

"We cannot rely on past productivity increases for food security as these have reached a plateau. We need increased funding from all sources across the agri-food sector and better coordination of research effort. As it takes 10-15 years to progress plant science from the research bench to a harvestable crop in the field we need this action now."

BBSRC – the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council - is the biggest public funder of agri-food research in the UK, investing around £185M in relevant basic and applied research, almost half of the UK total. BBSRC supports fundamental life science research and promotes scientific advances, such as genomics and systems biology, that are driving progress in agri-food science.  

BBSRC is already proactively increasing coordination in agri-food research sector and convened a meeting of agri-food stakeholders earlier this year. The meeting included researchers, funders, policymakers, industry and retailers and discussed how to move forward in addressing the growing food security crisis. The roadmap that emerged from this meeting is being put out for consultation shortly. It will provide a way forward for the whole agri-food sector and identifies what needs to be done to deliver food security.

Listen to Prof Kell’s Interview on the Today Programme at:



The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.