Call for EU policy on limiting modern farming methods to be reversed

EU legislation aimed at limiting modern and productive farming methods will have to be reversed, a leading British scientist has warned.

Dr Julian Little, Communications and Government Affairs Manager with Bayer CropScience, told the annual conference of the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) that the amount of food produced globally is only just keeping pace with the number of mouths to feed.  He predicted that food prices will increase dramatically over the coming years.

“EU countries that are prepared to take steps to encourage research into new farming technologies will benefit greatly from the opportunities that arise.

“The UK has already taken such steps and companies such as Bayer are now increasing their investment in research in the UK.  Countries such as France, Austria and Italy who seem to be driving a non-productive agenda will not be beneficiaries in an EU-wide change in policy.

“Ireland has world class scientists, highly innovative farmers and crop growing conditions that many countries in Europe would die for.  A decision to encourage research into new farming technologies would be to the benefit of farmers and the food industry and would further enhance Ireland’s competitive position in food production,” said Dr Little.

Meanwhile, the need for easier access by small and medium sized food companies to product development skills has been stressed by Larry Murrin, chief executive of Dawn Farms.

Addressing the ASA conference, Mr Murrin, who is also incoming president of IBEC, said small and medium companies will be key engines of growth in the food industry and generators of new jobs.

“Ensuring they have access to the necessary innovation supports is a challenge for the food research institutes and the universities,” he said.

He said Ireland has now a super cadre of food scientists, in Teagasc and the universities.  This has contributed to a transformation of the Irish food industry from a commodity producer to an industry focused on value-added.

“Twenty years ago, we were producing primary products and allowing others in export markets to mine them for the added value and profit.  We have become much better at adding value at home and, consequently, a lot of new industries have developed,” he said.

Murrin added Dawn Farms, which was established in Dublin 30 years ago, has evolved into the leading manufacturer of cooked and fermented ingredients in Europe.  It supplies ingredients to some of the leading food companies in the world.

“Our Meat Science and Innovation Centre in Naas, developed at a cost of €6m and opened in 2007, now employs 30 multi-skilled, multi-lingual scientists.  This ensures that we continue to be at the forefront of food innovation and culinary expertise,” he added.

He suggested that the generation of ‘Millennials’ or Gen Y,  typically in the 25-34 age group, will have a growing influence on consumer food markets in the future.

“This is the most educated, empowered, independent and ethnically-diverse generation to date and they will play a key role in offsetting the reduced expenditure of the ageing workforce.  Responding to the needs of this demanding group will be a key challenge for the Irish food industry,” he said.