Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Annex 1

Memorandum from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)


  1.  The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's (BBSRC) remit covers all aspects of the biosciences and biotechnology. BBSRC has a three-fold role in supporting UK biosciences by funding research and research training that provides:

    (i)  basic and strategic research that pushes back the frontiers of human knowledge about how living things work;

    (ii)  longer term strategic research that informs policy, particularly in animal health, food quality and safety, agriculture and land use; and

    (iii)  a broad base of enabling research from molecular and cell biology to whole organism physiology and populations, that underpins applied research.


  2.  The Inter-Agency Committee on Global Environment Change (IACGEC) supplementary report to the Chief Scientific Adviser (May 2000) highlighted three areas of BBSRC-funded research of particular relevance to increasing the understanding of the impact of climate change[90]:

    —  Stress tolerance in individual species.

    —  Soil biological processes and their effects.

    —  The role of soil processes in global change (addressed through "Soil biological processes and their effects").

  3.  BBSRC currently supports work in these areas through responsive mode funding and its sponsored institutes[91]. Support in responsive mode is largely through the Plant and Microbial Sciences (PMS) Committee. Recent and current examples of activities include:

    —  BBSRC Council has recently agreed a cross-Institute Soil Science programme. Drawing on expertise at various BBSRC-sponsored Institutes the programme will provide a co-ordinated approach to soil science—an aspect of which will be the impact of climate change;

    —  BBSRC participates in the "Sustainable Power Generation and Supply" (SUPERGEN) Initiative[92] described in the introductory text, which includes research into biomass and biofuels.

    —  PMS Committee theme of "Soil and Rhizosphere Biology"[93]. Grants are supported which provide improved understanding of the rhizosphere and bulk soil microflora and their key influences on plant productivity with effects including cause and suppression of soil-borne diseases, determination of nutrient supply, production of plant growth-promoting substances and influence on plant-soil-water relations.

    —  The AgriFood Committee currently has a priority area of "Integrative Behaviour of the Soil-Plant System"[94] designed to build partnerships with the necessary range of expertise to develop a truly integrative understanding of the soil-plant system and developing innovative tools and conceptual approaches to meet the challenges of an integrative understanding of the soil-plant system.

    —  PMS committee is about to introduce a new priority area for "Carbon Substitution: Biomass and Biosynthesis". Full text for the priority area is currently being finalised.

  4.  While BBSRC is not part of the Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy cross-Council Programme (TSEC), we remain involved in the development and management of the programme through representation on the TSEC Programme Management Group (PMG). BBSRC is also represented on the High Level Energy Group (HLEG).

90   IACGEC "The UK National Strategy of Global Environmental Research" (1996) ISBN 1-85531- 1658 [drawing on BBSRC's response to the Hoskins report]. Back

91 Back

92  Back

93  Back

94 Back

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