Innovation in EU agriculture - European Union Committee Contents

CHAPTER 5: Knowledge transfer and innovation systems

    "... knowledge is no good unless it can be used by those who benefit from it."

Mr Tony Pexton, Board Chairman, National Institute of Agricultural Botany[106]


84.  In our report on adapting EU agriculture and forestry to climate change,[107] we concluded that knowledge gained from research or from others' experience must be communicated to farmers in a practical, helpful and useable way. Such communication of information is known as "knowledge transfer". Knowledge can also be exchanged between a farmer and a researcher to mutual benefit, from where the term "knowledge exchange" is derived. A further level of complexity is introduced by the concept of a "knowledge and innovation system", involving a network of interested organisations, enterprises and individuals. In relation to agriculture, all three concepts apply and we discuss their application in this chapter. Our considerations also take in the communication of knowledge about agricultural innovations to consumers.

85.  As regards EU policy, it should be noted that, under the Common Agricultural Policy,[108] Member States have the obligation to operate a system for advising farmers on land and farm management: this is the Farm Advisory System (FAS: see Box 9). Some financing is available under Pillar 2 of the CAP (the Rural Development Fund) to support provision of the FAS in two ways. First, farmers' use of farm advisory services may be co-financed up to a maximum amount of €1500 per farmer. Second, Member States may co-finance the establishment of farm advisory services, using degressive support over a maximum period of five years.


The Farm Advisory System (FAS)

In each Member State, the CAP's FAS may be operated by one or more designated authorities or by private bodies. The FAS should offer advice on matters relating at least to cross-compliance, under which CAP support is paid in full only if farmers meet certain requirements relating to the environment, food safety, animal health and animal welfare. Participation in the FAS is voluntary for farmers, and Member States may give priority to certain farmers at their own discretion.


86.  In line with the conclusion of our previous inquiry, we were left in no doubt by witnesses that knowledge transfer remained a key consideration.[109] Mr de Castro and the European Commission both underlined the need to bridge the gap between academic research findings and the farm.[110] Pete Riley of GM Freeze recognised that the push for sustainable farming systems, based around agro-ecology, demanded knowledge transfer in order that farmers know how to conserve nutrients and manage organic waste.[111]

87.  Some witnesses made a distinction between knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange. With a focus on knowledge exchange, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) agreed that "innovation is certainly fostered by a close and regular two-way interaction between researchers and end-users such as farmers, processors or suppliers of products."[112] The co-existence of both knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange was highlighted by Incrops, who noted that some particularly innovative businesses will wish to engage with scientists, but "the majority will in the main want to utilise existing research to improve processes or products."[113] The NFU indicated that knowledge exchange is essential "to improve knowledge transfer and ensure research is informed by, and well-aligned, to industry needs."[114] We see knowledge exchange as intrinsic to the systems approach to agriculture, which we explore further below.


88.  Knowledge is transferred in a variety of ways. First, the transfer may be through advisory services, which may be publicly or privately financed. In Denmark, for example, "the main body is the advisory service",[115] and this was similarly the case in Poland, through advisory services run by national and local government.[116]

89.  Second, industry acts as a conduit for knowledge. In terms of plant breeding, large companies are generally responsible for knowledge transfer for farmers: ultimately, private companies will sell their seed to farmers.[117] We heard that this is also the case in Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands.[118] The Polish Government added that machinery companies also offer advice but observed that the interests of a manufacturer may not always be economically aligned with those of a farmer.[119] John Deere, a machinery manufacturer, confirmed this to be true, and observed that their information is consequently viewed with some scepticism by the farming community.[120]

90.  Third, a wide range of private consultancies, non-governmental organisations and non-departmental public bodies may also be involved in knowledge transfer. In England, there is an array of organisations, such as ADAS, TAG-NIAB, Velcourt, RSPB, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Soil Association.[121] Within this range, an important role can be played by farmer-funded bodies, such as the levy bodies[122] in England. All these organisations may deploy various techniques in order to offer information and advice, one of which is the use of demonstration farms.[123] This is a model run by Morrison's through their own demonstration farm, by which the company accepts the risk for innovations that can then be taken up by their supplier farmers.[124] Other techniques cited by the NFU were one-to-one advice, workshops, fact sheets and trade press articles.[125] Emma Hockridge explained to us that the Soil Association holds regular seminars, which tend to be very popular.[126]

91.  Finally, we heard about the sharing of information between peers, which is valuable in persuading the more risk-averse to adopt new technologies or practices.[127] The Polish Government commented that, "if one farmer does something, the others will observe what happens and then the next farmer will follow".[128]

92.  Above all, it was emphasised to us that a diverse range of approaches to knowledge transfer is indeed appropriate—across Member States and regions and between farmers and sectors. Both the UK Government and the Dutch Government told us that "one size" will not "fit all."[129] Similarly, the NFU stated: "farmers are highly diverse in terms of their needs, attitudes and capabilities in the adoption of knowledge transfer."[130] Dr Vriesekoop also commented that farmers in different parts of Europe have disparate needs. While some might look to demonstration farms, others (such as the Dutch) might seek to solve a problem themselves.[131]

93.  The diverse nature of agricultural systems also needs to be taken into account. The Spanish INIA emphasised the "complex and unique" nature of Spanish agriculture, referring to fragmented land ownership and a very broad diversity of crops.[132] INRA similarly reminded us that agricultural systems and societal structures differ across Europe.[133] Mr de Castro emphasised that there was a need to take as local an approach as possible.[134] Evidence from the Dutch Government underlined the relevance of economic histories to the differing development of agricultural industries.[135] It was suggested that it might be difficult to encourage a step change in innovation without a major economic crisis affecting the industry.[136]

94.  We note the diversity of methods used in order to transfer knowledge. Consequently, we conclude that there is no one single solution that is applicable across the EU. Knowledge transfer is complex: it must be fine-tuned to national and regional practice and, as far as possible, to individual farmers.


95.  In the course of our inquiry, we were keen to understand how different Member States approached agricultural knowledge transfer. We were helped by a European Commission report in November 2010 on the application of the Farm Advisory System (see Box 10),[137] which was accompanied by a full analysis.[138] The report focused on delivery of the minimum FAS required under the CAP and did not examine the totality of farm advice available through various sources in each Member State. Indeed, the Commission observed that, in around half of the Member States, the FAS was set up as a specific service and in others was interwoven with existing services.

96.  The analysis and report suggested that the FAS is still work in progress, and recommended that it be strengthened under the revised Common Agricultural Policy, a suggestion supported by Mr de Castro.[139] In evidence to us, the Commission explained that the FAS "works in some countries but not as well as in others", for various reasons: lack of trust by farmers, excessive administration and hesitation to use private consultants.[140] Instead, farm advice should "be seen by farmers as something that helps them to do things better, to make better decisions and better investments."[141] This should be with the aim of promoting both sustainability and profitability.

BOX 10

Commission Report on application of FAS

The Commission made the following observations on the state of play in Member States:

—in 24 Member States, the FAS is coordinated and supervised by public bodies (although it might be delivered by a private body, such as in England);

—in 14 Member States, the FAS focuses strictly on cross-compliance;

—the most widely adopted approaches were on-farm one-to-one advice (with the sole exception of England) and on-farm small group discussions;

—the main beneficiaries of the FAS have been large farmers[142] (and some Member States reported problems in reaching smaller farmers);

—across the EU, only 5% of farmers receiving the single farm payment received FAS advice in 2008.

97.  COPA-COGECA would like to see FAS extended beyond cross-compliance, and particularly to meeting new challenges such as climate change—for example, encouraging drought-resistant crops.[143] Mr Paice agreed that the FAS should be extended beyond cross-compliance, and added that the Government had prolonged the current contract for the provision of cross-compliance advice until the end of 2011 in order to give them time to consider options for future delivery of advice.[144]

98.  The introduction of the Farm Advisory System at the time of the last CAP reform was welcome, but the time has now come to extend it beyond cross-compliance. We recommend that there should be an obligation under the CAP for Member States to ensure that comprehensive farm advice is available throughout their territories, geared towards meeting the new challenges of food security, climate change and the need for sustainable intensification. This would require Member States to give this issue full attention, and would allow the European Commission to monitor progress.

99.  In the course of our evidence, the picture painted of knowledge transfer in England was of a disjointed and complex system lacking direction. A proliferation of independent agronomists and representatives of seed companies can result in the provision of conflicting advice to farmers. This was recognised as an issue by one of those private consultancies, ADAS, but they were not sure how the problem might be addressed.[145] Mr Paice described the system as "complicated and pretty vague."[146] Philip Richardson lamented the demise of a publicly funded farm advisory system in England, concluding that the links between research and the farm "have withered significantly."[147] NIAB and John Deere both agreed that an independent advisory body of some sort would be useful, able to give advice without "a commercial bent to it all the time."[148] By contrast, evidence that we received about farm advice in Scotland indicated a stronger and better integrated approach.[149] Wales and Scotland have retained features of a state-organised advisory system.

100.  As noted above, levy bodies[150] are among the organisations in England involved in knowledge transfer. Several of our witnesses suggested that the role of the levy bodies in this regard could be enhanced.[151] According to the NFU, with specific reference to the AHDB, this was not least because the industry can identify with it.[152] The Minister similarly saw potential in the future role of the AHDB to assist with the provision of farming advice; he explained that the Board was involved in an integrated advice pilot project.[153] The AHDB itself noted that the knowledge exchange function "is central to what the AHDB seeks to orchestrate on behalf of its levy payers", but it regretted the lack of public resource available for that activity.[154] It differentiated itself from other sources of knowledge by its independence.[155] There have been recent changes in the leadership of the AHDB which should serve as an opportunity to strengthen the organisation's performance.

101.  The provision of farm advice in England is fragmented and overly complex. Taking on board best practice from elsewhere, and with the support of the Government, we recommend that the levy boards play a central role in broadening and deepening the range of advice currently offered to farmers in England.

102.  Inspiration for a future expansion of bodies such as the AHDB might be taken from the Danish Agricultural Advisory Service, which is farmer-owned and user-paid. One knowledge centre is the main supplier of professional knowledge, with advice offered by 31 independent local advisory centres.[156] An alternative privately supported model is offered in the Netherlands, where advice is provided "by privatised consultancy companies, by agribusiness co-operatives which give their own advice to farmers and ... by farmers' own accountants."[157]

103.  At the other end of the spectrum is a Member State such as Poland, which has a mostly state-run system. A central agricultural advisory system is supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with 16 regional centres. In addition, there are: an advisory system created by local self-governments; systems created by private consultants and companies; an advisory system for forestry; and a separate advisory system within the farmers' organisation. Of 4856 advisers, only 200 are private.[158] Interestingly, the Commission was keen to emphasise that, while it saw merit in the use of the private sector, it was important not to disrupt alternative systems that might work in some Member States.[159]

104.  We heard from US representatives that their land grant universities system[160] is a key element of agricultural knowledge transfer in the US. Land grant status allows colleges to receive Federal funds in return for certain activities, which include agricultural advisory work. There is at least one land grant university in each State, and each has an agricultural advisory agency, although priorities will differ according to location. Some, but not all, activities are funded from the Federal budget, and land grant universities will work with the private sector on, for example, creating demonstrations. The US representatives emphasised that the land grant universities are just one part of the farm advice available: farmers "look to where the best information is for their question", which may be from a private seed manufacturer or "in some cases, farmers will band together and pay for a consultant."[161]


105.  We had some discussion with our witnesses about the financing of knowledge transfer activities. The Commission was clear that "financing is a choice for Member States". As noted above, funds are available under Pillar 2 of the CAP (rural development) to support farm advice. In its report on the FAS, the Commission observed that the measure supporting farmers' use of farm advisory services was planned in 20 Member States and the measure supporting the establishment of advisory services was planned by seven Member States. The Commission explained that it is thinking of "general flat-rate help" to farmers to enable them to get advice but, in the long run, "advice should have its price and farmers should see it as an investment and pay for it"; and "if the farmer does not see added value, he will not pay—but if he does, he will".[162]

106.  Professor Godfray advocated a mixture of private and public finance: "it should be logical for food producers to pay for advice that increases their profit line", but society needed to recognise that it was demanding increasingly more from farmers and advice to "produce what are essentially public goods" should be paid for from the public purse.[163] It was also emphasised to us that "some are prepared to pay for advice and knowledge; others are not."[164]

107.  In consideration of how the CAP might further assist the provision of advice, COPA-COGECA told us that it would support a re-orientation of Pillar 2 towards FAS.[165] As we explain in Chapter 6, some re-organisation of Pillar 2 was recommended by various witnesses in order to support innovation, including the possibility of increasing the co-financing rate for innovative projects.

108.  We note that models and financing of farm advice differ significantly between Member States, and that finance is generally available from a mixture of public and private sources. Financing is a decision for Member States. Nevertheless, we agree that greater resources could be made available under Pillar 2 of the CAP to support the provision of farm advice. While its use ought to remain discretionary, it could be encouraged by ring-fencing a certain amount of money or by offering a different co-financing rate for such measures. We recommend that this matter be explored in discussions on reform of the CAP.


109.  The key point raised by witnesses when questioned on successful knowledge transfer was the importance of presenting a clear business case for adopting a new technology. The Polish Government noted that "economics are very important because farmers are open to innovation if it brings benefits to them."[166] The English Regional Development Agencies explained that new technologies needed to be translated into a business investment.[167] This is particularly so, explained Philip Richardson, because of the great deal of uncertainties (weather, disease and price volatility) inherent in farming, which make farmers more risk-averse than other business people.[168] John Deere emphasised that farmers needed to understand how a product could work for them,[169] and US representatives were clear that "farmers will follow the lead if they think they have a good chance of success."[170]

110.  We agree that the key to successful knowledge transfer is the presentation of a clear business case. Presentation and communication skills, in addition to a clear understanding of the needs of farmers, thus become as important among farm advisers as knowledge of the innovation itself.

111.  Another suggestion put forward by some witnesses was the idea that knowledge transfer should focus on the most productive farms. The Polish Government suggested that "we should concentrate on innovative, modern, willing-to-develop farmers".[171] This was a view shared by the UK Government, who noted that it was logical to focus on the largest, most productive farms because they were capable "of delivering the biggest economic and environmental performance gains and of embedding new techniques and practices". Mr Paice said that small farms should not be ignored, but that their importance lay in local food markets rather than in terms of boosting productivity.[172]

112.  While we understand the rationale behind a focus on larger, productive farms, we recommend caution. There are questions of equity to consider. Moreover, incremental innovations such as marketing changes can just as easily be adopted by small scale farmers at the local level to the benefit of local economies. Nonetheless new, often costly, techniques are more likely to be of interest to larger farmers better able to assume the necessary risk.


113.  We heard a substantial body of evidence promoting the idea of agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKIS) (see paragraph 38). Under such an approach, cooperation takes place between basic researchers, applied researchers, the plant breeding sector, the food processing industry, other industries with uses for agricultural products, retailers, farmers and consumers. The European Commission noted that such systems complement agricultural advisory services.[173]

114.  The Dutch Government explained their model of AKIS to us: with agricultural producers at its heart, it links those producers to research, advisory services, policy support systems and education through various mechanisms.[174] One of those is the "Innovation Network", which is part of the newly formed Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. Its aim is to set "radical new concepts" in motion and to put them into practice. The importance of involving producers from the outset was emphasised: "a key feature of some of the successful examples ... of research going into practice has been involvement of those end users from the start."[175]

115.  Madame Guillou explained that France was moving towards a more systems-based approach: "we have built this system so that farmers tell us what they have found, researchers tell the farmers where they are, and together they choose the questions they will work on". INRA had developed three groups working respectively on vegetable integrated management, crops integrated management and animal breeding integrated management.[176] Somewhat similarly, Incrops stated that "the most important component of successful innovation systems are the businesses which implement new ideas".[177] This was reflected by David Evans, of Morrison's. He explained that the supermarket chain has its own farm, on which it applies, on behalf of its producers, existing evidence and research. Morrison's therefore assumes the risk and "if it is successful and if we can apply it profitably and sustainably ... it is extended to the farmers."[178]

116.  Some of our witnesses told us about systems aiming at combining public and private interests. One such example was the public-funded Danish Green Development and Demonstration Programme, the objective of which is to encourage projects that "contribute to securing a high level of environmental protection but at the same time ensure that products are profitable and have a sound economic business profile". It has a board of predominantly private sector interest, but its work plan is signed off by the Minister. Its focus is innovation in relation to the agricultural sector and primary producers.[179]

117.  A specific example of a similar project was provided by Dr Paul Vriesekoop—hen housing project in the Netherlands, which aimed to deliver both an economic and an animal welfare benefit (see Box 11),[180] which is demonstrating success. He welcomed this sort of approach and emphasised: "I think that, for the future, to be more innovative in total we have to understand much better how we can integrate and work together over disciplines."[181]

BOX 11

Hen housing project ("Rondeel") [182]
The Rondeel hen houses are round, rather than rectangular, and integrate animal welfare standards comparable to free range and organic eggs, but with the advantages of closed systems producing cage eggs and barn eggs. After an initial failed attempt to launch the project, an egg packing firm involved with the original attempt teamed up with a poultry husbandry manufacturer in order to develop a prototype, supported by the scientist who had advised on the original attempt. As the project progressed, it got key support from:
  •   a local municipality, to grant a permit (for a style of building not currently provided for in legislation) and to provide a location to build the system;
  •   the Dutch Animal Protection Society, in order to negotiate an animal welfare standard;
  •   local farmers, including the Southern Farmers' Organisation (ZLTO);
  •   the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food which, with the ZLTO, provided the financial guarantee to investors in the case of failure, which also gave encouragement to retailers which were initially sceptical of a high value, expensive product.

Interestingly, independent consultants often provided a key neutral link in discussions between partners.

118.  COPA-COGECA emphasised the desirability of a systems approach, whereby research takes more into account what is operationally possible on a farm, in addition to getting the research onto the farm.[183] With specific reference to the dairy industry, Dairy UK was critical of the lack of a framework allowing for "the specific needs of the sector at an EU level to be identified or for research results to be shared across Member States."[184]

119.  The European Commission made reference to the work of the SCAR[185] working group on AKIS. The Commission told us: "Linking the world of practical knowledge and know-how of farmers and business with research results and opportunities emerging from technological development is a key to innovation."[186] In written evidence the Government updated us on the progress of the working group, which is in the process of collecting evidence from around the EU and is due to report in 2012.[187] Underlying this work is an acknowledgement that Member States are increasingly moving towards a systems approach and away from a linear model of knowledge transfer.

120.  While the focus of our inquiry was not the UK, we were nevertheless disturbed to hear evidence that was critical of the performance of the Technology Strategy Board,[188] described as the UK's "national innovation agency", in the area of agriculture.[189] The TSB funds[190] a sustainable agriculture and food innovation platform, which Mr Paice explained would focus on crop productivity, livestock, waste reduction and greenhouse gas reduction. SAC told us that the schemes funded were "fantastic for enabling commercially orientated research" but failed to capture schemes of joint public and private interest; Professor Oldroyd was concerned that it was insufficiently responsive.[191] The Minister commented that it was very early to judge the success of the relevant innovation platform.[192]

121.  R&D knowledge transfer to farms is just one part of the agricultural innovation system. As suggested by the various theories outlined in Chapter 3, it is a complex and interactive process involving scientists, the farming community, food processors, retailers, government and consumers.

122.  This suggests that, to be successful, sustainable intensification of agriculture will require better cooperation among farm businesses, advisory bodies and scientists; greater responsiveness in European agriculture to markets; improved interdisciplinary research among scientists and social scientists; and farmers becoming actively involved in setting agricultural research agendas.

123.  Effective innovation requires systems to be in place promoting communication between all of these actors. We welcome the work of the EU-level working group on agricultural knowledge and innovation systems; Member States should give its conclusions high political priority.


124.  It was suggested that consumer involvement in the innovation system is through driving demand "so the products have to be meeting a need of the consumer and it will be everything from price to performance to availability."[193] Professor Lillford explained that the retail sector had to respond to a new type of consumer, "the alerted consumer", who was aware of food safety, production methods, provenance and health.[194] This analysis was supported for the most part by Professor Moloney and by Which?[195] Morrison's confirmed that the needs of both its consumers and supply base are important.[196]

125.  However, some witnesses felt that consumers' concern with sustainability was limited. According to Professor Lillford, most consumers consider that tackling issues of sustainability is a matter for retailers themselves: "at the moment it is too diffuse and distant a topic for people other than the passionate to engage with."[197] Sue Davies, for Which?, similarly considered that, while consumers were aware of particular issues of sustainability relating for example to palm oil and fish stocks, there was a need for a "broader-based debate" encompassing animal welfare and climate change.[198]

126.  We took some evidence on the extent to which consumers and industry will need to consider dietary change, particularly reduced meat consumption, as a contribution to sustainable intensification of agriculture.[199] Professor Godfray agreed that "we are at a very low public awareness of some of the issues around the demand side", citing the need to reduce meat consumption: "it is impossible that we feed the 9.5 billion by the middle of the century if they consume meat at the rate that we do."[200] Mr de Castro agreed that there may soon be a need to "reflect on the impact of our diet. We cannot just replicate the European diet in other countries in the world. If we go in this direction, there is not enough land and not enough animal products."[201]

127.  A view expressed by many of our witnesses was that communication with consumers on innovative developments was crucial, though often fraught with difficulties.[202] Professor Moloney lamented that "it has been very difficult to demystify the science associated with agricultural production."[203] He said that there was a need to reduce the level of suspicion and apprehension about technology when applied to agriculture and food.[204] The FSA described consumers as "wary, uneasy and uncertain" about new technologies in relation to food.[205] Dairy UK observed that "consumers are naturally cautious about innovations that challenge their perception of dairy farming and dairy products".[206]

128.  Which? relayed the results of their research which demonstrated that innovation was not "a dirty word" for consumers as regards food, but that there were concerns about safety risks and related social and ethical issues. Ms Davies concluded that "it comes down to what level of reassurance people have that the issues have been thought through and that we know what the long-term implications are, and that we have effective independent oversight in order to deal with those". She argued that the mistake made as regards some technologies was that consumers were insufficiently involved from an early stage of development of the technology.[207]

129.  We received divergent views, however, on who should be responsible for such communication. With particular reference to genetically modified crops, Mr de Castro considered that the European Commission should outline the benefits to be derived from them, which he listed as offering savings in land, chemicals, pesticides and water.[208] Dairy UK concurred that the EU had a role in communication with the consumer, calling on the EU to help explain innovations in dairy technology and management methods.[209]

130.  Many of our UK witnesses considered that the UK Government should take the lead in communicating scientific innovations as regards food.[210] Professor Moloney was clear that the only way to offer clarity to consumers "is through national leadership" and Dr Bushell suggested that politicians have "an amazing opportunity to shed light on the real risks associated with food and not the imaginary ones."[211]

131.  Mr Paice took a contrary view, suggesting that Government are the worst source to offer such advice. He insisted that consumers trust retailers, and added that the scientific and farming communities have roles to play.[212] Professor Godfray took the view that Government had done all that it could.[213] The Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed that consumers lack trust in Government but that they have trust in family, friends, consumer groups, retailers and organisations such as the FSA.[214] As a major retailer, Morrison's were less inclined to lead the consumer and insisted simply that they should deliver what the customer wants and is prepared to buy.[215]

132.  The failure of academia to engage with consumers and the broader public was acknowledged. Some felt that the scientific community should play a stronger role. Professor Oldham concluded that the willingness of the scientific population to engage was key, "as is training people to do it well."[216] Professor Godfray agreed that the scientific community needed to step up and considered that scientists had tended to argue on narrow environmental and health grounds, ignoring the bigger picture.[217]

133.  A number of witnesses suggested that regular seminars and events on different sectors and areas of work can be effective.[218] Professor Kell suggested that engagement is best done locally; he explained that the BBSRC runs a lot of public exhibitions, and also spends £900,000 per year on Science in Society.[219] Professor Lillford said that, through debate and explanation, it is possible to educate consumers. Professor Godfray observed that, on a range of issues, some of the most trusted commentators are, in fact, non-governmental organisations. They would therefore in theory, he argued, be in a good position to embrace GM technology as a way of contributing to development in the most impoverished countries around the world, although many have not yet chosen to do so.[220]

134.  Professor Oldham suggested that one of the most powerful ways of engaging with the public is through the media. In the last few years, he considered, television and radio presentation of agricultural developments has "become much more balanced and sympathetic to the industry interests."[221] Professor Godfray agreed that some parts of the media are "excellent" but criticised others. Morrison's were similarly critical of at least some of the media, but nonetheless considered it to be an important source of influence over consumer behaviour.[222] We heard that the independent Science Media Centre had improved the media's communication of scientific discoveries.[223]

135.  Consumers are a fundamentally important part of the innovation system, but their role has, we consider, been neglected. At the end of the food chain, consumer preferences determine what is on the shelf, but we are far from convinced that consumer preferences are formed on the basis of sufficient information about the sustainability of products. Communication, both about new agricultural technologies and about the issues surrounding the sustainable intensification of agriculture, goes to the heart of the challenge; it involves listening to consumers as well as directing information at them. It includes tackling the impact of dietary habits on the sustainability of food systems.

136.  Trust is a key concern, and it is appropriate to recognise that consumers may lack trust in messages from Government or business. That being said, it cannot be right for national and regional authorities to step away from the process of communication on the grounds that consumers will have no confidence in any messages which they, as public authorities, put across. Retailers and food processors must also accept responsibility for properly informed communication with consumers about innovative and sustainable agricultural products and practices, and about the wider implications of their dietary choices.

137.  We consider that the European Commission should help to share best practice in communication with consumers. National and regional authorities should offer financial and organisational help to allow for public participation in discussions about innovation in agricultural and food systems. Getting the message across is a task in which scientists, industry, retailers, media and civil society should play a full role.

106   Q 285 Back

107   Op. cit., para 138 Back

108   Articles 12-13 of Council Regulation (EC) No 73/2009 Back

109   Q 392, IEUA 15, 26 Back

110   QQ 199, 514  Back

111   Q 392 Back

112   IEUA 2, para 9 Back

113   IEUA 21 Back

114   IEUA 14 Back

115   Q 484 Back

116   Q 541 Back

117   QQ 84, 94 Back

118   QQ 484, 544, 583 Back

119   Q 559 Back

120   QQ 724, 725 Back

121   IEUA 14, Q 681-for example, the joint Natural England and Environment Agency "England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative" (ECSFDI)  Back

122   Membership organisations funded by compulsory levies on farmers. Back

123   QQ 636, 700, IEUA 15, 36 Back

124   Q 456 Back

125   IEUA 14 Back

126   Q 393 Back

127   QQ 145, 392 IEUA 19 Back

128   Q 559 Back

129   QQ 597, 685 Back

130   IEUA 14 Back

131   Q 636 Back

132   IEUA 12 Back

133   Q 635 Back

134   Q 199 Back

135   Q 586 Back

136   See paragraph 52 for the Dutch response to a smaller-scale crisis in the 1990s, when German consumers stopped buying Dutch tomatoes.  Back

137   COM(2010) 665  Back

138  Back

139   Q 199  Back

140   Q 515 Back

141   Q 531 Back

142   Until 2009, MS were required to give priority to farmers in receipt of over €15,000 of direct payments p.a. Back

143   QQ 609, 615 Back

144   Q 684 Back

145   QQ 242-5, 260 Back

146   Q 681 Back

147   IEUA 16, para 5 Back

148   QQ 288, 290, 297, 724 Back

149   Q 339 Back

150   They include the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board), BBRO (British Beet Research Organisation), PGRO (Processors and Growers Research Organisation) and DairyCo (Dairy levy board) Back

151   IEUA 6, 8, 14, 18, Q 178 Back

152   Q 161, IEUA 14 Back

153   QQ 681-2 Back

154   IEUA 2, para 12 Back

155   Q 70 Back

156   IEUA 40 Back

157   Q 582 Back

158   QQ 541, 543 Back

159   Q 531 Back

160   Established by the Morrill Act in 1862, and developed through subsequent legislation.  Back

161   Q 182 Back

162   QQ 516, 532 Back

163   Q 650 Back

164   Q 70 Back

165   Q 616 Back

166   Q 559 Back

167   IEUA 15 Back

168   IEUA 16, para 2 Back

169   Q 726 Back

170   Q 182 Back

171   Q 560 Back

172   IEUA 25, 2 (2), Q 676 Back

173   IEUA 39 Back

174   Q 582 Back

175   Q 641 Back

176   Q 426 Back

177   IEUA 21 Back

178   Q 456 Back

179   QQ 477, 487 Back

180   Q 641 Back

181   Q 633 Back

182   "Adaptive management in agricultural innovation systems: The interactions between innovation networks and their environment", Agricultural Systems 103 (2010) 390-400, Klerckx, L. et al Back

183   Q 613 Back

184   IEUA 8 Back

185   Scientific Committee on Agricultural Research Back

186   Q 579, IEUA 39 Back

187   IEUA 41 Back

188   The Technology Strategy Board is a Non-Departmental Public Body established in 2007 to stimulate technology-enabled innovation. Back

189   QQ 95-6, 632 Back

190   Over 5 years: £50m from the TSB, £30m from Defra and £10m from the BBSRC Back

191   Q 96  Back

192   Q 689 Back

193   Q 5 Back

194   Q 438 Back

195   QQ 114, 468 Back

196   Q 456 Back

197   Q 444 Back

198   Q 473 Back

199   Another important issue in relation to dietary change, which may have implications for food production, is that of obesity. Our inquiry did not focus on that issue, but tackling obesity has been considered as a case study in the inquiry into behaviour change which has been carried out by the Science and Technology Committee of this House. The report of that inquiry is expected to be published in late July 2011. Back

200   Q 657 Back

201   Q 214 Back

202   Q 187 Back

203   Q 114 Back

204   Q 119 Back

205   Q 463 Back

206   IEUA 8 Back

207   Q 467 Back

208   QQ 211-2 Back

209   IEUA 8 Back

210   QQ 83, 204, 473 Back

211   QQ 133, 372 Back

212   Q 693 Back

213   Q 649 Back

214   Q 463 Back

215   Q 470 Back

216   Q 635 Back

217   Q 649 Back

218   Q 6 Back

219   Q 429 Back

220   Q 649 Back

221   Q 635 Back

222   QQ 471-2 Back

223   Q 83 Back

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