CHAPTER 7: Conclusions and REcommendations|
A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO FOOD PRODUCTION
168. The need for global food security requires
a broad, co-ordinated and swift response from Member States and
the Commission, which must take account of the different elements
of the food system. Improving the productivity of EU agriculture
is an important contribution to meeting the challenge. The response
also requires innovation, through new products and processes,
and through ensuring that farmers make use of best practice methodologies
and technologies. Agricultural innovation must achieve "sustainable
intensification" (paragraph 18).
169. Inputs (fossil fuels, fertilisers, water
and pesticides) into agricultural systems will need to be reduced
per unit area of land, while outputs are increased. Impacts on
the ecological processes on which agriculture depends must be
reduced, particularly on soils, climate, water bodies and biodiversity.
In addition to rising demand for food, there is likely to be rising
demand for public goods from agricultural ecosystems, such as
carbon sequestration and the protection of bio-diversity (paragraph
170. We agree on the vital importance of reducing
food waste but are far from convinced that EU Member States are
taking the issue seriously. The European Union must move swiftly
towards adopting indicators for bio-waste prevention measures
and then towards bio-waste prevention targets (paragraph 22).
171. The Government should define a clear set
of widely agreed indicators to measure progress over time towards
increased agricultural production and reduced environmental impact.
These must be monitored by an independent expert committee (paragraph
172. At the EU level, a food production strategy
should underpin the Common Agricultural Policy (paragraph 30).
National and EU-level strategies for food production should in
turn underpin innovation. Without such strategies, conflicting
priorities, between national government departments and within
the European Commission, will inevitably act as obstacles to effective
innovation. Strategies must be sensitive to the diversity of EU
farming and food production systems, and should be framed within
EU guidelines. They should be developed "bottom-up",
not imposed "top-down". Local ownership and implementation
are essential (paragraph 32).
INNOVATIONTHEORY AND PRACTICE
173. Innovation is an intrinsic aspect of agriculture,
and EU agriculture will continue to need support in its efforts
to innovate. The particular risks that it facesclimate,
disease and price volatilityand the small size of the average
agricultural business, must be recognised as a basis for helping
this industry to innovate (paragraph 40).
174. The farming industry and scientific community
are currently contributing to agricultural innovation in a large
variety of ways. But the reach of innovation in EU agriculture
must be extended, if substantial future risks to European food
security are to be avoided, and to respond to the need for sustainable
intensification of agriculture. Member States and the Commission
should both play a role in shaping the framework to strengthen
this process (paragraph 49).
AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND INNOVATION
175. Sustainable intensification of agriculture
must be a determining feature of agriculture's future and of innovation
within the industry; we urge those with national funding responsibility
to prioritise support for further work on nutrient efficiency,
water efficiency, genomics and soil science, as key elements of
the UK's approach to sustainable intensification (paragraph 57).
176. The Government, and those with funding responsibilities,
must look more urgently at how research aimed at translating scientific
findings into practice can be revived and enhanced, building on
initiatives already under way (paragraph 58).
177. The Government, with other key educational
bodies, should review the content and presentation of agricultural
studies and plant science from school level, through further and
higher education, to adult re-training programmes: studying agriculture
should be seen as a frontline activity of central importance to
ensure that its relevance to the challenges of food security and
sustainable intensification is clear (paragraph 61).
178. The Commission should play a full role in
encouraging research collaboration between Member States outside
the EU Framework Programme, and should consider including possible
financing for such collaboration under the next Framework Programme,
in addition to the current ERA-NET co-operation scheme (paragraph
179. We strongly welcome the Commission's acknowledgement
of the need to make research funding less bureaucratic; we consider
that the UK Government should support this intention; and we urge
the Commission to make rapid progress with the reforms which it
has outlined (paragraph 67).
180. The EU's future Research Framework Programme
should be organised more flexibly and in response to tackling
grand challenges, rather than following the current approach which
tends to brigade research according to rigid themes (paragraph
181. The Government must ensure that, with the
abolition of the Regional Development Agencies, successor arrangements
enable ERDF support to be accessed easily, and without interruption,
by appropriate projects in the UK (paragraph 72).
182. We support the idea of a European Innovation
Partnership (EIP) on agricultural productivity and sustainability,
but only on the understanding that it will be founded on effective,
action-based co-operation, including between the different Directorates-General
of the Commission. The Government must work closely with the Commission
and other Member States to clarify and guide the EIP proposals
(paragraph 78). The Commission should follow a "twin-track
approach" (EU networking, local delivery) in taking forward
the agriculture EIP; and it needs to develop metrics and identify
clear targets, so that the progress of the EIP is measured against
those targets and is regularly reviewed (paragraph 79).
183. We welcome the fact that greater prominence
is being given to agriculture in the deliberations of the European
Commission, and we urge that it should be given a similar priority
in political debate in the UK (paragraph 80).
184. It is clear that a more strategic approach
to agricultural research is required. Agricultural research must
be seen as an integral part of agricultural and food policyin
particular, if the CAP demands more from farmers in terms of tackling
climate change, the research agenda needs to respond accordingly.
We call for a strengthening of interdisciplinary work, bringing
natural and social scientists together to work on food security
185. It is unacceptable that agricultural research
funding at the EU level is under 2 bn over seven years,
while the agricultural policy budget is around 400 bn. Increased
funding for agriculture under the Research Programme, through
the suggested grand challenges approach, should be supported financially
by reducing the proportion of the EU budget devoted to supporting
the Common Agricultural Policy. Within the remaining, and still
substantial, agricultural budget, funds should be partially re-allocated
towards innovation under the Rural Development Fund (paragraph
KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER AND INNOVATION
186. There is no one single solution to agricultural
knowledge transfer that is applicable across the EU. It must be
fine-tuned to national and regional practice and, as far as possible,
to individual farmers (paragraph 94).
187. 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. 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 (paragraph 98).
188. 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 (paragraph
189. Financing of farm advice is a decision for
Member States. Nevertheless, 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 (paragraph 108).
190. 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 (paragraph 110).
191. The transfer of R&D knowledge transfer
to farms is just one part of the agricultural innovation system.
It is a complex and interactive process of knowledge exchange
involving scientists, farmers, food processors, retailers, government
and consumers. So, 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. 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 (paragraphs
121 to 123).
192. Consumers are a fundamentally important
part of the innovation system. At the end of the food chain, consumer
preferences largely determine what is on the shelf, but we are
far from convinced that consumer preferences are formed on the
basis of sufficient information about products' sustainability.
Communication, about new technologies and about issues surrounding
the sustainable intensification of agriculture, goes to the heart
of the challenge; it means listening to consumers as well as directing
information at them. It includes tackling the impact of dietary
habits on the sustainability of food systems (paragraph 135).
193. 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.
Retailers and food processors must also accept responsibility
for communication with consumers about innovative and sustainable
agricultural products and practices, and about the wider implications
of their dietary choices (paragraph 136).
194. 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 (paragraph 137).
EU POLICY AND REGULATION
195. Payments under Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural
Policy (direct payments) should be made in return for delivery
of public goods, responding to climate change, protecting biodiversity
and encouraging environmental innovation. We agree, however, that
better integration of environmental considerations into Pillar
1 must not lead to further bureaucratic complexity. The sustainable
intensification of the CAP must be achieved on the basis of real
improvements to the EU's and Member States' knowledge transfer
systems. More effective advice to farmers must strengthen the
adoption of best practice which will have both economic and environmental
benefits (paragraphs 144 and 145).
196. Under Pillar 2 (rural development), support
for innovation-related projects must be core and a balance must
be ensured between purely agri-environmental projects and funding
to support agricultural innovation, whilst recalling that the
two are often compatible. Pillar 2 should be sufficiently flexible
to encourage innovation in relation to all forms of agricultural
material, whether food or not. Alongside such flexibility, we
support the European Commission's proposal that a higher rate
of co-financing be made available to support innovation-related
projects under Pillar 2. Such an increase in financing can be
supported, at least in part, by reducing the level of direct payments
under Pillar 1 (paragraph 151).
197. Policy incoherence in the Commission is
a serious obstacle to agricultural innovation. The European Commissioner
responsible for agriculture and food must ensure that the need
to promote innovation in EU agriculture is respected by other
parts of the Commission when they take decisions which will impact
on the food and farming sector (paragraph 152).
198. We urge the Commission and Member States
to act with urgency in determining a robust set of factors, indicators
and rules for data collection that will facilitate a better understanding
of the socio-economic implications of GMO cultivation (paragraph
199. Good regulation is evidence-based, taking
into account environmental, economic and social considerations.
We are clear that the precautionary principle must continue to
underpin regulatory decisions with regard to food safety. It must,
however, be applied with due consideration of available scientific
evidence of potential risks and benefits. Reluctance to take a
risk can be a risk in itself if, for example, global food security
is likely to be threatened (paragraph 163).
200. It is critical for reasons of productivity,
sustainability and competitiveness, that appropriate technologies
can be adopted swiftly after proper testing. The EU decision-making
procedure should seek to help, rather than hinder, the adoption
of appropriate new technologies. We would not recommend that new
techniques should routinely be assumed to be safe unless proven
otherwise, but there is undoubtedly a need for a much clearer
articulation of the potential risks and benefits of any technology.
In advancing this debate at a political level, it would be appropriate
for the European Commission to re-visit its 2000 Communication
on the Precautionary Principle and to re-consider the application
of the principle in the light of the grand challenges faced by
society (paragraph 164).
201. We note concerns that high animal welfare
standards in EU legislation can harm the competitiveness of EU
farmers on the world market. Equally, however, we would not wish
to see a weakening in EU standards as a result. Rather, we have
been impressed to see how high animal welfare standards and business
efficiency can be mutually supportive, and we encourage partnerships
that can develop such win-win scenarios (paragraph 167).