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Garfield Weston Foundation supports new global initiative to enhance understanding of agriculture

Posted 18 December 2019

"We can all benefit from sharing a better understanding of issues relating to agriculture and food production."

A new initiative has been launched at Harper Adams

An initiative to enhance worldwide public understanding of some of the issues facing 21st Century agriculture is being launched by Harper Adams University, thanks to support from the Garfield Weston Foundation.

The Foundation has pledged its support for a five-year period, commencing in 2020, to deliver a concerted effort to engage with citizens in the UK, and across the globe, to better connect them with knowledge of their food supply chains and encourage participation in ethical debate on the use of technologies in food production.

“Greater levels of information sharing and understanding are needed to help keep an increasingly large urban community aware of where their food comes from and how it is produced. We can all benefit from sharing a better understanding of issues relating to agriculture and food production,” said Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Mills.

Key topics covered by the initiative are likely to include: climate change; food production and the environment; conflicting priorities for land use; availability and use of agricultural chemicals; the circular agricultural economy; automation and robotics; renewable energy; alternative protein sources; and the management of invasive species.  Many of these topics can be controversial in nature, with conflicting evidence put forward by different interest groups.  The initiative will aim to ensure that the public understanding of agricultural science and technology is based on a balanced view of these issues so that the wider public can reach their own conclusions about food and the way in which it is produced.  

The initiative will be led by a newly created Chair of Public Engagement in Agriculture & Technology (currently being advertised), who will establish connections with a national and international community of stakeholders. The appointment will provide an opportunity to develop a research and communication agenda, to work with a wide range of organisations and to use all appropriate communication channels to better share information on the benefits and risks of new technologies in our future food systems.  It is hoped that the new Chair will build upon the work of the Government’s National Food Strategy, expected later in 2020.

The challenge of feeding a growing world population whilst managing changing environmental conditions and dietary behaviours remains with us all.  This important development is intended to pave the way for the public to gain a greater insight into the choices, and inevitable trade-offs, they make with the food that they eat, and to ensure that the evidence base from the research community is used to best effect in helping with these vital decisions.

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