Keele Professor presents research to Parliament

Keele’s Professor Toby Bruce presented his research on food security, environment and crop protection to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee today.

Professor Bruce was one of just ten speakers selected to speak from 80 submissions to the Committee’s “My Science Inquiry” which is an opportunity for the science community and the wider public to suggest science and technology areas for scrutiny.

Professor Bruce, who was awarded a £1.1million grant last year to investigate crop pests in Africa, presented his argument to the committee which was also broadcast live on Parliament TV, explaining that there’s an urgent need for investment into innovation in crop protection, to bring new products to market, and provide knowledge exchange for farmers tackling these challenges.

During his presentation, Professor Toby Bruce said: “I would like to draw your attention to the alarming loss of tools for farmers to protect their crops from pests and diseases, this costs billions of dollars in losses to global harvests.

“The NFU commissioned a report which found restrictions to pesticide use in the UK could lead to a 36% drop in overall UK farming profits. We already import 50% of food supply and if we take our eye off the ball with crop protection we will become even more import-dependent. Whilst it may be possible to import cheap food for the foreseeable future there are questionable ethics about our environmental footprint of importing our food from abroad.

The chairman of Science and Technology Committee MP Norman Lamb asked what could be achieved by an inquiry in crop protection and food security.

Professor Bruce replied: “The choice we have at the moment is having to choose between food security and the environment, so we need to find a way forward in which we can safeguard our crops without environmental impact, partly through smarter regulation to bring more inventions into the market. There is a critical shortage of new treatments but there’s also underinvestment in this area. It's a major challenge that we face this century, how do we feed the world without wrecking the environment in the process.”