Six key themes frame the work programme of Science for Sustainable Agriculture in seeking to ensure the positive contribution of science in agriculture and food production is recognised in public life and policy making.
Ensuring the regulation of agricultural innovation is proportionate, non-discriminatory, and based on the best available scientific evidence. Highlighting opportunities for the UK to become a global leader in agri-science through a more enabling approach to regulation – and identifying areas where a failure to follow the science is driving research and investment elsewhere.
Importance of genetic innovation
Raising awareness and understanding of the critical role of genetic improvement as the foundation of high yielding, resource-efficient and climate resilient agriculture. Independent research has shown that genetic innovation is the main driver of productivity gains in agriculture - policy development and allocationof research funding must reflect that.
Sustainable intensification and metrics
Highlighting the urgent need to restore the policy focus on 'sustainable intensification' in agriculture, and to develop science-based sustainability metrics capable of objectively and consistently monitoring the balance between resource use and environmental impact per unit of production. Robust farm-level metrics will provide the basis to define 'sustainable intensification' in practice, to set targets, measure progress and frame the policy and R&D agenda, especially in the context of debates such as land-sparing vs. land-sharing.
'Naturalness' in food and farming
Encouraging informed debate around the use of potentially misleading terms such as 'natural' in relation to food and agriculture. Farming itself is not, and never has been 'natural', in fact farmers spend much of their time trying to sustain production in the face of 'natural' intrusion, e.g. in the form of weeds, diseases and other pests. Scientific innovation increasingly offers better ways to protect harvests while minimising impacts on unfarmed habitats and environments.
Ethics of sustainable agriculture
Working to ensure all ethical aspects of new technology and innovation in agriculture are considered, ie not just the implications of permitting new technologies, but also the ethical considerations of blocking or restricting the potential of innovation to produce more food with less impact on the environment.
Working to recognise and showcase the potential of other technologies and innovations - alongside genetic improvement - to enhance the efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of productive agriculture (digital, AI, precision engineering, automation, robotics, biologicals, renewable energy etc).