Belfast Telegraph (N. Ireland)
April 28, 2009

There is a real threat of food riots around the world unless research into increasing crop yields is stepped up, a leading UK scientist said today.

Professor Douglas Kell, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is calling for an additional £100 million a year to be spent on food research in the UK to help the world meet growing demand.

As well as seeing off unrest in developing countries and helping to feed the swelling world population, research will deliver economic benefits to the UK, he said.

The BBSRC already spends £185 million on research into crops and livestock and the additional £100 million it is seeking from the Government is the equivalent of one day’s spending on the foot and mouth epidemic, said Prof Kell.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We have seen already in Indonesia and Mexico riots because of food shortages and what is undeniable is that the amount of food we are going to need to produce to deal with the world’s population increases is an extra 50% by 2030 and a doubling by 2050.

"We are going to have to do it on the same amount of land, because there isn’t any more land, so we are going to have to increase agricultural yields.

"We are going to have to do that without increasing the amount of oil-based fertilisers we put in because oil is a finite resource and of course produces greenhouse gases.

"And we are going to have to use no more water because water is a resource in short supply as well."

He added: "Scientific research takes a long time to turn into applied fruits that are going to be of benefit to humanity and that is why we need to start the ball rolling now.

"There isn’t any doubt that, because we are an agricultural importer and exporter and we are a trading nation and we have the strongest scientific base in plant and microbial science in the world, it falls to us to lead in this and to derive the economic benefit from it. It will be to our economic benefit independent of the duty we may have to do it."