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Bridging the Gap: Prof Tina Barsby on Transforming UK's Agricultural Science into Productivity Powerhouse

Professor Tina Barsby, a renowned plant scientist from Cambridge, has highlighted the disconnect between the UK's leadership in academic agricultural science and its lagging agricultural productivity growth.

Despite the UK ranking third in high-citation academic studies in agriculture, behind China and the USA, this academic prowess has not translated into significant productivity growth or attracted substantial private sector investment in agricultural innovation.

Barsby, reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the UK Agri-Tech Strategy, expressed frustration over its failure to catalyse a significant increase in productivity growth, inward investment, and collaborative models between the government, industry, and science sectors.

She pointed out that while the Strategy led to the creation of new facilities, it fell short of its ambitious goals.

She identified several factors contributing to this issue. Firstly, the regulatory environment post-Brexit has increased costs and time for market access, affecting the attractiveness of the UK market.

Secondly, UK farm policies lack clear targets for agricultural productivity growth and do not prioritise food production as a public good.

Lastly, the UK's R&D environment is not adequately focused on translational and applied agricultural research, particularly in plant genetics.

Barsby suggests that the UK needs to re-evaluate its regulatory, policy, and research approaches to better support agricultural innovation.

This includes streamlining regulatory processes, focusing farm policies on productivity and food production, and rebalancing R&D investments towards genetics.

Professor Tina Barsby, awarded an honorary professorship in agricultural botany by the University of Cambridge, has been a leading figure in plant genetics and agricultural innovation.

Her insights call for a critical reassessment of the UK's approach to agricultural science and innovation to harness its full potential.


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