The National Farmers’ Union President, Peter Kendall, described the “exciting and important future role of plant science” during a visit to Cambridge when he met secondary school pupils taking part in an interactive training event on plant genetics.
He met Year 9 pupils from Parkside Community College at the “Genetics Garden” at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. He was joined by Prof Wayne Powell, NIAB’s Chief Executive, and Prof John Parker, Director of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.
Scientists from NIAB led a programme entitled: “Understanding Plant Genetics: From Breeder to Consumer”, which was held in support of the National Year of Food and Farming campaign.
Mr Kendall said: “My role in the NFU is trying to reconnect people with where food comes from. We have lost that connection, and we need to excite our children about it. I want people to think plant science is an exciting area for the future. We just take food for granted, yet it faces many challenges with increased population and climate change; we need people to make the connection between plants and science.
“Plant science has a really important role in the future, it is an increasingly important area and children should understand this and think of it as a career as well. We think plant science is really exciting and we want the next generation to look at it in the same exciting way as we do.”
Prof Wayne Powell, Chief Executive of NIAB, said it had been a very successful event and it was essential to engage today’s young people with plant science.
He said: “This is a wonderful time to be a crop scientist. Society is seeking solutions to the major global challenges of food security and water availability. Scientific knowledge of crops and their utility provides the opportunity to meet these challenges. Sharing this knowledge and enthusiasm with school children and members of the public is an important part of our work.”
Prof John Parker, Director of the Botanic Garden, said: “The great advances in food supply made by the application of genetic principles to our crops has been one of the enormous successes of the 20th century, and we are poised on the brink of another genetic revolution urgently needed to ensure our future food supply. It is important that the population understands and thinks about what is happening to our food supplies and education is the key to all this.”
The Year of Food and Farming campaign was launched last September by HRH Prince Charles at his Highgrove home and will run until August. Its aims are to help children find out more about the countryside and where their food comes from through memorable, first-hand learning experiences.
Further information is available from Mary McPhee at NIAB or Press consultant Ellee Seymour on 01353 648564, 07939 811961.