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Rothamsted Cuts to Agroecology “Swimming Against the Tide” – GM Freeze

Immediate release (15 Jul 2011)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

The decision by Rothamsted Research to close three major departments central to their agroecological research base has been described by GM Freeze as, “Swimming against the tide of scientific opinion across the world.”

The closures, which will affect the Departments of Plant and Invertebrate Ecology, Applied Crop Science, and Plant Pathology and Microbiology, are reportedly [1] due to “reduction in effort” in areas including entomology, nematology and herbicide resistance.

The decision comes less than two years after the Royal Society reported that several core agroecological disciplines are in “decline” and called for funding bodies and universities to reverse this trend. [2]

Director of Rothamsted Research Professor Maurice Maloney, who made the decision to cut the Departments, was quoted in the recent House of Lords report Innovation in EU Agriculture as supporting, “[A] need to boost soil science, which had been neglected in recent decades.” [3] Professor Maloney was appointed in 2010 after a career working in the genetic modification of crops. [4]

Many international and European studies have highlighted the need to focus on agroecological research to enable farmers to meet the challenge of increasing food supplies in the face of increasing energy prices, growing demand for fertilisers and water, and diminishing supplies of raw materials, as well as the need to restore biodiversity and other natural resources such as soil, fresh water and the marine environment. [5]

GM Freeze will be contacting the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee to ask them to investigate Rothamsted’s decision.

Commenting on the Rothamsted Research cuts, Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

Rothamsted appears to be swimming against a tide of scientific opinion across the world, which is saying we need to improve our knowledge of the sciences vital to ensuring agricultural ecosystems function to their highest potential and are restored to a condition that will enable future generations to maintain food production. It is a sad day when important areas of research, on which Rothamsted has led for so many years, are axed just when we need them most.

We hope this doesn’t signal a move toward more research on GM, which is increasingly viewed as a blind alley by scientists around the world. We need a shift toward research aimed at producing healthy soils and cropping systems better able to withstand shocks like drought and attacks by pests and diseases. If we are not careful the UK will lag further behind in developing these vital research skills and knowledge urgently needed wherever land is farmed.



[1] See “Research cuts threaten future food sustainability”, Farmers Guardian, 15 July 2011.

[2] The Royal Society, 2009. Reaping the Benefits. Science and the Sustainable intensification of global agriculture. October 2009. Recommendation 5.

[3] House of Lords European Union Committee, 19 Report. Innovation in EU Agriculture. 7 July 2011, Paragraph 53, page 22.

[4] See “Major Concern About Appointment of GM Scientist as CEO of Rothamsted Research”, GM Freeze, 26 January 2010.

[5] See for instance:

International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, Agriculture at a Crossroads. Synthesis Report. A Synthesis of the Global and Sub-Global IAASTD Reports.


Report submitted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter to the UN General Assembly, 17 December 2010. (pdf 280 Kb)


European Commission Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR), The 3rd SCAR Foresight Exercise, Sustainable Food Consumption and Production in a Resource-constrained World, February 2011.