Technological innovation in the agrochemical, biotechnology and seeds industries and in associated public sector research establishments (PSREs) has the potential to deliver more socially and environmentally sustainable farming systems and to improve the quality of life in Europe. This is particularly true of farms on the most fertile land.

However, although policies developed in different areas may all aim to improve the quality of life, in practice, in their influence on company and PSRE strategies, they frequently counteract one another and so attenuate the desired effect.

Market-related factors also influence decision making in industry and PSREs, the most important for this project being the policies of food processors and distributors and also public attitudes and opinion, which often set more demanding standards than those of national governments and the EU.

The PITA project first developed an integrated analysis of policies and market-related factors relevant to the agrochemical, biotechnology and seeds sectors. The core of the project consisted of an investigation of the impact of these factors on the strategies and decision making of companies and PSREs and the downstream implications of these decisions on employment, international competitiveness and environmental benefits. The range of policies and other influences studied included:

  •  policies to stimulate innovation in the agrochemical, biotechnology and seeds industries;
  •  purchasing policies of food processors and distributors;
  •  policies for international trade liberalisation;
  •  policies for the regulation of industry and farming (for environmental protection and public health and safety, particularly for pesticides and biotechnology);
  •  agricultural and farming support policies, particularly for crop production;
  •  policies to promote environmental sustainability and wildlife biodiversity in arable farming areas;
  •  public opinion and attitudes.

The overall aim of the project was to contribute to the development of sustainable industrial and farming systems and an improved quality of life by encouraging the development and uptake of ‘cleaner’ technology for intensive agriculture.

For more info on the project: http://dpp.open.ac.uk/research/projects/policy-influences-technology-agriculture-chemicals-biotechnology-and-seeds-pita