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Additional Funding for Collaborative Research on Food and Health, Agri-environment and Biofuels

Today, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., announced that her Department has been successful in securing €13.67m of the €40m allocated for collaborative research under the recently announced Government's Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-13. This funding, which is provided on a competitive basis, is for research in areas of shared interest between Government Departments.

In announcing the award, the Minister said that this is an exciting development and it will generate research programmes and teams that will help build the knowledge economy in agri-food. The results will provide a scientific foundation that will inform Government and underpin future policy in the agriculture, food and forestry sectors.

"The funding provided is for areas of linked research between my Department and the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural resources".

Food and Health

Minister Coughlan said that her Department and the Department of Health and Children will collaborate in the development of research programmes, networks and teams in the area of food and health, which is one of the areas of importance identified in the AgriVision 2015 Action Plan. Funding of €5.42m will be allocated to this over the period 2007 and 2008. The programme will investigate food use and food consumption patterns with regard to nutrition, the development of a gene library, food safety, consumer behaviour and nutritional health in the elderly. It will guide Ireland's response to the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity & Health and the growing problem of obesity by providing reliable information on food consumption patterns, design of novel foods for the elderly, and undertake a food monitoring and surveillance programme.

Agri-Environment

The Minister pointed out that her Department and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government will co-operate to fund research in areas of shared interest to support sustainable agriculture and forestry production practices relating to air, soil, water and biodiversity. "This research will provide a sound scientific basis to assist compliance of the farming and forestry sectors with environmental legislation, and also enable fulfilment of Ireland's commitments with respect to climate change."

Continuing, the Minister said that under this part of the fund her Department will commit €5.75m for agri-environment research in the following broad areas: the impact of farming and forestry on vulnerable groundwater environments; farming aspects of biodiversity; characteristics and functions of soils including nutrient flows, Irish transboundary and greenhouse gases including abatement technologies.

Biofuels

The Minister also said she was happy that the award included funding of €2.5m for research in farming aspects of bio-energy production. Biofuel production offers exciting new opportunities for farmers for alternative crop production and land use. "My Department and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources will co-operate in a research programme aimed at identifying and selecting plant varieties and crop production and management systems that are most suited to bio-fuel production in the Irish context, and on the feasibility of developing a technology programme to exploit second generation bio-fuels."

19 February, 2007

Date Released: 19 February 2007