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IFST gives evidence to House of Lords select committee

On 16 January 2018, John Bassett, IFST’s Policy and Scientific Development Director gave evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into Life Sciences and Industrial Strategy.

As life sciences are broader than the medical/pharma theme currently proposed in the life sciences industrial strategy, IFST believes the impact, both economically and for the human health outcomes sought, will be greater if the scope is broadened to include microorganisms, plants and animal life as well as links to physical sciences and engineering, as part of an integrated system.

We also believe that food is a key link between these system elements and the outcomes of the strategy. With around 12% of the working population involved in food-related roles, food is important to the UK economy. Without any doubts, it also has an important impact on human health and well-being.

During the questioning, John Bassett commented: ‘The aim of the strategy is to drive economic growth with the theme of human health and medicine development, but it is difficult to see how you drive it using that theme alone’.

IFST put forward particular examples of food science, which the strategy could encompass, e.g. food impacts on the gut microbiome, technologies to identify, understand and control foodborne pathogens and technologies focused on creating a sustainable food system.

In addition, we welcomed the focus in the strategy on building core skills in STEM in the educational system. However, we made the comment that STEM in schools can be siloed and this is particularly evident when it comes to food science – food is typically still thought of in the context of cooking and confined to the Design and Technology curriculum.

IFST also welcomed the focus on maintaining access to international scientists and other key skills required for the strategy, post EU exit. However, the Lords were surprised to hear that in the food science area the loss of the ability to task the European Food Safety Authority to make scientific safety assessments for us will result in the need to build the capabilities of the UK Food Standards Agency, the regulator in this area.

Finally, we highlighted that data and analytics capabilities are cross-cutting and should be developed to work across numerous industries.

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