Scientific advice for a sustainable agri-food system: post-Brexit challenges for evidence-informed policymaking

The agriculture and agri-food sector, globally, is entangled with complex issues – from food security (SDG 2) to food safety (SDG 3), environmental protection (SDG 13, 14 & 15), biodiversity conservation (SDG 14 & 15) as well as climate change mitigation (SDG 13). The growing complexity in the sector has fueled the call to base policy interventions on scientific evidence – to ensure optimum policy outcome. As a rule of success, this requires a strong and effective advisory system sophisticated enough to provide usable evidence at every stage of the policymaking process.

In the UK, the agri-food sector has long operated within the institutional and regulatory framework of the European Union (EU). For instance, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, since its inception in the 1960s, has controlled almost all major agri-food related activities – ranging from land use to agronomic practice, through to nutritional quality, food safety, and trade. More so, key institutions and agencies like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission have served as a major source of expertise to the development of agri-food policies and regulations.

Now, leaving the EU, UK’s access to this expertise may be restricted, and further, the current advisory system – which has been harmonized with the EU advisory framework in the past decades – will be affected. The overarching question now is, does the UK have the capacity to produce credible and usable scientific advice to support the development of a sustainable agri-food sector after Brexit? And even more, will there be the political will to organize expertise to support agri-food policymaking, amidst the myriad political and economic challenges?

This project, therefore, seeks to assess the capacity and outlook of UK’s scientific advisory system policy after Brexit. The study will take a historical analysis of the interrelationship between the scientific advisory system in the UK and the EU – from sub-national to national and EU level – and agri-food policymaking. A semi-structured interview will also be used to assess the current perspective of policymakers and stakeholders in the agri-food sector on use of scientific evidence. Finally, a framework will be developed to strengthen UK’s science advisory system to support the development of viable agri-food policy that will meet the present sustainability challenges in the sector (SDG 1, 2, 3, 13, 14 & 15) after Brexit.

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George Asiamah

Supervisor

Professor James Wilsdon

Professor of Research Policy, Department of Politics Director of Research and Innovation, Faculty of Social Sciences

Co-Supervisors

Dr Ruth Little

Research Fellow in the Department of Geography