On Friday 5th November, politics and plant breeding came together as Jo Churchill – MP for Bury St Edmunds, who is also Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation within DEFRA, visited Limagrain UK’s wheat breeding centre at Woolpit, Suffolk.
Limagrain is a fast growing farmer owned international co-operative group, specialising in both agricultural and horticultural seeds, and in cereal products. As the fourth largest breeder and seeds marketing company in the world, it employs 9,000 people with a turnover of more than 1.98 billion euros annually. During the visit, Mrs Churchill received a presentation from Jonathan Tann, Limagrain Business Area Director for NW Europe, on the company from an International and UK perspective, followed by a tour of the research and development facility by Ed Flatman, Limagrain’s Head of European Wheat Research, along with Phillip Tailby, Limagrain UK’s Senior Wheat Breeder. One of the most important issues currently facing plant breeders are the pressures and rules regarding the importing and exporting of seed. Mrs Churchill was aware of the latest situation and appreciated that there were still problems to resolve. Current hot issues surrounding plant breeding, such as gene editing and agri-food innovation, were also discussed along with the challenge of energising young people to engage with the opportunities within agriculture. Mrs Churchill was joined by Oli Wilson, DEFRA, and Lesley Canham, Constituency Office Manager.