Agribusiness Global Allies

Evidence-based agriculture: who decides which evidence to trust?

We’re all biased – now we need to admit it

June 14, 2017

This week is Cereals – a huge arable farming event. Sadly I’m watching from the sidelines of Twitter, but at least things have quickly got interesting.

I couldn’t agree more, but the issue is that scientific evidence is complex and not clear cut. Most groups asking for decisions to be made on science have a clear idea about how the evidence should be interpreted. Everyone wants regulation to be based on ‘robust scientific evidence as interpreted by me’.

Take the neonic pesticide debate. The NFU has expressed concern over the ban, including some very sensible points about the need for more evidence. Yet Friends of the Earth point to many scientific studies in their call to uphold the ban.

The different starting points when interpreting scientific evidence are even clear at scientific institutions. Scientists at Rothamsted Research question the ban by arguing for ‘independent, unbiased research’. Even the language used reveals their position – by saying ‘alleged harmful impact on bees’ they are not defining the evidence of harm as being anything more than an allegation.

Their collaborators at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology take an approach which is far more focussed on bees rather than farmers (they did a really interesting study on this).

When the scientific evidence is sketchy (as it so often is) we bring our biases into how we interpret it. Just because someone is calling for people to use scientific evidence, it doesn’t mean that we should trust their assessment of it.

The Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust, an organisation which strongly advocates scientific evidence, this week welcomed the appointment of Michael Gove as environment secretary at Defra. Given that history of interpretation of evidence included supporting the badger cull, I was not alone in having the opposite opinion. read on……….

For those of you on LinkedIn you can read the comments in Sustainable agriculture group:

Comment: Please look behind the science:

Well conducted research?

Done and funded by independent bodies?

Researchers have good reputations?

Previous work done?

Repeatable results?

Open mind essential!

Forget your bias for a moment!!!!


Better collaboration, communication the key to Australia’s agricultural science future

t posted Tuesday at 10:32

Australia’s agricultural science sector needs to get better at collaboration and communication, if it is going to help farmers meet the big challenges of the next decade and beyond.

That message is at the heart of the Australian Academy of Science’s strategic plan for the next decade of agricultural science, unveiled at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday.

Dr Jeremy Burdon, chairman of the academy’s agriculture, fisheries and food committee said Australian universities, governments and industry-specific research organisations had often worked in competition with each other, rather than together.

“Australian science is undoubtedly world class, we lead the world in many areas, but we tend to dilute our effort because we split it between many states and the Commonwealth, a very large number of universities,” he said.

Nature Index 2017 China


See all supplements

Nature Index 2017 China

Vol. 545 No. 7655_supp ppS37-76


  • China continues to increase its global share of research papers, but publication numbers are just one indicator that a country’s science is thriving. Nature Index 2017 China looks beyond the country’s impressive performance in key metrics and examines how it holds up in other factors that contribute to a functioning research ecosystem, such as collaboration, willingness to make data and research open, science communication and sound science policy.

    Free full access

    Cover Art: Mark Leong

Call for New Zealand nominations for agribusiness awards

Call for New Zealand nominations for 2017 agribusiness leadership awards

Nominations are being sought for the 2017 Rabobank Leadership Awards, recognising outstanding leadership among both accomplished and up-and-coming leaders in New Zealand and Australia’s food, beverage and agribusiness industries.

The two peer-nominated annual awards – the Rabobank Leadership Award and the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award – are among the industry’s most highly-regarded accolades, acknowledging the critical contribution of good leadership to the success of the food and agribusiness sector.



Agriculture – Can we get over the polarizing discussions of the past?

Can we get over the polarizing discussions of the past?

Can we get over the polarizing discussions of the past?

“Will agriculture become more ecological or more efficient?” – Can we get over the polarizing discussions of the past, and just ask in how far and why more ecological is more efficient? “Will it define its markets globally or locally?” – Why not discussing the interplay between both, and the often observable occurrence of nested markets, and – most importantly – of the diverse marketing strategies of many farmers? Can we get over simplification? “Where must the state intervene?” – Good question! How can we for example foster the societal benefits of healthy food and a healthy diet? “Will we need to raise the price of food in the first world to increase its value?” – Again, why not differentiating a bit more and connecting the question more directly with the previous one about societal benefit and – just an example 😉 – SDGs.

Karlheinz Knickel

Visit the Sustainable Agriculture discussion:

Writing the WA wheatbelt, a place of radical environmental change May 18, 2017 6.16am AEST

A message ploughed in the land calls on the federal government to help drought-affected farmers near the wheatbelt town of Kondinin in 2001. Liza Kappelle/AAP

Scientists stunned by Antarctic rainfall and a melt area bigger than Texas – The Washington Post

Scientists have documented a recent, massive melt event on the surface of highly vulnerable West Antarctica that, they fear, could be a harbinger of future events as the planet continues to warm.

In the Antarctic summer of 2016, the surface of the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest floating ice platform on Earth, developed a sheet of meltwater that lasted for as long as 15 days in some places. The total area affected by melt was 300,000 square miles, or larger than the state of Texas, the scientists report.

That’s bad news because surface melting could work hand in hand with an already documented trend of ocean-driven melting to compromise West Antarctica, which contains over 10 feet of potential sea level rise.