The Princess Royal Praises research into Food Sustainability and Safety

The Princess Royal was attending a special event “Global Food Security: Scotland’s Role”, held at Moredun’s headquarters just outside Edinburgh. Over 120 representatives from the agricultural, veterinary and research sectors as well as Health Protection Scotland, the Foods Standards Agency and the Scottish Government attended this networking event, and discussed ways in which Scotland’s researchers and producers could work together to find solutions to this problem both in Scotland and worldwide.

This is not the first time that The Princess Royal, Patron of The Moredun Foundation, has praised Moredun’s staff for their research. In June 2010, whilst speaking at Moredun’s 90th Anniversary celebration, The Princess commented, “Moredun’s research is vital to protect both livestock and people, today and tomorrow.”

With the world’s population predicted to rise from its current 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, producing enough food to feed this expanding population has been recognized as one of the greatest challenges facing mankind. Food security is not just about increasing food productivity however; it is also about wasting less. Supplying safe, nutritious foods must be achieved in a sustainable manner with minimal impact on the environment and animal welfare.

Founded by Scottish farmers in the 1920’s, Moredun is known throughout the world for its research into the prevention and control of infectious diseases of livestock. Disease adversely affects growth rates, food conversion ratios and food quality. Moredun’s research is focussed towards developing improved diagnostic tests, control measures and vaccines to maximise biological efficiency of livestock throughout the world. Many of the diseases that Moredun works on are also zoonotic in nature (i.e. can pass between animals and humans) and for that reason have a direct impact on human health as well as livestock production.

During her visit, HRH The Princess Royal listened to a series of short presentations by Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, Moredun’s Chief Executive and Scientific Director, Professor Ewan Cameron, Head of Glasgow Vet School and Nigel Miller, President of the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) which highlighted the issue of food security and safety both in Scotland and Globally.  

The Princess then mingled with guests over lunch and met several of Moredun’s partners from the farming and scientific sectors who are working together to try and ensure livestock production remains sustainable in Scotland and beyond. The Princess also met a group of young PhD students who were based at Moredun and were studying diseases that affect livestock production including sheep scab, toxoplasmosis and liver fluke as well as diseases that affect wild and farmed fish.

Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, Scientific Director of Moredun and Professor of Food Security at the University of Glasgow commented, “Infectious diseases of food-producing animals result in reduced efficiency or significant losses in food production from animals and adversely affect animal welfare and trade.” She added, “With nearly 700 million of the world’s poorest people relying on farming animals for their survival, effective control of animal pathogens is crucial not only for safeguarding and securing national and international food supplies, but also for alleviating rural poverty in developing countries.”

Food safety plays a major part in the food security debate and the sustainable production of safe and nutritious food requires improvements in food safety. In the UK alone, it is estimated that about 1 million people suffer a food borne illness of which 20,000 receive hospital treatment and there are over 500 deaths each year.

Whilst at Moredun, HRH The Princess Royal had a private tour of the laboratories and met scientists from Moredun and a number of their collaborators who are working on the top four food and water borne pathogens that threaten public health in the UK:  Campylobacter, Salmonella, E coli and Cryptosporidium.

The Princess was escorted around the laboratories by Professor David GE Smith, who leads the research groups working on food borne pathogens at Moredun. He commented, “Foodborne and waterborne pathogens pose a significant threat to both animal and public health. Our work at Moredun focuses on increasing the understanding of these pathogens, in the hope that we can develop effective control measures in the future.”

Published on 28 February 2012 in Sustainability and Communities