Agri-Innovation Minister Jo Churchill MP visits the John Innes Centre

12 November 2021

Newly appointed Agri-Innovation Minister Jo Churchill MP visited the John Innes Centre to find out more about the impact delivered through their research, particularly generating resources to support crop breeding in the UK.

During the visit, the Minister heard about the longstanding relationship between Defra and the John Innes Centre and was introduced to several projects funded by the department on a tour of the research facilities.

Director of the John Innes Centre, Professor Dale Sanders, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Minister to the John Innes Centre to show her the results of 30 years of Defra funding and the global impact these projects have delivered. We look forward to continuing our relationship and to working with Jo and the Department into the future.”

Professor Sanders spoke to the Minister about the John Innes Centre’s ambitions, including our work with The Sainsbury Laboratory and UKRI-BBSRC to develop a world-leading hub for plant and microbial science at the Norwich Research Park, and our Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Planet (HP3) vision.

The tour was led by Professor Claire Domoney and Dr Simon Griffiths, who introduced the Genetic Improvement Networks. These large collaborative projects are part-funded by Defra to bring together researchers, farmers, agronomists and breeders to generate new resources for crop breeding in the UK.

The Minister visited the Germplasm Resource Unit and the glasshouses to see the untapped genetic diversity held within in the large collections of wheat, peas and other crops on site. The final stop on the tour was a visit to the Crop Transformation team to discuss gene editing with Professor Wendy Harwood, particularly topical following a recent announcement from Defra on the future of regulation of genetic technologies.

The visit was organised as part of Evidence Week in Westminster, an annual event organised by Sense About Science to bring together scientists and parliamentarians to discuss science and evidence in policy making. The John Innes Centre was supported by the John Innes Foundation to be a partner for Evidence Week 2021.