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Call for research into resistance in agriculture in UK

Staff Writer |
Agricultural research council BBSRC is calling for applications for a new research programme into resistance developing to chemicals and treatments used in agriculture.

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The body, which awards public funding to researchers, is taking applications on its website for investigations to improve understanding of how agricultural pests and diseases become resistant to the agents we currently rely on to control them.

Worldwide, many unfolding problems are related to resistance, with doctors in China and Europe discovering bacteria able to pass on resistance to last resort treatments in late 2015, and doctors in the U.S. reporting last year that they were unable to save a woman who had contracted a strain of bacteria in India that could shrug off 26 different types of antibiotic, making it ‘untreatable’ in the States.

In farming, according to the industry-run International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds, 252 different weed species have developed resistance to 161 different types of herbicide around the world.

Resistance to pesticides, fungicides and herbicides is growing, and existing products are becoming less effective; prominent cases for UK agriculture include resistance developing in wheat pathogen Septoria tritici, and widespread resistance to worming treatments.

In the cases of agro-chemicals and antibiotics, experts believe current treatment methods are going to prove ineffective within the coming decades unless immediate action is taken to develop new, safe treatments or tackle the root causes of resistance.

There are no new herbicides near commercialisation with a new - resistance free - mode of action (and there haven’t been for around 30 years), though there is growing evidence of harm caused by even widely used products to non-target organisms.

Despite the roadmap set out in last year’s O’Neil Review of antibiotic resistance there have been no concrete regulations introduced to preserve antibiotics and no moves to incentivise drug companies to develop new antibiotics in the world’s major economies.

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