Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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China and UK strengthen partnership on sustainable agriculture

China and UK strengthen partnership on sustainable agriculture

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (News Release ref: 357/08) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 10 November 2008

BEIJING: The UK and Chinese governments today signed a three year commitment to strengthen their growing partnership on agriculture.

Hilary Benn, UK Environment Secretary, met the Chinese Agriculture Minister, Sun Zhengcai and signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation on Sustainable Agriculture.

The Ministers also launched the Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN) which will help address the link between agriculture and climate change. This new network will provide a clear plan for the development and implementation of China-UK collaboration on environmentally sustainable agriculture.

Launching SAIN, Hilary Benn said:

"We want to work with China to promote sustainable agriculture. This network will enable us to do this. It will help us to learn from each other and share expertise so that we are more resource and carbon efficient and reduce our impact on the environment.

"This will be important not only for China and the UK, but for the world as a whole as we face the challenge of increasing food production in an environmentally sustainable way at a time of growing impacts of climate change."

Chinese Minister of Agriculture Sun Zhengcai said:

"With the accelerated development of the economic globalisation process, a series of important issues such as food security, climate change, food safety, environmental pollution, invasive alien species and biodiversity, have become the common global issues of concern.

"It is my hope that our two countries will make good use of this platform of SAIN so that we can follow the sustainable development concept, create new cooperative models and carry out cooperation in the areas of food security, environmental protection, climate change and the use of renewable energy in order to make our contribution to sustainable development in our two countries and elsewhere in the world."

SAIN will help deliver the MoU and the Agriculture and Fisheries Work Programme of the UK-China Sustainable Development Dialogue.

Notes to editors

1. The purpose of the China-UK Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN) is to provide a coherent framework for the development and implementation of China-UK collaboration on environmentally sustainable agriculture. It will support the aims of the current Sustainable Development Dialogue, with the intention of forming a flexible and largely self-sustaining platform for long-term China-UK collaboration in this area. The central aim is to contribute to the achievement of a resource efficient, low carbon economy and an environmentally friendly society.

2. SAIN's objectives are to:

i. Support the implementation of the UK-China Sustainable Development Dialogue and its natural resources management theme by fostering innovation in three areas: policy development; institutional mechanisms for collaborative research; and translating policy and science into practice on the ground;

ii. Stimulate innovative thinking and research on all aspects of environmentally sustainable agriculture and its relation to the local, national and global economy;

iii. Communicate information on environmentally sustainable agriculture issues and opportunities for change, and disseminate best practices to key audiences (farmers, policy makers, businesses); and

iv. Contribute to global sustainability through wider sharing of expertise between developed and emerging economies.

3. SAIN will be overseen by a high level Governing Board (GB), supported by a Secretariat Office in each country, and by four Working Groups (WGs). The Secretariat Office in China is located at the North West Agriculture and Forestry University (NWAFU), and the UK Secretariat Office is located at the Overseas Development Group, University of East Anglia. Programme priorities will be guided by the Governing Board of key Government and academic stakeholders as well as independent experts. Each Working Group (WG) will be responsible for leading a specific workstream and will be co-chaired by UK and Chinese experts.

4. SAIN's initial work will focus on four inter-related themes:

i. Application of research and better communications tools to improve soil and crop nutrient management and lower non-point source pollution;

ii. Expanding use of agricultural biomass & livestock manure for biogas, liquid biofuels and organic fertiliser production;

iii. Addressing the interactions between agriculture and climate change, including the way agriculture will be impacted by, and therefore need to adapt to, climate change, and the ways in which agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions; and

iv. Providing policy advice on how the concept of the circular economy can be applied to agriculture by exploiting the opportunities for greater recycling, waste minimisation, and more efficient use of water and other critical resources, building on the work of the other three working groups.

5. SAIN's expected benefits include:

- Improved focus on policy innovation and greater relevance of R&D to SDD objectives and policy formulation;

- Greater emphasis on collaboration for integrated policy development;

- Better linkages and greater synergy between joint projects;

- A more holistic approach to programme development;

- Improved complementarity with activities of other bilateral and multilateral donors;

- Increased translation of R&D into action on the ground;

- Increased sharing of research and expertise;

- Better implementation of central policies; and

- Enhanced learning (including opportunities to share expertise between developed and emerging economies.

6. SAIN is supported by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who will both provide funding for the UK and China SAIN Secretariat Offices. Initial stakeholders include the NWAFU, China Agricultural University, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing Agricultural University and the Research Council UK office in China, and DFID, the FCO, BBSRC, CABI in the UK. Participation will be widened as the WGs are appointed and the Work Programme is developed.

7. The Chinese Secretariat at NWAFU is headed by Prof Tong Yanan ( and the UK Secretariat at the UEA by Dr Lu Yuelai (

8. SAIN will be co-chaired by Vice-Minister Niu Dun, Ministry of Agriculture, China, and Professor Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser, Defra, UK. Other members of the Governing Board, and the co-chairs and members of SAIN's Working Groups, will be appointed in the next few weeks.

9. Find out more about SAIN at: (in Chinese) and (in English)

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