IoS letters, emails & online postings (27 April 2014)

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The Independent Online

Your excellent article on the threat of crop diseases such as wheat rust to our ability to feed ourselves is timely ("Wheat rust: the fungal disease that threatens to destroy the world crop", 20 April).

At the moment there are discussions in Brussels as to whether farmers should be banned from using key crop protection products such as tebuconazole which British farmers currently use to keep their wheat crops clean of yield-sapping diseases such as rust.

Scientists across the world recognise feeding a rapidly expanding world population is going to be more challenging in the future. Our regulators need to be very mindful of the consequences of their actions when they deplete the tool-box farmers have to keep their crops healthy and productive.

Guy Smith

Vice-president, National Farmers' Union

Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

Both your front-page reports on banana and wheat crops emphasise the importance of ensuring food security. Job cuts at Kew Gardens are lamentable and should be fought at all cost to preserve plant varieties.

But also the research work at John Innes, Rothamsted, and other centres tackling pests and diseases, and developing new seeds, needs increased government and private- sector funding and promotion.

Genetically modified crops are a vital part of the armoury to combat droughts and floods with more climate-tolerant crops, as well as those which are nutritionally enhanced to reduce vitamin and other health deficiencies.

Dr Alan Bullion

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Your editorial on the possible lay-off of up to 121 staff at Kew gardens because of a £5m shortfall (20 April) makes depressing reading. As a child and later as an adult I frequently went to Kew and was inspired by the collection, particularly the tropical houses with their exotic species. When I read that entry now costs £16 I was shocked, as I remember the cost to be trivial. I checked the historic fees online. In 1971 entry cost 1p (a reduction from 3d when decimalisation came in).

Elsewhere I read that wheat rust threatens the world's wheat. Kew is pre-eminent in research on plant resistance to diseases. Cutting funding is short-sighted in the extreme.

Patrick Cleary

Honiton, Devon

Today's front-page concerning wheat rust, together with your editorial concerning the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's £5m-funding shortfall's impact on its research, prompts one to wonder what financial assistance might be forthcoming from the Royal Family?

Neil Linaker

Blackburn, Lancashire

Barbara Roche's article on immigration is just what I would expect from someone who chairs the Migration Matters Trust ("Why Labour is losing the immigration debate", 20 April). As a young man who has experienced the ill-effects of immigration (I used to be a chef; the only English-born person in a team of 20), I am appalled at her lack of understanding of what the real issues are. Immigration may be good for "Big-Business Britain" but it is not good for the poor, the unskilled, the poorly educated, or blue-collar workers who have seen their wages drop due to a swathe of highly motivated workers from eastern Europe and Africa, who are willing to work at the minimum wage.

A race to the bottom for work and a population explosion are two things this country can do without. I'll be voting for Ukip

Adam Tunstall

Windsor, Berkshire

Richard Garner's report on CCTV being used in schools to spy on staff is worrying ("Spying on teacher", 20 April). As a former educational researcher who used video recordings of lessons it quickly dawned on me that what the film recorded is dependent on which way the camera is facing. Every other detail or event is lost. CCTV cameras will always miss individual detail which is important to evaluate a lesson.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

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