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|Legal status||Limited company|
|Purpose||To support and develop a sustainable food chain, a healthy natural environment, and to protect the global community from biological and chemical risks.|
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (25%)
Fera Science Limited (Fera), formerly the Food and Environment Research Agency, is a joint venture based in the United Kingdom owned by Capita (75%) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) (25%). Its aim is to support and develop a sustainable food chain, a healthy natural environment, and to protect the global community from biological and chemical risks.
Fera was formed on 1 April 2009 as an executive agency of DEFRA by bringing together the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) at Sand Hutton, the Plant Health Division (PHD)/Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) in York, the Plant Variety Rights Office and Seeds Division (PVS) in Cambridge and the UK Government Decontamination Service at MoD Stafford.
On 1 October 2014, the Bee Inspectorate, the Plants Health and Seeds Inspectorate, the Plant Variety and Seeds Group and the GM Inspectorate transferred from Fera to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
On 1 April 2015, DEFRA placed Fera into a joint venture, Fera Science Limited, with Capita acquiring a 75% stake in the company for £20m.
2014: 100 Years of Science Solutions
2014 marked the centenary of the formation of the first organisations that have evolved into what is known today as Fera.
In 1914 the growing problem of new pests and diseases, brought into Britain following international expeditions, led to the setting up of the Institute for Plant Pathology at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Then in 1916 the Food Investigation Board was established to look at new ways of preserving food due the wartime experience of high levels of wastage in imported perishable goods. In effect this kick started food science in Great Britain.
Today, the drivers for Fera's work and scientific developments are remarkably similar to those that existed in 1914. In the 21st Century, the continued globalisation of markets and access to world travel, have led to a huge increase in the import and export of plant material, some for onward sale, some just brought back by individuals returning from holidays.
The food chain is under the combined strains of an ever-increasing world population, changing patterns of food consumption as places like China become more open to western cultural influences, and shifts in climatic patterns.
A timeline shows some of the key stages in the development of Fera.
11 February 2015: Announcement about the future of Fera
Capita has been chosen to create a joint venture with Defra to help run Fera, the Food and Environment Research Agency as part of Defra's ambitious science programme. As part of the programme Newcastle University and Fera will form a joint institute, designed to unlock £14.5m of new investment.
31 March 2015
The remaining functions of Fera were transferred to Fera Science Ltd. the new JV company. From 1 April Fera is no longer an operational government agency.
Fera specialises in the sciences underpinning agriculture for sustainable crop production, environmental management and in food safety and quality. Fera has statutory responsibilities for delivering policy and inspectorate functions in relation to Plant Health, Bee Health and Plant Varieties and Seeds. Fera is part of the UK capability to respond to, and recover from, emergency situations, including accidental or deliberate release of hazardous materials.
Food and drink
Fera's food and drink analytical testing services are supported by scientific expertise, detailed knowledge of both current and emerging regulations, and internationally recognised quality standards. Fera provides a full range of analytical tests addressing food contaminants that are restricted under EU food safety legislation. Fera specialises in testing for contaminants migrating from food packaging materials, testing, identifying and measuring the levels of mycotoxins, and contaminants resulting from food processing.
Fera also offers a complete package of services to help protect against mites in commodities and premises. The services cover detection, monitoring and prevention of mites in the food and feed processing and storage, grain and other commodity storage, veterinary and retail sectors.
The Fera activities in wildlife were transferred to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in 2013.
Fera responsibility for implementing the plant health Regulations in England, and in Wales (on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government) have been returned to Defra in 2014.
Fera's Plant Clinic provides a market-leading service with over 80 years experience in pest and disease identification services for all horticultural and agricultural crops, garden plants and plant-based products.
Fera acts as a specialist service provider to companies in the agrochemical, pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals sectors.
Fera covers a number of areas including Environmental Fate and Exposure, Ecotoxicity testing of terrestrials and Chemical analysis.
Fera also provides In Silico Predictive Toxicology (INSPECT) – Chemical assessment by in silico methods (QSAR), with a team comprising Computational Chemists, Toxicologists, Ecotoxicologists, Environmental Scientists and Exposure Modellers.
The UK Government Decontamination Service returned to Defra in 2014.
Research and science
Areas covered by Fera include:
- Crop Protection Centre
- Next generation sequencing (Pyrosequencing)
- Agri-environment and land use strategy
- Plant and pest disease
Fera is also home to:
- FAPAS (international food analysis proficiency testing services)
- National Collection of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria
- "Combined agency to safeguard animal and plant health". GOV.uk. 11 August 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- "Capita preferred bidder for Fera joint venture". Capita. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- "House of Commons: Written Statement (HCWS276)" (PDF). 11 February 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- Fera: official site