§ 13. Mr. J. H. Osborn
asked the Minister of Technology what research and development on the synthetic production of carbohydrates and proteins has been carried out by the research associations, industries, and other organisations for which he is responsible; what has been the cost of this work; and what specific proposals he has for initiating pilot or bulk production in this country.
§ Mr. Osborn
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Is it not a fact that President Johnson in his last year's Message to Congress made this a matter of the utmost priority within the United States? Is it not now essential that we find ways of feeding the vastly increased population? Have not we enough information within our own country to do this? Does the right hon. Gentleman expect to take the initiative over the head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or that of the Department of Education and Science in this very important field?
§ Mr. Benn
My answer to the last part of that question is that it did not fall within my area of responsibility. It is being done by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, by the Ministry of Power, by the Ministry of Overseas Development through its Tropical Products Institute. The Department of Education and Science is involved, as are a number of British firms. We hope to set up a large working group with the Soviet Union, under the technological agreement, so we have not neglected this at all.
§ Mr. David Price
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that his Department has an interest in this in so far as it sponsors chemical plants, and is he aware that this offers, at least potentially, a new field of exports and a far better form of aid to overseas countries than just giving them food?
§ Mr. Benn
That is why the Ministry of Overseas Development is involved. This is basically the development of microorganisms in hydrocarbons, and it covers a fairly wide range of activities. I am satisfied that as much work as can be done is being done. I am concerned with it, and interested in it, but I have no research programme of my own.