Dubai – It’s helping farmers to boost productivity, adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enabling scientists to improve varieties of staple crops and countries to combat pests. Using nuclear techniques and biotechnologies, a partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency is playing a vital role as nations worldwide face the impacts of the climate crisis.
FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, speaking in opening remarks to a round table at the COP28 climate talks here highlighting the work of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, said: “We need real commitments to action, we need science and evidence-based” approaches to find solutions, using not only nuclear technology, but biotechnology and other disciplines. Underlining the pressing global food needs, he added: “we need to produce more with less, not only because of climate change but also urbanisation.”
Nuclear technology solutions
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA Director-General highlighted the importance of a recently launched new initiative by the two UN agencies – Atoms4Food – to further assist Members fight hunger and malnutrition through tailored solution packages of nuclear and related technologies. Among the examples he gave were irradiation techniques to stop crops from rotting, techniques for smart agriculture to make better use of water and breeding more drought-resistant crop varieties.
Also underlining the role of such technologies in addressing key challenges in food and agriculture with a focus on climate change were: SUN Zhen, Counselor of the Climate Change Department, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China; Metin Türker, Director General, General Directorate of Agricultural Research and Policies (TAGEM), Türkiye, ; Cary Fowler, Special Envoy for Global Food Security, Department of State, United States of America; Le Duc Thao, Deputy Director General, Agricultural Genetics Institute, Vietnam.
The role of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre, which was launched in 1964, is to help Member States, particularly developing countries most vulnerable to climate change to boost their capacities to address the negative impacts of climate change and variability on food security and to adopt activities that will alleviate these impacts.
Diverse focus areas
It focuses on diverse areas such as crop and livestock production; control of transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases; food safety and control; and land and water management, as well as using nuclear techniques and biotechnologies to measure, monitor and adapt to the impacts of climate change in food and agricultural production.