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History of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre

The  Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the IAEA on 1 October 1964 as a strategic partnership to mobilize the talents and resources of both organizations. Working together would broaden and deepen the cooperation between the two organizations and benefit their Member States in the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology in a safe and effective manner. In turn, this would enhance efforts to provide the global community with increased production of better quality and safer food, while sustaining natural resources.

Prior to 1964, both FAO and IAEA each had their own programme for the application of atomic energy in food and agriculture: FAO in the Atomic Energy Branch of its Agriculture Department and IAEA in its Unit of Agriculture in the Department of Research and Isotopes. To better coordinate this work, the FAO and IAEA Directors General negotiated the original ‘Arrangements for the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Atomic Energy in Agriculture’. The full name of the Division changed several times until 1989 when it was renamed as Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, a name that was kept until early 2021, when ‘Division’ was changed to ‘Centre’.

The Arrangements provide for the Joint Centre to be housed at IAEA Headquarters in Vienna, Austria, with the associated FAO/IAEA Agriculture Laboratory accommodated within the IAEA Laboratories hosted at the Austrian National Laboratories in Seibersdorf, about 35 km southeast of Vienna. Joint Centre staff are members of one of the parent organizations, and report to both FAO and IAEA. The Joint Centre merges the mandates of both organizations and carries out the activities of the Joint FAO/IAEA Programme of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. FAO is the lead organization in the United Nations for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development, while the IAEA is the United Nations world centre for cooperation in the nuclear field. The Joint Centre's programme and activities are demand-driven and problem-oriented and focus on developing and transferring technologies to Member States in response to real, practical needs and on identifying where appropriate nuclear techniques can enhance, improve or increase agricultural production, protect natural resources and facilitate agricultural trade.

Since 1964, the Joint Centre has continuously evolved its programme to meet the world's changing needs. It continually focuses on expanding its ongoing contribution to agricultural development and global food security, and proactively embraces and adds its expertise to efforts to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, respond to globalization, conserve ecosystem services and broaden biodiversity. Today, both FAO and IAEA strive to mobilize commitment and concerted action towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals through the appropriate integration of nuclear and related technologies for sustainable agriculture and food security.

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