Nuclear contribution to food security is among the topics being discussed at the High-Level Meeting on Food Security for All taking place in Madrid, Spain from 26-27 January. The event is a gathering of UN officials and representatives of international agencies belonging to the High Level Task Force on Global Food Security Crisis set up by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 28 April 2008.
In a statement circulated to the participants of the Madrid event on behalf of IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, Werner Burkart, Deputy Director General for Nuclear Sciences and Applications, said that scientific and technological innovation will play a crucial role in promoting global food safety and security.
"Applications of nuclear science and technology have much to contribute in improving the quality and variety of foods and in boosting crop and livestock production," he said.
Nuclear techniques are used extensively in agriculture to make food crops more resistant to disease, boost crop yields and combat pests and animal diseases. The IAEA has an extensive technical cooperation programme in around 100 countries to deliver nuclear-based solutions to Member States.
A small list of some of the successful IAEA-backed programmes include helping 24 African countries eradicating the deadly cattle disease rinderpest, combating the fruit fly in Latin America, and introducing a variety of wheat in Keya that is yielding 11 percent more, under drought conditions, than the best varieties available until now.
Much of the IAEA´s work in this area has been carried out through a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which was first established in 1964. The organisations founded what they called a Joint Division for Food and Agriculture, which pioneered the use of nuclear techniques in agriculture.
"The work of the IAEA-FAO Joint Division has been an excellent example of what the UN family now calls Delivering as One - since long before the term was invented," Burkart said.
"Requests for assistance from our Member States make it clear that the IAEA and its partners will continue to play a vital role in the coming years in the area of food security."
The High-Level Meeting on Food Security for All, which is hosted and organized by the Spanish Government, is a follow-up event to the June 2008 "food summit" held in Rome, Italy.
In the 5 June Rome Declaration, 181 States and the European Community pledged to alleviate the suffering caused by the soaring food prices, stimulate agricultural development, food and small holder farmer production and address obstacles to food access and adequate nutrition.