Vietnam's Minister of Science and Technology, H.E. Nguyen Quan, discusses the challenges developing countries face ensuring food security assurance and poverty eradication:
What are the current, main food security concerns in Vietnam?
As I mentioned in my opening speech to the Scientific Forum, food security is a global concern. Food security assurance and poverty eradication are challenges which especially developing countries face. Vietnam is an agricultural country and after nearly 30-years of innovations, it not only supplies domestic food demand, but we also meet our export demand. The success of especially the country's rice production has played an important role in poverty eradication. Moreover, it has provided the country with a solid economic foundation, social security and economic growth. However, the issue of food security in Vietnam still exits and there are several shortcomings, namely, unsustainable food production; slow innovation of agricultural organizations; insufficient infrastructure and services for production.
How are these being addressed using nuclear applications?
Nuclear application techniques in agriculture have made a remarkable contribution to sustainable food security and food safety. They have been effectively applied to improve soil management; creating new plant varieties, especially growing rice varieties with higher yields which are resistant to disease and can adapt to different soils and types of climate. Nuclear techniques are also used in Vietnam to protect plants and animals from pest. This way, we decrease not only the use of harmful chemicals, but also reduce post-harvest losses and environmental pollution. In addition, nuclear techniques have been applied to improve water management, as well as in identifying toxic components in agricultural and food stuffs.
What - in your opinion - is the main contribution of nuclear science to food security in Vietnam?
The main contribution of nuclear science to food security in Vietnam has been the creation of plant varieties with high yields. Radioactive sources can be used in generations of beneficial mutant plants which serve as a selection of new plant varieties and have enormous transformation capabilities of a certain trait. Using tools and materials related to nuclear energy can help maintain and improve the quality of soil, plants and reduce water and energy consumption.
How do you cooperate with the IAEA in the food field?
Within the framework of the IAEA's Technical Cooperation Projects, Vietnam has been supported with the creation of plant varieties such as rice, maize, soybean, etc. which provide high yields and are resistant to disease and able to adapt to different soils and types of climate.
However, an outstanding example of this successful has been the creation of new rice varieties such as rice VND94-1, which is now cultivated on more than 30 000 hectare per season and produces 6-7 tons per hectare.
Moreover, within this framework, irradiation facilities have been established with technology transferred from the IAEA to sterilize products for medical use, human health protection, and to manufacture agricultural products. Nuclear techniques have also been used in the exploration, management and evaluation of water resources for irrigation in agriculture, in research and the control of soil erosion and the management of cultivated land. The IAEA's TC projects also support us with the establishment of laboratories, providing effective analytical techniques which are used in quality management of agricultural products for domestic consumption and export.
Would you like to see nuclear techniques used more often in food production and protection in the future?
The application of nuclear techniques for the production and protection of food contributes significantly to sustainable development, food safety and food security. I believe that in the future these techniques will be used increasingly more often. This is also one of the positive contributions of the peaceful use of nuclear energy for economic and social development of people.