Food supply is an issue for millions of people worldwide facing soaring market prices, impacts of climate change on food harvests, and other agricultural problems. With the world population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, problems of food security demand significant advances in agricultural productivity and competitiveness.
The IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have partnered for nearly 50 years, contributing to goals of reducing hunger and poverty by successfully helping countries use nuclear science and technology for agricultural development.
"We are partners to the end," emphasizes IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. "Much more investment is needed in food and agriculture. We´re committed to helping countries apply nuclear science and technology in ways that can help end hunger and achieve goals of food security."
Applications of nuclear science and technology are essential components of work to improve crop and livestock production, as well as the quality and variety of foods. For example, isotopes and neutron moisture probes are part of almost all national research efforts to optimize plant fertilizer uptake, minimize soil erosion and water pollution and improve soil fertility and the efficient use of water for food production. Likewise, research supported through the partnership encourages plant breeding and genetics programmes to produce better varieties of food and industrial crops.
In animal production, the partnership´s work transformed feed supplementation strategies for animals kept on low-quality diets by small-holder farmers. The nuclear and nuclear-related serological platforms that FAO/IAEA experts helped to develop are now widely used by artificial insemination services for dairy farmers and by veterinary authorities to diagnose diseases and monitor the success of eradication or control efforts. Current advances in molecular technologies will follow suit.
A brochure celebrating the Joint FAO/IAEA Division´s 50 years of achievements in the field of agricultural development, Atoms for Food, A Global Partnership, was recently published by the IAEA.
The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture was founded in October 1964.
With a budget of €14 million per annum, of which approximately €2.2 million is provided by FAO and an additional €7-10 million is provided annually by the IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation, the Joint FAO/IAEA Division is involved in some 220 national and regional projects in food and agriculture.
About 50 training courses, workshops, and seminars are held annually involving more than 500 trainees. Additionally, about 40 research projects are coordinated, involving the participation of approximately 400 research institutions and experimental stations worldwide.