UN food chief: innovation is needed to tackle hunger

18 September 2023 | Muriel Cozier

‘Transformative governance and strengthening the science-policy-society interface are critical for success.’

A speech delivered on behalf of the Director General of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, Qu Dongyu, stressed the importance of science, innovation and technology for making agrifood systems more resilient, sustainable and efficient.

The speech, which was delivered at the G77+China Summit, held in Havana, Cuba this week, emphasised that efforts to meet the growing demand for food, while minimising environmental impact meant the FAO is ‘making considerable investment in science, innovation and technology to ensure the effective transformations of global agrifood systems.’

‘Science and innovation are game changers, but knowledge alone does not drive change,’ Qu’s speech said. ‘Transformative governance and strengthening the science-policy-society interface are critical for success.’

The remarks follow the release of a report by the FAO indicating that the world is falling behind on its efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. The report: Tracking progress on food and agriculture-related SDG indicators 2023, suggests that the Sustainable Development Goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will not be achieved at the present rate.

Qu’s speech highlighted technologies including biotechnologies and renewable energy as essential tools in the transformation of agrifood systems. ‘Advances in biotechnologies can be used for the genetic improvement of plants and animals to increase yield, improve soil health, and for rapid diagnosis of disease and development of vaccines,’ the speech said.

The role of science, innovation and technology in transforming agrifood systems will be showcased at the FAO’s Science and Innovation Forum 2023, which takes place on 16-20 October at the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy.

In a separate development, Australia’s National Science Agency, CSIRO, has established an online learning platform for start-ups and SMEs that are focused on innovation in the agrifood sector.

The 10-week Innovate to Grow: Agrifood programme will help these organisations advance their technologies, solutions and ideas through R&D. Starting in November, the programme covers several sectors including complementary proteins, agriculture, fermentation, and food product manufacturing.

CSIRO added that the programme’s industry experts would equip attendees with skills to assess the viability of their innovations, build a business case and prepare a strong funding application.

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