Two United Nations agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have joined forces to launch the Atoms4Food initiative. Unveiled during the World Food Forum 2023 in Rome, this collaborative effort aims to address the growing global challenges of hunger, malnutrition, and food security by harnessing innovative nuclear techniques and advanced technologies. Atoms4Food will provide Member countries with tailored solutions to enhance agricultural productivity, reduce food losses, ensure food safety, improve nutrition, and adapt to climate change. This initiative builds on the long- standing partnership between FAO and IAEA, leveraging their respective strengths and research portfolios to support sustainable agrifood systems on a global scale.
To bolster a full-spectrum response to the global need to achieve sustainable agrifood systems, the heads of two United Nations agencies announced a new initiative called Atoms4Food to offer Member countries assistance in strategic planning, increasing food production and food safety.
Atoms4Food was unveiled on Wednesday at a special event on “Innovation Breakthroughs” held during World Food Forum 2023, hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The initiative is a collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and will be run through the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.
“We find ourselves in an unprecedented time, where hunger and malnutrition are on the rise, posing a threat to humanity,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu and IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a joint statement released Wednesday. “The Atoms4Food Initiative seeks to provide Member States with ground-breaking solutions tailored to their specific needs and circumstances, by harnessing the advantages of nuclear techniques along with other advanced technologies.”
Unique and timely, the Atoms4Food initiative will support countries to use innovative nuclear techniques in enhancing agricultural productivity, reducing food losses, ensuring food safety, improving nutrition, and adapting to the challenges of climate change. It builds on joint FAO/IAEA programmes to provide tailor-made comprehensive support to countries and will be delivered through the IAEA’s and FAO’s established mechanisms and other relevant partners, as appropriate.
“It is time to work together,” said Qu, offering FAO’s extensive network of country offices to the new initiative.
Grossi noted that Atoms4Food comes 70 years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his iconic “Atoms for Peace” speech and shares similar objectives. “One of key manifestations of peace today is making sure everyone has food,” he said.
Leveraging respective comparative advantages, strategies and relevant research portfolios, the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture already works to optimize dedicated laboratories focused on food and agriculture, human nutrition, food safety, and water management.
Innovation and collaboration
FAO and IAEA have collaborated since 1964 and their partnership stands out as one of the most effective partnerships between UN agencies, offering services such as the Sterile Insect Technology and isotopic analyses to assess nutrient and water use in soils.
The Atoms4Food Initiative is well placed to provide Member States with ground-breaking solutions – in areas ranging from cropping systems to natural resource management, tailored to their specific needs and circumstances.
Grossi outlined seven services to benefit Member States, spanning areas from capacity building, crop varieties, soil and water management, animal health, pest control, food safety and public health and nutrition. “We know we need to use every tool we have,” he said.
Other innovative ideas floated at the World Food Forum session included a presentation by Cary Fowler, the United States of America’s Special Envoy for Global Food Security, on “Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils” (VACS), an Africa-wide effort to identify underutilized indigenous food crops that can be the “opportunity crops” of tomorrow, another by Professor Andrea Crisanti from Imperial College on the use of gene drives to eradicate unwelcome insects, and one by Ambassador Guang Defu, Permanent Representative of China to FAO, on his country’s experience and contribution to innovation in agrifood systems.