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Innovation Breakthroughs: Atoms4Food

(As prepared for delivery)

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, 

It’s good to be with you at this very important World Food Forum, 2023. I want to thank Director-General Qu Dongyu for inviting me to launch, here today, the IAEA/FAO joint initiative, Atoms4Food. 

It fits well into the theme of “Innovations Breakthroughs” because it is a concrete, action-oriented response to our shared goals of eradicating poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, fighting climate change and adapting to its consequences. 

Before I explain what Atoms4Food is all about, I would like to say a few words about the IAEA and FAO’s indispensable collaboration. 

The FAO is one of our closest partners. For almost 60 years, the two organizations have run the FAO/IAEA Centre for Nuclear Techniques. 

Our collaboration is exemplified by complementary mandates, common targets, joint programming, co-funding and coordinated management. 

FAO and IAEA staff are based at the IAEA’s Headquarters in Vienna and work on cutting-edge research at our unique laboratories in nearby Seibersdorf. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

I do not need to repeat the dire statistics about food insecurity and climate change that others have already elaborated on. The bottom line is this: We need to use every tool we have to grow more highly-nutritious food in an environmentally sustainable way. 

Nuclear techniques and applications are powerful tools with which we can do just that, and Atoms4Food will maximize their positive impact. 

Ensuring food security and healthy diets amid a variety of shifting challenges and the enormous burden of climate change is a complex endeavour with many moving parts. 

It requires a multi-disciplinary approach that is in harmony with other global initiatives, such as the One Health Approach and FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative. 

And it must be based on careful assessment of prevailing capacities and needs amid a true partnership with Member States. 

In very close collaboration with each of our partner countries, Atoms4Food will provide seven specific services: 

1. The Atoms4Food Assessment Mission will map out a country’s status, needs and activities to determine priorities and develop tailor-made solutions. 

2. The Atoms4Food crop variety improvement service will use plant mutation breading to develop better crop varieties based on an assessment of the country’s major crops, agricultural zones, diseases and pests, farmer and consumer preferences, and prevailing gaps in capacities. 

3. The Atoms4Food soil and water management, and crop nutrition service will use the precision of nuclear and isotopic science to gather information about soil fertility, major crops, and their 
average yield. We’ll look at the availability of fertilizer and water irrigation systems, as well as the farming practices used for each crop. 

Getting the balance right here, can vastly improve yields. 

4. The Atoms4Food animal production and health service will develop carefully calibrated nutritional packages to improve animal production. This will be done following a country assessment 
of the current epidemiological situation of animal diseases; interventions and services already in place; and gaps that still need to be filled. 

5. The Atoms4Food insect pest control service will use approaches such as the Sterile Insect Technique to reduce the populations of harmful pests that destroy crops and carry diseases. It will be informed by a careful assessment of the pest and control situation in the country. This technique already has a long history of proven results. 

6. The Atoms4Food food safety and control service will assess and widen the capacity of a county to use tools like food irradiation technology to improve the longevity and safety of food for domestic consumption and exports. 

7. The Atoms4Food public health nutrition service will support countries in assessing and improving the nutritional value of foods and diet quality by using stable isotope techniques. 

Dear colleagues, 

This is Atoms4Food! 

Atoms4Food aims for Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind. The FAO and IAEA are ready. We will be delivering it on the ground very soon. 

I call upon all those in a position to support us, to do so. Atoms4Food is action, not words. It is less hunger, less poverty, with dignity and equality for all.

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