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Agricultural biotechnologies necessary to defeat hunger, poverty in Asia-Pacific (downtoearth)

As climate change threatens food production worldwide, smallholder farmers need improved access to agricultural biotechnologies to ensure nutrition security and fight poverty in poorer regions of the world, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday.

According to the FAO, family farmers produce about 80 per cent of the world’s food and due to the variety of food grown by them, contribute significantly to food security. Last year during an international symposium, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said, “We cannot lose sight that biotechnologies, knowledge and innovation must be available, accessible and applicable to family farmers, including small holders.”

Continuing in the same vein, the United Nations food agency is now urging Asia-Pacific countries to consider both low-tech and high-tech solutions present in the biotechnology toolbox. The agency is also urging countries to consider biofertilisers or biopesticides in crops and trees, artificial insemination and other reproductive technologies in livestock as well as DNA-based tools to diagnose diseases in farmed fish.

“Gaining greater access to, and utilising, these various forms of agricultural biotechnologies can contribute to greater food security for the region and increased profits for smallholders, who produce the vast majority of the food we eat each day,” Kundhavi Kadiresan, assistant director-general and FAO regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, says. If this region is to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, countries need to look at safe, evidence-based form of food production and ensure that the benefits of science can reach smallholders, she adds. Earlier, in an interview given to Down To Earth, she said meeting the zero hunger challenge is particularly important in Asia as more than 60 per cent of the world’s undernourished people live here.

“These discussions are very timely because there is significant divergence among countries and within the sub-regions of Asia-Pacific in the levels of adoption of relevant agricultural biotechnologies as well as in their capacities to develop them and in the degree of support available in each country which enables them to be developed and used,” says Samy Gaiji, head of FAO’s research and extension unit.

A lot of emphasis is placed on smallholders as they are vulnerable, resource-poor individuals with very weak coping mechanisms, FAO expert Chikelu Mba, told Down To Earth last year.

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