FAO and Indonesia to collaborate on nuclear technology in food and agriculture
3 December 2013, Rome, Italy – FAO and Indonesia will step up cooperation on the use of nuclear technology to improve food security and food safety after signing an agreement in Rome today.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and the chairman of the National Nuclear Energy Agency of Indonesia (BATAN), Djarot Wisnubroto, signed the memorandum of understanding during a bilateral meeting in the presence of Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, Agung Laksono.
Under the terms of the agreement, FAO and BATAN will share scientific and technical information, train personnel and organize seminars on the use of nuclear technologies in a number of areas.
These include plant mutation breeding, which helps boost crop production by improving plants’ resistance to disease and ability to grow in poor soils.
Also covered by the agreement is insect pest control, which involves techniques such as sterilizing mass-bred male insects by radiation and releasing them into the wild, where they mate but cannot produce offspring. This can lead to reduction or even eradication of insect populations.
In addition, the organizations will cooperate on food safety techniques including food irradiation, which kills microorganisms such as E coli and salmonella bacteria.
Other areas covered by the agreement are land and water management, and improved livestock productivity through better nutrition, reproduction and health.
Fight against hunger
Speaking at the signing ceremony today, Graziano da Silva said BATAN’s work had contributed to Indonesia’s success in the fight against hunger, noting in particular the agency’s development of improved high-yield and disease-resistant varieties of rice, soybean, mungbean and cotton.
Indonesia has already met the Millennium Development Goal of halving the percentageof hungry people in the country ahead of a 2015 deadline.
“The BATAN-led use of nuclear techniques has helped improve food security and agricultural development in Indonesia,” the Director-General said. “I believe that, working together, we can have similar results in Southeast Asia.”
Through its joint programme with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), FAO has been involved in harnessing nuclear techniques to improve sustainable food security since 1964.
Indonesia currently participates in seven coordinated research projects with the Joint FAO/IAEA Division, including the development of food irradiation, crop improvement through mutation breeding, diagnostic techniques for animal health and insect pest control.
The country has expressed its willingness to assist other developing nations in the region with nuclear techniques in the context of its commitment to South-South cooperation. In 2012 Indonesia contributed to the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative, which raises funds for the agency’s activities in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology.