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Director General  José Graziano da Silva

Australia’s deputy prime minister calls for more science, freer trade

Talks with FAO Director-General at the Organization's Conference

03 July 2017, Rome – Producing food for the world’s growing population is a separate task from coping with climate change and policy makers should promote free trade and crop-boosting technology, Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s deputy prime minister, said during a visit to FAO.

“Global warming is very important. Managing that is one issue, but producing food is an entirely different one,’ said Joyce, who is also Australia’s Minister for Agriculture and met for bilateral talks with FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Current projections presume that from here to 2050 the world will have to produce more food than all of humanity has consumed in its history, he said, noting that people also want “more food and a higher standard of food.”

That will require effective trading rules to keep food “moving fluidly” to where it is needed as well as developing capacity for innovation, including through genetic modification, which is already widespread and primarily needs to be applied “efficiently and safely,” he added.

He also suggested exploiting alternative protein sources, noting kangaroo meat as an example that won’t be a panacea but could “make things easier.”

Realism, the minister said, required a focus on “producing the food that is able to deal with global warming.”

Otherwise, people at risk of starvation “will just migrate,” he said. “It’s in everyone’s interest that we keep people safe and well fed in their own homes,” he added.

In outspoken remarks at the opening plenary of FAO’s Conference, which adopted climate change as its main theme for this session, Joyce suggested the “honorable task” of working for global food security required making sure farmers receive decent wages, free trade, improved storage to prevent crop losses and “iconoclastic” innovation such as tweaking the wheat genome to optimize its photosynthesis process. 

Both principals also discussed the need for efficient water management, and water scarcity issues facing Africa, one of the continents most affected by the impacts of climate change. At the meeting, FAO Director-General requested Australia's further support, building on their expertise in water management for the benefit of African countries. 

Watch his remarks following the meeting: