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Agricultural Chief Scientists discuss digital traceability at G20 meeting


Speaking at the opening session of the G20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (G20-MACS) on the role of science, technology and innovation in sustainable food systems to increase food security and enhance food safety, FAO Chief Scientist Ismahane Elouafi underlined the opportunity 2021 presented to design a better agri-food system.

“It is a really critical year that we are thinking at the system level,” she told delegates meeting virtually under the G20 Presidency of Italy in a two-day event from 15 to 16 June 2021 to discuss digital traceability and new breeding techniques as key topics.

Reminding those present of ‘mega-agenda’ issues such as climate change, biodiversity and the ocean and forestry summits, Dr Elouafi said: “Science and technology and innovation can accelerate the transformation of the agri-food system to become more efficient, to be more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable”.  She also underlined, however, that an effective policy and regulation framework needs to be in place in order to deploy the technologies in many areas.

G20 and food safety

One of the focus areas at the G20-MACS meeting is food safety, where science, technology and innovation have huge potential to develop the different components of food systems, be it the risk management, the data, the policy and the risk based controls, as well as the risk assessment.

Digital technologies can help make food systems more efficient with potential benefits including increased agricultural productivity, increased cost efficiency and access to market opportunities. Digital also allows for better communication and greater inclusivity. “It could provide lots of potential benefits to optimize resource management and resource application. And we could eventually also use these additional technologies to really help farmers — particularly small scale farmers — have timely information,” said Dr Elouafi.

Be aware of adverse or unintended gaps.

Traceability is one of the topics being discussed as applied to food safety. “It is an important component,” said Dr Elouafi, “but really we have also to be aware of the adverse or unintended potential gaps that might result if we use all these technologies.”

Risk assessment and risk management are key to ensuring that we are not widening the gap between large farming systems and small scale agriculture systems. “We have to be aware of the risk, to assess it and to mitigate it and provide the know-how to all farmers,” she said.

Science and technology and innovation can help in food safety and food traceability. The Codex parent organizations can help in scanning the horizon and preparing the groundwork for new innovative Codex work and provide the scientific basis, as well as help Members to implement the standards.

“FAO supports the international standards setting process of the Codex Alimentarius Commission … and their application can help countries to keep their food safe, but also to enter new international markets.”


Learn more

Watch FAO and WHO Chief Scientists discuss food safety at a World Food Safety Day 2021 live event

Italian Presidency of the G20