FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

Food systems of the 21st century: high-tech inclusiveness

Photo: ©FAO/Vladimir Mikheev

The FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation, together with the Moscow State University of Food Production (MSUFP), held a roundtable on October 18 titled “Food Systems of the 21st Century” dedicated to World Food Day.

“October 16 is annually celebrated as World Food Day,” said Professor Irina Tyutkova, Advisor to the MSUFP Rector, in her welcoming speech. “For you, students and graduates of our University, this day will always remain a professional holiday. As we know, there are professions of prime importance associated with the ability to teach, provide medical treatment, protect lives, and feed.

Today’s round table titled “Food Systems of the 21st Century” is held at the initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and our guest is the Director of the FAO Moscow Office Oleg Kobiakov.”

“One can argue which professions are the most critical, but it is indisputable that those related to the agricultural sector and food production are among the most ancient. It is no coincidence that the word “food” comes first in the name of our organization,” said Oleg Kobiakov.

“FAO was established in 1945 with the aim of eliminating hunger, ensuring food security and sustainable development of the agricultural sector. Over the past 77 years, FAO has made progress on this path – the number of hungry people in the world has significantly decreased both in raw numbers and percentage-wise. However, the very overarching objective to save humanity from hunger as a phenomenon, unfortunately, has not yet been achieved,” stressed the head of the FAO Moscow office.

“Today, healthy diets are not economically accessible to 3 billion people, or 40 percent of the global population. Russia, where the population can rightly be ranked among the notorious “golden billion”, can provide itself with excessive amounts of food, as well as supply food, agricultural raw materials and fertilizers in significant volumes to the world market.

The goal, which was set both in 1945 and in the 2030 Agenda, that spells out 17 Sustainable Development Goals, is the complete elimination of hunger. Since this implies a reduction in the number of people who currently face hunger from 828 million to zero, in the remaining time, until 2030, we need to reduce their number by almost 100 million annually. How can we remedy the situation, given that the current trend in eradicating hunger is not encouraging?

Last year, under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the World Food Systems Summit was held. On the eve of the forum, National Dialogues were organized in each country. In Russia, the final stage of these discussions took place at your university. The “Agrifood systems transformation” slogan became the leading idea of all the preparations for the summit.

I must admit that over the past thousand years, the methods and technologies of food production have hardly changed. Yes, there are new feeds, new plant protection products, but ... the dough, as before, rises with yeast, milk is produced through the processes of feeding a goat or a cow, collecting, preserving and processing primary products.

The term “agrifood system” links the entire value chain. Starting with inputs, some of which are not directly related to agricultural production (for example, energy and, of course, human labour). The chain includes the most important component, namely processing, where the greatest number of innovations are concentrated. Then goes the end interface, namely retailing, and finally our home kitchens, where we, as consumers, need to learn how to fill our refrigerator and cook food in a sustainable manner.

By 2050, there will be 9 billion of us on the planet. To feed everyone, food production needs to be increased by at least 70 percent. However, if agricultural losses and food waste are reduced, the total volume can be doubled. But this goal is unattainable without science, without introducing innovations, and especially without involving young people in this noble cause,” stressed the head of the FAO Moscow Office.

Answering the question of a second-year student who is studying to be a pastry maker (“What can each of us do to address the issue of hunger?”), Oleg Kobiakov focused the audience’s attention on the fact that their active involvement in solving food security issues is much needed. He spoke, in particular, about the initiative of a group of RANEPA students who, while preparing for the UN Food Systems Summit, conducted a sociological survey and analysis of the eating habits of students in many regions of the Russian Federation and presented the results of their research during the national dialogue. It is important that they did not stop there and continued their scientific research.

The FAO Moscow Office is raising the level of partnership with the now Russian Biotechnological University – a relevant agreement has been prepared. “Together we are moving to a higher orbit. The launch has taken place. And the team of enthusiasts that you lead, Dr Balykhin (Rector of MSUFP M.G. Balykhin), and the student body around you – all this pushes us to do joint intensive work,” Oleg Kobiakov emphasized in conclusion.

At the very beginning of his speech, Professor Mikhail Balykhin, Rector of MSUFP, shared the good news:

“I want to inform everyone that an order has been signed: from now on we are called MSUFP – Russian Biotechnological University. There is not a single educational and research institution in the world that would deal with biotechnology in a broad sense, which has in its core food production, and everything food-, health- and food security-related as a result.

We should become trendsetters in terms of providing humanity with quality products. I would like to address our students in the hall – you have chosen the right profession. A food industry employee is a person who will never be out of work because it is a 24/7 job.

But today it also implies high-added-value technologies aimed at making a person healthy. In all educational programmes at our university – undergraduates can confirm this – there is an emphasis on good health maintenance practices, biotechnology, molecular physical and chemical properties of products.

For me, the food industry has two components. We must have enough products for conscious consumption. Enough products – and this should be understood by each of us – to be healthy. The second point is that these products must be created with the use of the most advanced technologies. Two elements: large scale and quality. This is what we prioritize.

We in Russia have both the potential and the competence to replace all current imports – ingredients, enzymes, and pure cultures – with domestic developments. To do this, we are elaborating a strategic programme,” said Mikhail Balykhin in conclusion.

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At the panel discussion, the following representatives of the University teaching staff took the floor: Professor Nina Myasishcheva (“Development of Consumer Demand for Bakery Products Based on the Formation of Their Assortment, Quality and Functional Orientation”); Professor Dmitry Karpenko (“Influence of Nanoscale Objects on the Processes of Fermentation Production”); Elena Smirnova (“Nutrition and Health: the Role of Food Technologies”); Professor Igor Glamazdin (“Veterinary Protects Humanity”); Professor Oleg Suvorov (“Actual Issues of Ensuring Biosafety and Efficiency of the Food Industry”); Egor Nesterov (“Functional drinks based on the use of microbial metabolites”).

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The statements of the roundtable participants can be found in the recording.