At a high level round table, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said, “Innovation is needed across the entire spectrum of value chains in the world’s agri-food systems in order to respond to the two big challenges of climate change and hunger.”
The Director-General further said, “We have to produce more with less – more quantity, more quality and more diversity. We need to move from biodiversity to food diversity. We want to build a real sustainable system from the producer to the consumer -where Zero Waste has to be the New Norm.”
The round table followed Bill Gates’ delivery of this Session’s McDougall Memorial Lecture, in which he emphasized the importance of technology and data in bolstering food security and dealing with climate change.
Speaking first after Gates and Qu was David Hazlehurst, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment of Australia – the home country of Frank Lidgett McDougall.
Also speaking at the event were Jewel Bronaugh, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America, who delivered remarks on behalf of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack; Thoko Didiza, Minister for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development of the Republic of South Africa; Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula, Secretary for Agriculture and Rural Development of Mexico; William D. Dar, Secretary for Agriculture of the Republic of the Philippines; Saud bin Hamoud bin Ahmed Al-Habsi, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries Wealth and Water Resources of the Sultanate of Oman; and Stefano Patuanelli, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies of Italy.
Collaboration fosters innovation
The high-level panelists agreed on the importance of harnessing innovation, technology and data in a way to benefit the entire food system, helping both farmers and consumers in terms of hunger, nutrition and natural resource utilization.
Hazlehurst of Australia said, “Out of the challenges we face come clear opportunities, as new technologies and innovation can improve the productivity, profitability and resilience of our agricultural systems. Never in the history of human civilization have we accumulated so much knowledge. Emphasizing the need to support rural smallholders, he added, “we have to feed those who feed us.”
Didiza of South Africa said, “There is an urgent need for ground-breaking solutions. She pointed to precision agriculture, vertical farming, drone technology and the prospects of using indigenous livestock breeds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as areas of promise.”
Many also emphasized the role of innovation, technology and data to tackle climate change.
Emphasizing the importance of international collaboration, Director-General Qu noted that sustainable agriculture is geared around food, feed, fuel, fiber, and also friends. FAO wants to be the platform for all Members to share experiences and best practices.
In October 1958 the Council of FAO decided to honor the memory of Frank L. McDougall of Australia, one of the founding fathers and a faithful servant of the Organization, by establishing the McDougall Memorial Lecture. This lecture is delivered at the beginning of each session of the FAO Conference, which meets every two years.